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Russia recruits Vancouver talent to Own the Podium at Sochi 2014


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Russia turns to Vancouver talent for help to 'own the podium' in 2014

By KELLY SINOSKI, Vancouver Sun November 22, 2010

Russia is recruiting some of the top players who helped Canada scoop a record haul of gold Olympic medals at Vancouver's 2010 Games in a bid to help Sochi "own the podium" in 2014.

Olympic silver medallist Cathy Priestner Allinger and her husband Todd are among those being courted by Russia ahead of the Sochi Games.

The Allingers helped design the country's five-year, $117-million Own the Podium program, which helped Canada scoop 26 medals at the Games, including a record 14 gold, and finish third in the rankings.

Russia fared dismally, with just 15 medals - three of them gold, despite investing heavily in its athletes.

Priestner Allinger, a silver medallist at the 1976 Winter Olympics, last week resigned from Own the Podium's advisory board, citing a conflict of interest as she negotiates with Russia on what she calls "a personal decision" for her own professional development.

A contract could be signed as early as this week, she said Sunday.

"We're seriously talking with them," she said. "It's neat they came to us; obviously they feel Own the Podium was a great success and they want to create the same positive energy we had here. I'm a little surprised; they are known to be a great sporting nation. [but] Russia needs to reach out to other parts of the world and I'm glad they're coming to us rather than the U.S."

Own the Podium - funded partly by government and partly by the corporate community - provided targeted Olympic athletes with every bit of help they needed, from more coaching and support staff to better equipment developed through sport science research.

The Allingers, who have brought former speed skater Jacques Thibault and former U.S. colleague Jim Page on board, expect to add more people, including former OTP staffer American Kristin Collins, once the contract has been signed.

Priestner Allinger said while there are obvious cultural differences in Russia, the country has some similar challenges to Canada in terms of its sporting system. "You have to be somewhat creative when you want to be at the top."

Todd Allinger noted the couple has already been to Russia four times to evaluate the medal potential of the athletes and said it's crucial to start building the team now as Russia only has four years before the Winter Games in Sochi and has to make sure it has the right coaches, technology and development in place.

He noted Priestner Allinger has a good track record with both the Salt Lake City and Vancouver Olympics under her belt. Canada will benefit, he added, by partnering with Russia during the Sochi Games.

"We have some knowledge and technology they can use and it's beneficial to Canada to have access to the bobsled track and cross-country ski terrain," he said. "We're trying to promote that and help that happen."


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