The Best of the Best: 2016 Year in Review

2016 was a memorable year in the world of sport. The 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games were the major highlight and there were exciting performances in winter sport too – keeping us hungry for more leading into the next Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2018.

Although there were many great stories to choose from, below are a selection of human interest and performance stories coming out of CSI Calgary:

5. Mike Sametz: Young Upstart Para-cyclist Wins Bronze in Rio

In a Paralympic sport typically dominated by older athletes in their thirties and even forties, this 20-year old cyclist has risen through the ranks quickly, winning a bronze in the Individual Time Trial at the 2016 Paralympic Games. His first international podium result came at the 2015 ParaPan Am Games with a silver medal, which led to his first ever World Cup medal, a bronze at a 2016 World Cup in Belgium.

4. Tara Whitten Overcomes All Odds with an Amazing Recovery and Performance in Rio

After a serious and bizarre crash on her bike during a ride in Rio at a training camp in March, Whitten made a remarkable recovery from a concussion and a broken bone in her neck. Whitten was able to train on an adapted bike, designed and built by a CSI Calgary exercise physiologist allowing her to ride in an upright position to protect her neck. Over a 10-week period Whitten was able to build up her endurance enabling her to compete successfully one week after her brace came off. Several weeks later she dominated the National Championships and qualified for Rio. Whitten placed 7th in the Individual Time Trial – a fantastic result by an athlete who persevered through injury with fierce determination.

3. Ivanie Blondin: Mass Start Star

Blondin originally started out in short track speed skating, honing her ability to skate in a pack. This experience has served her well in a new long track speed skating event that is now on the Olympic program – the Mass start. She beat her Dutch rival, Irene Schouten, at the World Single Distance Championships, bringing home the gold medal. Blondin is skating successfully again this fall, with two gold and a silver to date in the ladies Mass start.

2. Bloeman Wins Prestigious Oscar Mathisen Award

Transplanted Dutchman, now Canadian, Ted Jan Bloemen has been a boon to the men’s long track speed skating team. In 2015 he broke his former countryman, Sven Kramer’s, longstanding world record in the 10,000m by almost five seconds. For his efforts, Bloemen won the 2016 Oscar Mathisen Award for the most outstanding speed skating performance of the season worldwide. He is the 5th Canadian to win the award in 57 years. Bloemen has continued to lead the men’s distance team, winning silver in the 10,000m and bronze in the Team Pursuit at the 2016 World Single Distance Championships.

1. Wiebe Wrestles her Heart Out

One of the most enduring images of a Canadian athlete from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio is that of Erica Wiebe, standing atop the Olympic podium with a gold medal around her neck, singing Oh Canada, tears streaming unabashedly down her face. The gold medal performance by Wiebe was an outstanding example of preparation, execution and confidence. Always one to wear her heart on her sleeve, Wiebe’s performance was dominating and inspiring.

Other Noteworthy Stories from the CSI Calgary:

Rio Olympic and Paralympic Performances: Medals won by CSI Calgary supported athletes include Allison Beveridge, Stefan Daniel, Jennifer Kish, Stephanie Labbe, Kirsti Lay, Alister McQueen, Mike Sametz and Ashley Steacy

Comeback from Injury: Two notable athletes that are making a comeback for the 2016-2017 winter season are alpine skier Dustin Cook, who tore his ACL/MCL in 2015 and speed skater Denny Morrison, who narrowly survived a motorcycle crash in 2015 and a stroke in 2016.

Talent Transfer: Kate O’Brien and Kirsti Lay both transferred into cycling from other sports, both qualified for Rio Summer Olympics with Kirsti winning a Bronze medal in the Team Pursuit.

Luge Podium Sweep: Alex Gough and Kim McRae won Silver and Bronze at Lake Placid World Cup, followed up by Gold in the Team Relay.

Historic Biathlon Bronze: The men’s Biathlon team won Canada’s first ever World Championship Relay medal in the heartland of the sport in Oslo, Norway.

Assistant Chef de Mission: Carol Huynh, CSI Calgary Next Gen Wrestling Coach and 2008 Olympic Champion, joined Team Canada in Rio as an Assistant Chef de Mission.

CBC All Stars: Six CSI Calgary alumni were broadcasters in Rio: Blythe Hartley, Clara Hughes, Kyle Shewfelt, Mike Smith, Mark Tewksbury and Kelly VanderBeek.

Humphries’ Podium Streak Continues: Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz won Silver at the Bobsleigh World Championships.

New Bobsleigh Star: Cynthia Appiah set a bobsleigh start record at her first ever World Cup with new partner Kaillie Humphries.

New at the CSI Calgary in 2016

Game Plan Networking Events: CSI Calgary held two Game Plan networking events, at Crescent Point Energy with more than 75 current and alumni athletes attending each event.

Sharing Knowledge: 15 CSI Calgary professionals presented at the 2016 OTP SPIN Conference.

Concussion Research: Launch of the KINARM robot, research by Dr. Brian Benson, CSI Calgary’s Director of Sport Medicine, supported by CSI Calgary, OTP, WinSport, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Mitacs Acelerate-OTP post-doctorate scholar research award for Dr. Tara Whitten.

Education: Strength and Power Performance Course delivered in May.

Coaching Support: CSI Calgary became a regional hub for coaching delivery with a new D2L platform.

New Lead: Tanya Dubnicoff, one of the most decorated cyclists in Canadian history joined CSI Calgary in January 2016 as CSI Calgary Cycling, Athlete Development Lead.

Recognition: CSI Calgary staff recognized for their achievements – Phil Abbott wins a Petro Canada Coaching Excellence Award for work with Paralympic cyclist Mike Sametz; Kelly Ann Erdman, February 2016 position paper titled ‘Nutrition and Athletic Performance: Position of Dietitians of Canada’, published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American College of Sports Medicine.

Practicum and Internship: CSI Calgary supported 13 practicum students and one internship position, working to integrate CSI Calgary knowledge and experience, teaching students, coaches and sport science professionals in the fields of Strength and Conditioning, Sport Science, Biomechanics and Nutrition, to help put Canadians on the podium.

Technology: CSI Calgary launched Edge 10, a web-based platform to capture, monitor and store daily training environment and para medical information. Users include NSFs, athletes, coaches and Service Providers.

New Programs: NextGen programs for Ski Cross, Freestyle Park and Pipe.

Partnerships: ASDC & CSI Calgary partnered to support a new Para Sport Training Program.

Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto

Partner, WinSport, Game Plan, Phil Abbott, Own the Podium, Canadian Sport Institute Calgary Team, Kelly Anne Erdman, Tanya Dubnicoff, Crescent Point, Dr. Brian Benson, Carol Huynh, Ski Cross, Year in Review, Freestyle Park and Pipe

Things Are Brewing in the Half Pipe

(left to right:  Rachael Anderson, Emma Stevens, Rachael Karker)

“The Olympics are the ultimate dream.” So says young Canadian Slopestyle skier Max Moffat. The NextGen team member moved west to Calgary from Caledon, Ontario two years ago to train at what he says is the best halfpipe facility in Canada, located at WinSport. Given that that the slopestyle ski event was only added to the Olympic program in 2014, the ultimate dream has evolved at a record pace.

Freestyle Canada has moved quickly to keep up, establishing development programs like the NextGen team. The goal is to foster a highly professional training environment for its best young athletes to grow into future Olympic champions. The ‘Park & Pipe’ team, as it is known, is comprised of Slopestyle and Halfpipe athletes identified as having high medal potential in 2022.

The program was established through a collaborative partnership between Freestyle Canada, the CSI Calgary, WinSport and Own the Podium (OTP). The program operates under a camp-based model where the athletes come together in one location frequently throughout the year for intense training camps.

“We’re here because of the facilities,” says Freestyle Canada’s Director of High Performance Athlete Programs, Julie Stegall. “The half-pipe is the best in the country and is maintained at World Cup standards. Freestyle Canada and WinSport have put a lot of resources into that pipe.”

The CSI Calgary recognizes the importance of establishing a high standard of care and professionalism for the team. “We really worked hard to treat them like a National Team,” explains Miranda Sallis, Manager of Performance Services. “Before the team started training at CSI Calgary there was a high injury rate so things like physiotherapy have been a huge focus so far,” she adds.

With their sights set on the Olympics in 2022, Stegall says the level of professionalism among the athletes and coaches is impressive. “The athletes are ready for this kind of support,” she says. “We knew this was coming and we have a strong group. Things are brewing in the pipe.”

For Moffat, 18, the chance to train alongside athletes from different sports has been an eye-opening and inspiring experience. “At first it was funny to see how the other athletes train. I’d be in the gym and look over at the bobsledders running down the track dragging weights behind them,” he recalls, laughing. “At first it was a bit intimidating, like ‘I don’t deserve to be here’, but now it’s really motivating to train alongside those guys.”

Stegall says the NextGen athletes are extremely thankful for their new training facilities. “Every time they walk into the CSI Calgary they feel special and are so appreciative of the opportunity.”

Moffatt says he’s ‘stoked’ to be a part of this team and that it doesn’t get any better than where he is now. “The hill is awesome. The Halfpipe and Slopestyle setup is amazing. We have everything we need in one spot.”

The NextGen Freestyle athletes are vying for Canada's coveted World Cup spots to prove they have what it takes to make it on the world stage.

Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto

Partner, WinSport, NextGen, Own the Podium, Canadian Sport Institute Calgary Team, Freestyle Canada, Miranda Sallis

We’re All In This Together

Gluten-free, detox and cleansing diets, K-tape, cupping, homeopathic vaccines, cryotherapy, IV therapy – sound familiar? These are but a few of the plethora of popular, yet completely baseless, health and sport trends that currently pervade popular culture. So says scientist, author, speaker and debunker of pseudoscientific health claims, Dr. Timothy Caulfield.

As keynote speaker at the 11th annual Own the Podium SPort INnovation (SPIN) Summit, Caufield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy and Professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, highlighted the danger that accepting health practices based entirely on pseudo science can have on society, as well as athletes and the sport community at large.

“There is an incredible amount of bunk and pseudoscience out there, which makes it incredibly difficult for people to access the real science,” explains Caulfield. He says there is a tolerance for pseudo science across all sectors of health, which has led to an erosion of critical thinking.

The message was strong and pointed – be careful. Dr. Jon Kolb, Director of Sport Science, Medicine and Innovation at Own the Podium, who invited Caulfield to speak at this year’s summit says, “The message that Caufield delivered is that athletes, coaches and managers need to recognize and be very careful about what is brought into their programs.”

For more than 250 of Canada’s top sport scientists, researchers, medical professionals, executives and coaches attending the summit, it was a message that strongly supports a philosophy which underscores the work they do – making decisions based on sound evidence. The CSI Calgary was a major contributor to the SPIN Summit, providing a number of in-house expert speakers.

The focus on evidence can be challenging when there is a need to blend the art of coaching with the science of sport. For Dr. Erik Groves, Research and Innovation Lead at the CSI Calgary, one key takeaway from the conference came from a presentation by Mike MacSween, Executive VP of Major Projects at Suncor.

“The simplest way to approach differing opinions and areas of expertise is to centralize on facts,” said MacSween. “Once that is accomplished it is much easier for people to come together.”

This opens the door for true collaboration, another theme that has come to characterize SPIN and the way in which the Canadian sport community works together. For Groves, the goal of SPIN is to share. “It’s about raising the bar, raising expectations and being open to collaboration,” he says. “We’re all in this together.”

Frank Van den Berg, CSI Calgary Director of Mental Performance agrees. “We share with each other what we are working on” he says. “It’s also an opportunity to foster critical thinking and discussion – we don’t only have to share our successes but our challenges too.”

“We’re much better collaborating than not,” adds Kolb. He says that it’s an opportunistic time in Canadian sport, with so many good things going on and emphasizes that collaboration is a big part of that.

Ultimately, the conference helps to bring together the Canadian sport community for the advancement of sport. “It’s a responsibility within high performance sport, which is a niche on it’s own,” says Kolb. “We will only grow if we grow as a sport science community together.”

Trust science, work together and reap the rewards. The evidence is conclusive!

Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto

Own the Podium, SPIN, Erik Groves

Sometimes It Is About The Coach

Some of the best advice Phil Abbott, CSI Calgary cycling coach, ever got was, “don’t ever be in the photo with the athletes!” He took these words to heart, guiding his philosophy of creating an athlete-centric training environment that ensures he is not the center of attention when his athletes succeed.

“It’s about the athlete, not the coach,” says Abbott, also the head coach of the Alberta Bicycle Association. Except when it is about the coach – as it is with the Petro Canada Sport Leadership Awards gala, which recognizes Canada’s most dedicated, inspiring, and successful coaches.

Annually, award recipients are honoured for exemplifying the values and competencies of the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) and for their influence in positively shaping the Canadian sport community.

At the recent awards held in Richmond, BC., Abbott won a Petro Canada Coaching Excellence Award for his work with Paralympic cyclist Mike Sametz, who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games. These prestigious awards recognize coaches whose athletes have excelled at World Championships, Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the Special Olympics World Games.

Despite his humble approach, Abbott acknowledges that the honour is appreciated. “It feels pretty good to be recognized by your peers, to know that your work is noticed.”

Wrestling Canada coach Paul Ragusa, who helped propel CSI Calgary athlete Erica Wiebe to Olympic gold in Rio, was also recognized for his coaching success. “It feels great to win the award,” he says. “It’s a great honour. It’s something that you never think about until it happens.”

Over the years, Abbott and Ragusa have developed and honed their coaching skills with help from experts at the CSI Calgary. Both credit access to experts like exercise physiologists, nutritionists and strength trainers for expanding their knowledge and skills.

Ragusa says that the chance to work closely with experts from the CSI Calgary helped him to formulate and ask the right questions. “As a coach I’m always trying to find that edge and having access to these experts is really helpful,” he says.

For example, having access to an exercise physiologist helped him collect objective data, something he didn’t focus on before. Ragusa says, “having this data often backs up what I might be thinking intuitively. I’m a better coach now that I can see the data and understand what the rational is behind some of the work we are doing.”

Abbott’s experience is very similar. He credits the CSI Calgary with fostering access to a variety of experts. “Once I was in my new coaching role, a lot of opportunities opened up and I had the chance to work with physiologists and nutritionists. This really accelerated my development as a coach.”

It’s not just CSI Calgary service providers that have contributed to coach development, but also partnerships with other organizations that have allowed program integration. Abbot explains, “It is a unique situation where the CSI Calgary is integrated with the velodrome and the provincial cycling program – being able to manage that relationship continuity between all programs and entities is valuable, everything is aligned. This benefits me and my athletes.”

For Ragusa the partnership between Wrestling Canada and the CSI Calgary has been very positive, especially in terms of establishing an IST (Integrated Support Team). “The team is more consolidated now and together we build a formalized plan that ensures the things we are all working on match up. As a coach it has helped me in terms of leadership, bringing everyone together.”

Jason Sjostrom, Director of Coaching Services at CSI Calgary, adds, “We have strong partnerships and we are very proud of that. These coaching awards are an example of that strength.”

Despite being content to remain in the shadows of their athletes’ success, coaches like Abbott and Ragusa are inspiring and worthy of the honour they have earned. It’s nice to see that sometimes it is about the coach.

Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto

Integrated Support Team, Wrestling Canada, Paralympic Athelte, Phil Abbott, Canadian Sport Institute Calgary Team, Program, Cycling Club, Jason Sjostrom, Coach

This Means Everything

Juggling full-time school, training, and working a part-time job at a local coffee shop is a lot to manage for a young athlete. Slalom kayaker Ryley Penner is doing just that - which is why he’s thrilled about recently getting a little boost to help him on his way. The U23 national team member and CSI Calgary athlete is one of this year’s three recipients of the ARC Resources Inspiring Excellence Scholarship.

In partnership with the Canadian Sport Institute Calgary, ARC Resources, a leading conventional oil and gas producer located in Calgary, awards three $2,500 scholarships annually. The goal is to inspire excellence by enhancing academic and athletic opportunities available to student athletes. The purpose of the scholarship is to lower financial barriers and enable student athletes to reach their full potential while also being strong and valuable members of the community.

Wayne Lentz, ARC Resources Vice President of Strategy and Business Development, says the scholarship targets youth sport and education. “We are looking for genuinely passionate athletes who are pursuing sport and education as well as giving back to their communities,” he explains. “They are humble about their accomplishments and show balance in their lives.”

This year, ARC Resources is proud to award three scholarships to CSI Calgary athletes:

  • Ryley Penner, Slalom Kayak
  • Carla Shibley, Para Cycling
  • Matthew Soukup, Ski Jumping

For Penner, who is in his first year of a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology at Mount Royal University, this scholarship means everything. “My sport is not well funded in Canada and I rely on scholarships like this to do my sport. I need to cover my expenses all on my own, which is really challenging,” he says.

Penner plans to use the funds for races next year, including the World Championships in Slovakia. The scholarship will also allow him to do more training camps and attend the senior national team trials in Whistler next May.

Carla Shibley is a Paralympic cyclist who was diagnosed at age ten with Stargardt disease, an inherited form of juvenile macular degeneration that causes progressive vision loss. Shibley has big goals of representing Canada at the Paralympics in Tokyo in 2020 and is working towards qualifying for a World Cup this season. She plans to use the scholarship to help fund her education – she is pursuing a Youth Justice diploma in Criminology at Bow Valley College.

Despite her disability, Shibley has never been one to let herself be limited by her vision loss and credits her mom with not letting her use it as a crutch. “My vision is deteriorating and I’m slowly going blind,” she says. “Deep down it’s a scary feeling but I’m not going to let it get me down.” This kind of attitude and optimism are qualities that ARC Resources is proud to support.

The scholarships are awarded on both merit and financial need. It can be a huge relief for athletes like Shibley and Penner to receive financial support like this. “All the costs add up,” says Shibley. “It’s a choking feeling.” Penner agrees, “My sport is not very high profile so it’s difficult to attract sponsors. I have to work really hard to make it happen.”

It’s for this reason that ARC Resources keeps on giving. After six years of awarding the scholarships, the company has welcomed and enjoyed updates from past recipients, many of whom have moved on to successful new careers and are active members in their community.

ARC Resources is also grateful for the opportunity to partner with the CSI Calgary. Says Lentz, “We are very proud of this initiative and thankful to the CSI Calgary for helping us to keep it going,”


Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover


Sport Science Solutions, Game Plan, Performance Services, Sport Canada, Cara Button, Canadian Olympic Committee

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