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Athlete Blog: Regan Lauscher

Winning gold and corporate supportCTVOlympics.ca
By Regan Lauscher, CTVOlympics.ca
Posted Tuesday, September 22, 2009 8:03 AM ET

If it isn't a dead tie, then the topic of winning the 'gold' at the Olympics barely edges out the next hottest topic that surrounds sport - money.

If you ask me, the two are synonymous. Yin and yang. As dependant on each other as a needle and thread.

The money debate (if not outright battle) is one that I have been immersed in for sixteen years as a Canadian athlete trying to stay afloat under demands of training, traveling and keeping food on the table. Oh yeah....and winning.

So when I was asked to be the keynote speaker at the Mayor's Sport Breakfast, held last week here in Calgary, I really didn't give it much thought.

Without hesitation, and an admittedly weak sense of excitement, I agreed. To be honest the most enticing part of a 7 AM invitation was a guaranteed free, hot breakfast.

My topic - the impact of corporate, government and public support to Canadian athletes.

In the back of my mind, I figured that all the 'really important' athletes must have been either busy or gone for them to have considered asking me. I mean, the month of September to an athlete is like December as an elf in Santa's workshop - excitement and anticipation are slightly muted by the long list of grand preparations in the final countdown before the jolly fat man mounts his sled and is on his way.

It's not that I don't think I'm 'important', but I certainly don't have a shiny Olympic medal dangling heavily around my neck. I am used to giving speeches, just not to a room full of people who do.

Clutching my speech and rehearsing words in my head, I confidently arrived 15 minutes early to meet the mayor and take a photo. But as I walked into the lobby of the convention centre, I felt my calmness give-way to a heavy set of nerves.

It's not that I thought the mayor didn't have any friends, but I was genuinely shocked at the near four hundred place settings that filled the gigantic room.

The Mayor, council, media and representatives of the corporate world, city and province, were joined by the cream of the crop of both winter and summer sport communities in Canada.

I suddenly felt a bit awkward - like a seventeen year-old babysitter giving parenting advice to a mother of three.

But as the morning wore on and the breakfast wore off, it was nearing my turn to take to the podium and speak.

It felt like I was preparing to race, my heart thumping deep inside my chest. But as the highlight video ended and the lights came on, confidence washed over me. I realized that what I had to say really mattered.

And it mattered BECAUSE it came from me, a luge athlete. Medal or no medal. In fact, that was precisely my point.

Obscure sports like luge often fly under the radar compared to the glitz and glam of Alpine Skiing or Speed Skating. The next 10 minutes was my opportunity to have a voice for the underdog.

In it's infancy in 1988, Canadian lugers would take to the ice with a simple hope - to make it down. Compared to our European counterparts, we were goldfish in a shark tank, waiting to be devoured.

Zero corporate dollars equaled zero success.

Canada got what they paid for.

And honestly, I want to shake some sense into the people who think that all it takes to win is heart and hard work.

You can't put Steve Erkel in a boxing ring with Mike Tyson and expect a fair fight. You'd never bet on a Kia beating a Porshe no matter how passionate the Kia driver is about racing.

But as the tides turned and Canada decided to stamp amateur sports with a priority sticker, our names began to climb the scoreboard.

Updated facilities, resources like wind tunnel testing and the implementation of world-class coaching and support teams literally put us in the game.

I personally made significant gains after acquiring personal sponsors - Alberta Turkey Producers, Spectra Energy, Rheotech Drilling Fluids, Rona, The Main Dish, Lululemon and Stealth Web Designs. All of these people have believed in me and my gratitude to them is unending.

In 2004, I became the first Canadian to win a World Cup silver medal in luge. And now, my entire team can challenge for a top ten result and push for the podium.

I'm not implying that you can 'buy' medals or success, but it sure gives you a chance at it.
And it's important that people understand that. Not just for the 2010 Olympic team, but for all the future generations of athletes to come. For every little kid, who decides to dust off his toboggan and go to the hill. He may be the next luge World Champion!

An old proverb says "The proof of the pudding is in the eating".

And my reality as an athlete is no different.

Regan Lauscher will be a regular contributor on CTVOlympics.ca. Follow her throughout the World Cup season and her preparations for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. For more on Regan, check out her personal webpage at www.reganlauscher.com.