Exactly one year from today, Feb. 7, 2014, the flame will be lit at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia, during the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Three days later, Team Canada’s curlers will be making their 2014 Olympic debuts at the 3,000-seat Ice Cube Curling Center, which is part of the Sochi Olympic Park cluster of venues.
We’re 12 months away and that seems like a long time. The reality is that preparations for Team Canada going to Sochi have been ongoing for a while. Here’s where we sit currently.
There are three of us who know we are going to be involved with the Canadian Olympic curling team: our national coaches Elaine Dagg-Jackson (women) and Rick Lang (men), along with me, the Olympic Team Leader. Behind the scenes, orchestrating the whole process leading to Sochi is Gerry Peckham, the Canadian Curling Association’s (CCA) Director, High Performance.
I always enjoy educating curling fans about the Olympic process and what goes on behind the scenes. As the Team Leader, part of my role is to help ensure all the details are looked after. A big part of that planning begins with the friends and family of the athletes who will be coming over to the Games.
As you might imagine, the needs of the athletes and coaches are at the forefront of the planning process for the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and the CCA, but taking care of friends and family of our Olympic athletes also is a high priority.
A significant part of that is making sure those people have a place to stay in Sochi, and while it’s been an arduous process, I’m glad to say that we’re nearly 100 per cent secure in nailing down the accommodations for friends and family. There were two or three fairly solid plans that fell apart on us, which you have to expect for situations like this. Gerry Peckham has been leading this process and, thankfully, he still has some hair left!
In terms of Olympic performance, friends and family have been identified as a key for potential stress in an athlete’s performance at the Games. While we can’t pay for their entire trip to Sochi, the main thing that we as a sport can do is make sure all of the details are worked out as far in advance as possible, which is a pretty big deal considering how close to the Olympics we declare our Canadian teams.
When the Canadian Olympic curling teams are decided, there will be a very detailed package for the family members to look through. It will identify a cost for them but also let them know that there are hotel rooms and tickets set aside, in addition to providing suggested travel agents to use for flying over to Russia.
Another step in our planning process is an official visit to Sochi at the end of February this year. Elaine, Rick and myself, along with Friends & Family Co-ordinator Jock Tyre, will be going over during the curling test event (the 2013 World Juniors) to get an in-depth overview of how the facility runs. We will look at in- and out-of-village athlete accommodations, grocery stores, restaurants and really immerse ourselves in the town of Adler (the suburb of Sochi where many of the Olympic venues are located; Adler is around 25 kilometres south of Sochi proper). We want to be able to anticipate any concerns or problems our fans or teams may have in February 2014.
This information will then be added to our overall high-performance plan for 2014 so we will know right down to the absolute last detail what Sochi will have in store for our women’s and men’s teams.
The last key in this whole puzzle is, of course, the teams! As you may know, we currently have three teams of each gender pre-qualified for the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials, Dec. 1-8 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. At the end of this season, three more qualifiers in each gender will be decided. Those six teams will await two more teams that will come out of the Capital One Pre-Trials qualifying event, Nov. 5-10 at the Memorial Auditorium in Kitchener, Ont. The list of contenders is impressive, to say the least! You can find all of the details of the Olympic qualifying process at: www.curling.ca/ctrs-trials/olympic-qualification-process/.
So one year out from the start of the Olympics how am I feeling as Olympic Team Leader? Excited, nervous, cautious and patriotic are a good start. Excited about the talent level of the teams we will have representing Canada. Nervous that we have everything taken care of. I’m cautious of important decisions that have to be made in a foreign country and patriotic about the opportunity that has presented itself to our Canadian curlers! These 12 months should fly by!