BOW VALLEY – On the verge of breaking out onto national teams, four up-and-coming winter athletes received a substantial boost to assist in the forthcoming season.
Canmore's Christina Picton, Jenna Sherrington, Elizabeth Elliott and Banff's Liam Wallace received $10,000 each – $5,000 for the athlete and $5,000 for their coach – from the Fuelling Athletes and Coaching Excellence (FACE) program grant, designed to support up-and-coming athletes on the fringe of being selected to nationals team, but don't yet qualify for government funding.
For Picton, a 28-year-old Para nordic skier who moved to Canmore last January, she's grateful to have been selected as the ripple effect of the funding has been evident.
"Without this support, I don't think that moving to Canmore would have happened. I would have done it, but it would have been a little later in the season and it would have just been harder to swing," she said. "It's just created a great opportunity for me training in prime training conditions with other incredible athletes and coaches and just having access to the highest level of our sport all the time, which is just incredible."
From Fonthill, Ont., Picton was born with a congenital deficiency that impaired growth of both legs. At age 16, her right leg was amputated below the knee.
A busy athlete, Picton has become a two-sport star and was part of the 2019 National Para Hockey Development Team. However, she said she is focusing on skiing this season due to the all-important upcoming 2022 Paralympics Games in Beijing.
"Up until now I was kind of balancing both and being a part of two programs, which I was so lucky to have that kind of a problem," she said. "I just decided that this season I'll be moving forward and focusing on skiing full-time so I'm pretty excited about that."
The grant helps to cover equipment and travelling expenses, such as training on Vancouver Island, an oasis where Picton is currently escaping the overbearing wildfire smoke that's flooded into the Bow Valley since early July.
The FACE grant, funded by Petro-Canada, is issued every year since 1988 to Canadian athletes based of the potential they'll represent the Great White North at the Olympics or Paralympic Games.
More than 3,000 athletes have been assisted and $12 million has been issued since FACE's inception.
"The National Sport Federations nominate candidates across Canada who would benefit the most from a grant," said Petro-Canada in a statement. "Then, a committee made up of representatives from Petro‑Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and the Coaching Association of Canada choose the recipients."
Banff's Liam Wallace, 21, was recently named to the Alpine Canada's National Ski Team; Elizabeth Elliott is a 21-year-old cross-country skier training with Alberta World Cup Academy based out of Canmore; and Sherrington, a 19-year-old biathlete has shot and skied her way onto the senior national development team.