Recent article in the Vancouver Sun provides postive coverage on the new dedicated Paralympic Training Run and also the soon to be developed Paralympic Training Centre.
Kimberley builds a global reputation
The small East Kootenay town that morphed into the Bavarian City of the Rockies in the 1970s wants to become the Paralympic training centre of Canada in the new millennium.
Kimberley expects to have Paralympic ski teams from Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and other countries training on a dedicated run at Kimberley Alpine Resort just before the Paralympic Games next year.
The Dreadnaught run was developed to accommodate downhill, slalom, giant slalom and super-G events, with safety netting from top to bottom and new communications and timing equipment.
The facility is fully equipped with ski equipment required by disabled athletes and International Paralympic Committee World Cup events were held there in 2005 and 2007.
Now, city officials hope to capitalize on the run's international reputation by building a $6-million Paralympic Training and Conference Centre at the base of the mountain by late 2010.
"International teams are talking to us now about the possibility of coming here and training in the future," Kimberley Mayor Jim Ogilvie said. "So throughout the Olympics, we'll make it known we're going to have this centre available."
The provincial government committed $3.9 million to Kimberley's Paralympic vision four years ago and the city has used some of those funds to help develop the ski run and to make its civic arena and curling rink more accessible for disabled athletes.
The arena's players' benches and penalty boxes now are at ice level, allowing for smooth transitions on and off the ice for sledge hockey players, while dressing rooms have been renovated with automatic doors, accessible washrooms and showers, wide benches and equipment boxes.
Curling venue upgrades include covered ramp access and automatic doors leading into the building. The city's two-year-old aquatic centre is also wheelchair-accessible.
"What we're saying is come here and train here because we really do have the complete package," Ogilvie said.
The package won't be totally complete until the new ski-in, ski-out training and conference centre is built next year, but he said most of the project funding is already in place — including $2.5 million left from the provincial grant, another $2 million in federal-provincial infrastructure funding and $1 million from the city.
The facility will have training facilities, change rooms, meeting rooms, audio-visual equipment and conference space for up to 500 people.
Kimberley didn't send delegations to previous Games, but Ogilvie noted several international sport federations found out about the city's Paralympic aspirations at the B.C. Pavilion in Turin in 2006.
He credits renowned Canadian ski instructor Jerry Johnston for giving Kimberley so much credibility as a centre for training disabled athletes. The 73-year-old member of the Order of Canada moved to Kimberley from Alberta in 1980 and brought his groundbreaking training skills with him.
He began training disabled skiers in the early 1960s and he and his wife, Annie, established Canada's first disabled skiing program; they created the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing in 1976.
Johnston helped establish the Japanese Handicapped Ski Association and headed the disabled skiing exhibition at the Olympic Winter Games in Calgary in 1988. He's not an active trainer these days, but he remains an important consultant in Kimberley's Paralympic plans.
"Paralympic skiing in Kimberley has been very successful," Johnston said. "Things have really opened up for a lot of teams to train here and they don't have to run around looking for equipment for speed racing.
"A lot of resorts won't shut down a hill, but we have an agreement that we can do that for training."
Kimberley will continue to attract high-level competitions for disabled athletes, he said, but it will be hard to become a permanent fixture on the IPC ski circuit because so many countries want to hold the events.
"It's good to move the events around because that helps increase the popularity of the sport," Johnston said. "Disabled athletes still aren't respected at all in some countries and we have to change that. People thought we were crazy the first time we went to Japan but they really accepted the sport when they saw what the athletes could do."
Kimberley Alpine Resort representative Matt Mosteller said the proposed new training centre will become a year-round facility for able-bodied and disabled athletes, with fitness and dryland training taking priority in non-winter months.
"The sport has been a very big positive for the community," he said. "Athletes come to live and train in the area and there's an economic win when you create and host events."
Kimberley will host a Nor-Am competition for able-bodied snowboarders just before the Olympics in February next year, then hold a Nor-Am event for disabled skiers before the Paralympics begin in March.
The city expects to attract disabled curlers to its curling venue before the 2010 Paralympic Games and the Canadian men's sledge hockey team is scheduled to play against an international opponent in the Kimberley Civic Centre on March 1.
Steve Bova, an instructor who runs a disabled ski academy at the resort, noted the Canadian snowboard team trained on the mountain last year and the Nor-Am snowboard event will attract snowboarders from all over the world.
"The main thing is to market what we have now and get the people here," he said. "From a coach's point of view, the venues are what's important and we have them."