Being Embedded with B2Ten the Highlight of Pre-Olympic Swing
Just one more day left in a two-week, pre-2010 Olympic swing out west with multimedia ace Chris So. Haven’t killed each other yet; though it’s been nip and tuck at times. (Just kidding. … I think.)
It’s not hard to pick out the highlight in what’s been a very cool journey that’s given us a chance to hook up with more than 30 athletes who are working their butts off to get ready to represent Canada in Vancouver.
It has to be the B2Ten retreat in Banff.
It was a lot more than just the chance to get to know 16 of Canada’s top athletes better – from young lions like figure skater Patrick Chan, moguls skier Alex Bilodeau, and cross-country skier Alex Harvey to veterans like Olympic moguls champ Jenn Heil, skeleton racer Jeff Pain, an Olympic silver medallist in 2006, and goaltender Kim St. Pierre, a two-time Olympic gold medallist.
|CHRIS SO/TORONTO STAR|
|Heather Moyse trying to climb onto the podium in 2010.|
It was definitely the vibe of the whole thing that made it special.
With Miller’s financial connections and Gauthier’s guidance, Heil created a team of experts around herself led by strength and conditioning ace Scott Livingston, who recently retired from the Montreal Canadiens.
Heil felt that support group played a huge part in her winning Olympic gold on opening day at the 2006 Turin Games and she wanted other athletes to benefit from the kind of help she’d been getting.
Enter the creation of B2Ten. The “B” stands for a business-like, methodical approach to the whole thing. The “2Ten” is for the 2010 Games. You can’t use 2010 or you risk being sued by the Olympic trademark Stazi.
What B2Ten tries to do is give athletes that little extra help they otherwise couldn’t afford to get onto the Olympic podium.
In the case of someone like Chan, that means working with a spins coach who’s helping him hone that part of his game, as well as a dartfish video specialist who’s aiding him in better understanding what it takes to do that elusive quad jump.
No direct money goes to the athlete. It’s about such things as getting better equipment, help with transportation or housing or furniture.
The money comes from Canadian businesspeople who want to help the athletes out because they respect what they’re doing. They don’t even get a tax receipt from it. Maybe the most impressive thing about the four-day retreat is that there wasn’t a single corporate logo to be seen.
No, the most impressive thing was the camaraderie between the athletes and the other people involved. The athletes were exposed to people like Johann Olav Koss, winner of three speed-skating gold medals in a home Olympics at Lillehammer, Norway in 1994, and founder of Right To Play; Laurie Skreslet and Sharon Wood, the first Canadian man and woman to climb Mount Everest, and a wide array of health professionals.
They had some activities during the retreat designed to take the athletes out of their comfort zone, including mountain climbing (Pictured above is bobsleigh's Heather Moyse, the pride of P.E.I. who now resides in Toronto. Chris So endeared himself to the troops by falling in the river while snapping his photos.)
It was an eclectic and interesting group (would love to name ‘em all, but this post is a bit windy as it is.) Let’s just say there wasn’t a participant at the event that you couldn’t spend hours talking with and still want to keep chatting away.
B2Ten considers itself a “top up” for the athletes. The main providers are organizations like the national federations, Sport Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Own The Podium, the program started to help Canada to become the No.1 medal winning nation.
There’s been some resentment about the amount of attention B2Ten has garnered at times, but people like COC boss Chris Rudge has recognized its value and played a big role in helping the group stage a recent fundraiser for Chan.
With support for athletes sure to take a huge dive after the 2010 Games, an initiative like B2Ten may become more important than ever.