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Next stop: Rio

Sport Manitoba hoping to double participants at 2016 Summer Games

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As Canada's Olympians put their feet up for some well-deserved rest, those charged with producing this country's next wave of world-class athletes are getting down to business.

There are performances to review, funds to disperse and resources to allocate, all with the goal of producing as many podium finishes as possible at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

While it's important to get started as soon as possible, you don't want to see any knee-jerk reactions to the finishes of particular athletes or teams.


Women's soccer, for example, isn't about to receive all of volleyball's funding by virtue of the former's high-profile bronze-medal win over France and the latter's failure -- by both men and women -- to qualify for London in the first place.

Funding for certain sports, however, could jump based on programming increases in the coming months or years.

"Our funding for the provincial sports organizations is based on the programs they provide for their members, athlete development programs, coaching programs and provincial team results at national championships and Canada Games," said Jeff Hnatiuk, president and CEO of Sport Manitoba.

"Something like the Olympics and success at the Games provides an awareness factor for some of the sports organizations. What we could see is a spinoff where their numbers could increase and their results could get stronger. Over a year or two or three, the funding could then increase according to their programming growth. But to say a particular athlete medals and then instantly -- bang! -- instantly a bunch of additional money will go to a particular sports organization, that's not the case."

That being said, Hnatiuk wouldn't be at all surprised if there was a stampede of young girls signing up for fall and winter soccer programs, hoping to one day follow in the footsteps of "fantastic" role models such as Desiree Scott, who returned to Winnipeg earlier this week with a bronze medal dangling around her neck.

"That whole experience generated so much excitement. Just look at the number of kids who showed up at the airport (to greet her)," he said.

There were five other Manitobans wearing the Maple Leaf in London -- rowers Janine Hanson (won silver in the women's eight), Morgan Jarvis and Kevin Kowalyk, Clara Hughes (cycling) and 1,500-metre runner, Nicole Sifuentes.

In addition, Chelsea Stewart, whose dad's family is from The Pas, grew up playing soccer in the U.S and was a member of the Canadian Olympic squad.

The success of Hanson, who didn't start rowing until relatively late in her sporting career, could prove inspirational beyond her sport. Hnatiuk said her story alone could convince athletes in other disciplines, who feel they're at the end of their competitive careers, they could cross over and succeed.

Athletes wearing another country's colours can also inspire young kids to pick up a certain sport, particularly if they can transcend the Olympics themselves. Hello, Usain Bolt (sprinting) and Michael Phelps (swimming).

In October, Canada's Own The Podium program will do a full review of every Canadian athlete in London, according to Randy Anderson, general manager of the Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba.

The "gap analysis" includes the level of competition in each sport and what the top-performing countries are doing compared to Canada.

"What do we have to do to compete with these nations? It could be coaching or technical matters. For example, after the women's soccer team lost to Japan (in the preliminary round), soccer analysts said Japan was technically superior. That would form part of that analysis. This doesn't just happen following the Olympics, it happens every year," he said.

"It's a very collaborative process between Own The Podium staff, high-performance directors and coaches. We get to sit in and get involved with the discussions. Own The Podium takes the information away, does its analysis and based on how (different athletes) performed in London, decide how to finance the sports for the next year or two leading into the 2016 Games in Rio. Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it wrong. That's part of sport."

Anderson said the CSCM's goal is to have three per cent of Canada's Olympic teams hail from Manitoba, approximating the province's share of the national population. There were six Manitobans in London out of 277 total athletes, good for nearly 2.2 per cent. When the 2016 team is announced, he's hoping to hear the names of 10 to 12 Manitobans.

"If we're able to do that, as a community of sport and the corporate community, that would be a chance where we could stand up, slap each other on the back and say, 'a job well done.' Then we could all say Manitoba has made a significant contribution to Canada's performance," he said.

There's no question the province's half-dozen Olympians did their share this time around, he said.

"Absolutely. Desi (Scott) made a significant contribution toward that bronze medal. She's only one player out of 11 on the pitch, but she was an absolute force. I saw her play against Great Britain and she was one of the best players out there," he said.

"Three or four medal participants would have been ideal. That's what we're working towards for Rio."

Six Manitoba Olympians, four sports


Sport   Registered   Competitive   Annual
               members      athletes      funding*

Athletics   4,995   4,519   $119,000

Cycling   871   619   $78,000

Rowing   371   125   $75,000

Soccer   20,213   15,894   $139,000

* Annual funding is based on an annual application that all Sport Manitoba organizations must complete (2011-2012 fiscal year)

Registered member is a member in good standing of the provincial sport organization and who pays a verifiable fee in return for the provision of ongoing services.

Competitive athlete is a registered member in good standing and must have competed in a competition sanctioned or organized by the provincial sport organization in the past sport season

Sport Manitoba provides approximately $4.2 million in annual funding directly to the provincial sport organizations

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 18, 2012 A6

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