Mikael Kingsbury’s perception of his own potential changed a decade ago.
He was a 17-year-old forerunner testing the moguls course for competitors about to ski the Cypress Mountain slope at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Kingsbury witnessed Alex Bilodeau win gold and become Canada’s first Olympic champion at a home Games.
“Seeing a Canadian win the Olympics, Alex, and knowing him since I’m very young and seeing him accomplish his dream was huge,” Kingsbury recalled.
Ten years later, Kingsbury is the current Olympic and world champion.
On the other side of the country in Halifax, 14-year-old gymnast Ellie Black watched the Winter Olympics on television and wished she was in Vancouver celebrating the host country’s success.
Fourteen gold medals won by the Canadian team in Vancouver and Whistler set what was then a record for the most by any country at a single Winter Olympics.
“I think that inspired a lot of us to really see that ‘OK, we can make it to the Olympics, we can be on top of that podium, we can have those performances and have that success,’” Black said.
“If you have those dreams, you’ve just got to work hard to make them happen.”
Black became the first Canadian to win an all-around medal at the world gymnastics championship in 2017 with a silver.
She’s a medal contender at this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The afterburn of 2010 is fuelled by inspired athletes and stable money a decade after the Feb. 12 opening ceremonies.
The prevailing wisdom is it takes a decade and a half to build an Olympian.
So Canada is still in the window of athletes like Kingsbury and Black, who both aspired to more after 2010 and are reaching their athletic peak.
“There will be some gas left in that story and some of those young people from back then will be on the team in Tokyo for the Summer Games,” Swimming Canada’s high-performance director John Atkinson said.
Marielle Thompson was a ski cross forerunner in 2010. She watched Ashleigh McIvor win gold and duplicated the feat four years later in Sochi, Russia.
Kelsey Serwa made it three straight gold in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018.
“I think a big part of keeping the fire burning is realizing what we did and making sure it’s part of our culture now,” said national ski cross team high performance director Dave Ellis.
The federal government has maintained an annual investment of about $200 million in Olympic and Paralympic winter and summer sport.
Own The Podium, established five years out from 2010 to get athletes on the podium at their home games, directs about $65 million of that money to the sports federations developing athletes with medal potential.
OTP assesses medal potential and provides technical expertise to sport federations.
The targeted-funding strategy survived a federal government review in 2017.
Investment in coaching, sport science and technology, next-generation athletes five to eight years out from peak performances and the establishment of sport institutes across Canada are also part of the 2010 legacy.
The Canadian Olympic Committee prepares athletes for Olympic Games and looks after them upon arrival, as well as contributing $9 million annually to OTP’s work.
The COC currently has 36 sponsorship contracts.
“There’s a tremendous interest in our corporate community of being partners with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian athletes,” COC chief executive officer David Shoemaker said.
“I give the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver an enormous amount of credit in developing the proposition around sports marketing and partnerships in the Olympic Games in Canada.
“So many of our premiere national partners got their start in the Vancouver 2010 Games.”
Canada set an audacious goal of winning more medals than any other country in 2010.
Twenty-six in total ranked the host team third, but Canada won the most gold.
Norway and Germany have since joined Canada as record holders with 14 gold apiece in 2018.
Canada has maintained its status as a winter-sport power ranking fourth in Sochi with 25 medals (10 gold) and third again in 2018 with 29 medals (11 gold).
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
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