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Canada’s sporting heroes remain hungry to deliver a return on the Government of Canada’s continued investment in high-performance sport following Thursday’s budget announcement that ensured the Harper Government’s ongoing commitment to driving podium performances.

“The Government of Canada continues to lead the way in creating a new culture for winning, which Canada’s athletes and coaches fully support,” said Anne Merklinger, chief executive officer, Own the Podium. “This commitment reinforces the Canadian Government’s leadership in delivering the resources athletes need to climb onto the podium at Olympic, Paralympic and major international competitions.”

Own the Podium, which has been a driving force behind Canada’s continued evolution into a world-leading sport nation, is funded nearly exclusively by the Government of Canada. Originally launched in 2005 as a national initiative, Own the Podium is designed to provide medal-potential athletes with additional resources and high-performance programming to help them achieve podium success.

Canada’s 50 per cent increase in the Summer Olympic medal count from Athens to Beijing is in large part attributable to the Government of Canada’s leadership, according to one of Canada’s most decorated Olympians – two-time Olympic medallist in triathlon, Simon Whitfield.

“We simply could not have achieved what we did without the tremendous financial support from the Government of Canada’s investment in Own the Podium,” said Whitfield, who electrified the nation with his silver-medal triathlon triumph in Beijing. “From camp funding and staff support, to the heat chamber, and our satellite setup at the actual Games that included our own wonder chef Cosmo, OTP’s funding ensures we have the optimal conditions to excel.”

After five years of record investment, Own the Podium became a household name following the nation’s overwhelming success at the 2010 Games where Canadian athletes achieved their goals of finishing number one overall with an historic 14 Olympic gold medals, and in the top-three of the overall Paralympic medal count with 10 gold, including three by cross-country skier Brian McKeever.

“Before our program had access to Government funding through OTP, we were amateurs guessing our way through the results while competing in high performance sport,” said McKeever – a 10-time Paralympic medallist, who became the first winter-sport athlete to qualify for both the Olympics and Paralympics in 2010. “OTP is responsible for growing the program by developing young athletes, and also increasing the level of our team to where we now have every athlete <on our Para-Nordic World Cup Team> hitting the start line with a focus on winning.”

Building on the success of 2010, Own the Podium’s $36 million annual investment in summer athletes has positioned Whitfield and his fellow Canadian Summer Olympians to accomplish the nation’s ambitious goal of finishing in the top 12 when the world meets in London for the 2012 Olympic Summer Games. Canada also has a goal of finishing in the top-eight in gold medal count at the 2012 Paralympics. Meanwhile, the $20 million of annual funding for winter sport programs has squarely placed Canada as the nation to beat at the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia; Canadian performances on the snow and ice this winter have elevated the nation’s ranking to number one with 35 medals – including 17 gold – in World Championship competition so far this season. Canada’s Paralympic athletes are also focused on finishing in the top-three in the gold-medal count at the 2014 Games.

“The Government of Canada has played a critical role towards ensuring Canadian athletes are amongst the world’s best through their support of the Own the Podium program,” said Merklinger. “Through Government support, Canada’s summer- and winter-sport athletes have come a long way in their pursuit of excellence. The support announced today sends a strong message that the Government of Canada believes in our athletes and coaches, and their performances on the world stage matter to Canadians. We are encouraged Mr. Harper has taken a lead in ensuring this success will continue well into the future, which in turn inspires a healthier and more active Canada.”

About Own the Podium

Own the Podium is a national sport technical initiative that was created in 2005 to help Canada become the number one nation (total medal count) at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and to place in the top-three nations (gold medal count) at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. While Canada’s winter-sport athletes remain committed to finishing number one overall at the Olympic Winter Games, the initiative has also set a goal for Canadian athletes to have a top-12 placing at the London 2012 Olympic Summer Games and to be in the top-eight nations in gold-medal count at the 2012 Paralympic Summer Games. Both of these initiatives reflect what Canadians want from Canada’s high-performance athletes and helps advance the “excellence” goal of the Canadian Sport Policy. Own the Podium’s largest contributor of funding is the Government of Canada with additional funding provided by the corporate community and the Canadian Olympic Committee through its Canadian Olympic Foundation.

For a full summary of Own the Podium initiatives and programs, including breakdown of support and services by sport, please visit us at www.ownthepodium.org on the Internet.