The U.S. is looking to own future Winter Olympic podiums

The U.S. is looking to own future Winter Olympic podiums.

We take you behind the scenes this month with our timely Vancouver Games Blog, an insider perspective on sport medicine and science headlines, talking points, statistical data and emerging trends.

Canada’s 5 year old Own the Podium program to support high performance athletes ahead of the Vancouver Games has seen the federal government channel $66-million towards improving our country’s chances to medal – and win the first Canadian Olympic gold medal on home soil. VANOC also contributed $11-million per year to the program, that funding ceases in March, as VANOC concludes it’s mandate, but federal funding of $11-million per year is slated to continue to help our elite athletes compete in top form with improved access to the best training, coaching and technology.

USA Today recently estimated in an article that Canada (with the help of Own the Podium) will reach 34 medals in the 2010 Winter Games, leading all countries, followed by Germany with 32 and the U.S. will end up 3rd with 25.  The article also detailed how an American version of our Own the Podium funding program began injecting $18-million annually towards elite athletes to improve the country’s poor performances at the Winter Games . This additional funding kicked in as part of the lead up to the 2002 Salt Lake Games and in the long term is expected to turn the U.S. into as strong and dominate a competitor in future Winter Games as it has become in the Summer Games.

The trajectory of the U.S. Nordic combined program, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) President and CEO Bill Marolt says, “really is an example of the time that it takes and the investment that has to be made for a team to emerge.”

Marolt joined the USSA in 1996 and says Tom Steitz, U.S. Nordic combined’s head coach at the time, was the first person in his office with a plan and a request for more money.

Marolt declines to give specifics on the investment made, but U.S Nordic combined now has three full-time coaches and two seasonal technicians to test and wax skis — a key element when mere seconds separate finishers.

The team also has a residence training program in Utah, with a plastic hill for summer ski-jumping practice.

U.S. athletes also have increased the time they spend training in Europe.

“We definitely have all our oars in the water, and it’s a big, big change,” Lodwick says.

Canada looks to have increased competition if it continues to wish to Own the Podium starting with Sochi in 2014.

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