After a period of review Swimming Canada has decided to reduce the number of high performance centres that are being funded largely by the national organization and redirect their funding to four high performances centres rather than five.
High Performance Director John Atkinson was hired in March and his first priority was to do a through review of the structure of swimming within the country. He took a great deal of time to not only review the performances and operations of the national centres, but travel across the country to meet with provincial organizations and review all high performance strategies.
The overall review of the centres was conducted by a five person committee, which included Swimming Canada senior technical staff and a representative from the Own the Podium program.
The Own the Podium program is a strategy that was put in place when Vancouver was awarded the 2010 Olympics with the initial goal of providing Canada athletes with increased support which would enable them to win the gold medal count at the games in Vancouver. A goal which was achieved.
In 2006 the Own the Podium program extended their support to summer sports with their first Director being Canadian swimming legend Alex Baumann. The current Director of the summer sports is Mark Hahto who also has very strong ties to the swimming community. He has been a successful club coach as well as an administrator with his previous position to his role with Own the Podium being the COO of Swimming Canada.
The Own the Podium program provides funding to Canadian national sports organizations and conducts a thorough review of each sport annually each November to ensure quality control. Therefore the inclusion of a representative of this organization was an extremely important part of the process.
The committee came to the conclusion after scoring each centre on the ability to develop successful swimmers on the international stage that the centres in Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto would receive continued investment.
The Montreal Centre will have it’s funding suspended on March 31st with the potential of once again receiving substantial funding from Swimming Canada. That decision will be based on a second and more detailed review of its operation, including a restructure of the overall strategy for the region.
As of March 31st the National Swim Centre Centre in Calgary will no longer receive funding from the national organization.
As part of the review process each centre was asked to provide documents which highlighted past and potential for future success, support structure and involvement within provincial and club programs.
The athletes from the centres in Victoria and Vancouver made up almost half of the 2012 Canadian Olympic team with seven athletes from each centre representing Canada in London.
“The objective of these high performance entities was to provide an environment aimed at developing identified swimmers to their potential. This process evaluated the impact each of the five centres could have on the success of Canadian swimmers as we build towards the 2016 and 2020 Olympics,” said Atkinson. “By refocusing our operations at four centres we will be able to dedicate more resources directly to national teams and programming for athletes.”
“We have encouraged Swimming Canada to ensure they are spending their resources in the most effective way possible to achieve podium success,” said Mark Hahto, Director of Summer Sport for Own the Podium.
Under the new structure the centres will also be renamed Swimming Canada High Performance Centres and operate under a refreshed set of operational standards and accountabilities that will be implemented on April 1st.
“These centres have been strong performers for Canada at the high-performance level, and had the combination of vision, results and potential future results that earned them high scores in the review process,” Atkinson said. “The bottom line for high performance is to use our resources in the most efficient way possible to work towards success on the international stage. This is a strategic decision we believe puts Canada in a stronger position to produce more world-class performances at major competitions.”
“Swimming Canada’s Vision 2020 strategic plan aims to grow Canada into a world-leading swimming nation. By undertaking such a sweeping evaluation of our high-performance programs we are making a strong step in that direction,” added Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi. “This new direction will allow us to focus more of our resources directly on our top athletes and medal hopefuls for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.”
As part of this decision, Swimming Canada will work with all impacted federally carded athletes in order to ensure that their preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games is not compromised.
At the 2012 games in London Canada earned three medals (Ryan Cochrane – silver in the 1500 freestyle, Brent Hayden – bronze in the 100 freestyle and Richard Weinberger in the 10 km) the most since 1996 (1996 (3), 2000 (1), 2004 (0), 2008 (1)). With this restructuring there is a great amount of optimism within Swimming Canada that this upward trend can continue.