Canadian Olympic Team Applauds Decision to Add Women's Ski Jumping, Five Other Events to 2014 Olympic Program

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TORONTO, April 6 /CNW/ - The Canadian Olympic Team congratulates the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on its decision today to add six new events to the 2014 Olympic program. A major step in gender equality is made with the inclusion of women's ski jumping, while the door is opened now for freestyle ski halfpipe (men and women), biathlon mixed relay, a team figure skating event and luge team relay. For Canada, the decision helps bolster medal opportunities in Sochi, as Canadians have won multiple 2010-11 medals in these new disciplines.

"There is no question that Canada will strengthen its already world-class team for the Sochi Olympic Winter Games as a result of the IOC's decision," said Jean R. Dupré, Canadian Olympic Committee CEO. "It means more of our great athletes get a chance to experience the world's biggest sport stage."

Women to Compete in Ski Jumping

In 2014, for the first time ever, women's ski jumpers will compete at the Olympic level. Featured on the Olympic program since 1924, the sport has until now remained men-only. It and Nordic combined (which also features ski jumping) were the only such sports on the winter Olympic program.

"I welcome our women's ski jumpers to the Olympic ranks and can't wait to see them compete, beginning in Sochi, at the level where they belong," Dupré said.

The impact of this decision extends well into the future. The Olympic nod will not only help advance women in sport, but aid Ski Jumping Canada in its long-term athlete recruitment goals. In the past decade, the quality of women's ski jumping has risen significantly. The first World Cup series is now set for the 2011-12 season, and women have competed at the World Championships since 2009.

New Winter Events a Boon for Canadian Olympic Team

Canada will have multiple medal opportunities at the Sochi 2014 Games among the five new winter disciplines approved by the IOC. Both men and women will compete in the individual events of freestyle ski halfpipe and in the multi-athlete events of figure skating team event, luge team relay and biathlon mixed relay.

"We look forward to welcoming the athletes and coaches to the 2014 Canadian Olympic Team, and will work hard to orient new and returning Olympians to the unique environment of the Games," said Caroline Assalian, COC Executive Managing Director, Sport & NSF Relations. "Their Olympic teammates will no doubt want to watch and cheer on Canada at these exciting new events, which give many of our National Sport Federations important new opportunities for success."

In 2014, the halfpipe will not be the sole domain of snowboarders, but also of freestyle skiers. Canada has considerable talent in this new Olympic event. That includes the 2011 world champions on both the men's and women's sides in Mike Riddle (Squamish, B.C.) and Rosalind Groenewoud (Calgary). Groenewoud also finished second overall in the 2011 World Cup standings - to teammate Sarah Burke (Squamish, B.C.), who captured the Crystal Globe as overall points leader. Burke is also reigning X Games champion. Edmonton's Keltie Hansen added a bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships.

The IOC's vote Wednesday in London affirmed three Olympic events that feature mixed gender or teams. The luge team relay encompasses one man and one woman sliding individually, combining their times with one pair. Canada has had podium success in this format, collecting a silver medal during the 2010-11 World Cup season. The figure skating event is brand new, a proposed 10-team event held over three days that combines individual, pairs and ice dance short program. Canada enjoys a strong history of success in figure skating. The biathlon mixed relay is a fixture on the World Cup circuit, incorporating two men and two women striving toward the podium. At Vancouver 2010, Jean-Philippe Le Guellec (Quebec City) set four Canadian records in biathlon.

"There is no doubt the IOC's inclusion of women's ski jumping, ski halfpipe, team figure skating, luge team relay and biathlon mixed relay will be a boost to these sport programs in Canada, and our continued goal to sustain our position in the medal standings in 2014," said Ken Read, Director of Winter Sport, Own the Podium. "The recognition of women's ski jumping, adding mixed gender events and the addition to the new disciplines strengthens the country's overall winter sport program and will play a significant role in attracting more women to high performance sport. We look forward to working with Ski Jumping Canada, the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, the Canadian Luge Association and Biathlon Canada to recruit and develop more medal winners for Canada."

The IOC stated that its members considered certain factors as being most important for the vote. They included whether an event increases universality, gender equity and youth appeal, as well as if it added value to the Games.

In the coming weeks, the IOC will decide on the inclusion of snowboard slopestyle, freestyle ski slopestyle and alpine team parallel competition, which will now enter a further feasibility study.

About the Canadian Olympic Committee

The Canadian Olympic Committee is a national, private, not-for-profit organization committed to sport excellence. It is responsible for all aspects of Canada's involvement in the Olympic Movement, including Canada's participation in the Olympic and Pan American Games and a wide variety of programs that promote the Olympic Movement in Canada through cultural and educational means. For news and information, visit the COC website at www.olympic.ca and find the team on both Facebook (Canadian Olympic Team) and Twitter (@CDN OlympicTeam).

SOURCE COC

For further information:

Isabelle Hodge,
Manager, Media Relations,
Canadian Olympic Committee
Tel.: (416) 324-4122
Email: ihodge@olympic.ca

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