Dayton Smythe

Dayton Smythe

Omission of target shooting from Winter Games prompts appeal

Target shooting will not be included in the 2019 Canada Winter Games and Red Deer Fish and Game president Douglas Wood isn’t taking the negative news sitting down.

Target shooting will not be included in the 2019 Canada Winter Games and Red Deer Fish and Game president Douglas Wood isn’t taking the negative news sitting down.

Wood plans to appeal the decision to omit target shooting from the Games, which will be staged in Red Deer. He’ll present his arguments to the powers that be, starting with a visit to Red Deer city council.

His stance revolves around the success of the Fish and Game youth shooters, three of whom — Belle Medicraft of Red Deer, Ashley Pikkert of Blackfalds and Lacombe’s Andrew Thacker, with Pikkert and Thacker each winning a gold medal — attended the Canada Winter Games in Prince George last week and his belief that more young shooters should be given a chance to compete in or very near their hometown in 2019.

“I’m hoping to talk to the City and the people who made the decision just to let then know that it’s too bad that these kids won’t be able to (compete) in 2019,” said Wood. “By the time the next (Canada Winter Games) happen (beyond 2019) somewhere in Canada, they won’t be teenagers any more.”

The Red Deer Canada Winter Games committee was informed by the Canada Games Council last year — even before Red Deer won the bid to host the Games — that target shooting and archery are considered ‘cusp’ sports, lower on the totem pole than the likes of hockey, curling and skiing.

Thus, due to financial restraints and a possible lack of human resources, just one of the two would be included in the 2019 Games to fill the quota of sports.

The Red Deer committee chose archery.

“We were told that we had to make a choice and when we sat down and had a look at it, we realized both organizations are really strong in Red Deer,” said bid committee member and Red Deer Games Foundation director Lyn Radford, referring also to the Central Alberta Archers Association.

“It was not an easy choice for us to make, but the numbers for archery really helped them. They have a bigger organization and that was probably the slight edge. When you’re looking at something like this you include larger numbers, which helps with organizing. They have more numbers to draw from for organizing the actual competition aspect. It also helps with the legacy . . . you catch a broader spectrum of legacy, things like that.”

Wood argues that both target shooting and archery could be part of the Games, pointing out that the shooting could be held at a modern Sylvan Lake facility.

“The Alberta Games shooting was out at Sylvan Lake and I actually went and was impressed with the electronics they have,” he said. “No one had to run and look at the targets, every target was on a screen. It was quite a deal.

“They’ve already offered the facility to us. If we can get into the Games they’d be willing to host the competition.”

Wood will attempt to meet with city council before mid-April to argue that there wasn’t enough consultation prior to the decision being made to exclude target shooting.

“I want to make sure we get the facts straight and have people realize that Red Deer has the chance to be well known in the shooting group,” he said. “Our kids have done really well, we have one shooter who has beaten juniors and adults and is well on her way to being Olympic material, and we also have very good coaches.”

Radford would have no problem with target shooting joining archery in the 2019 Games.

“It would be nice to have both,” she said. “Most communities don’t have this wonderful challenge. Most communities are strong in one sport or the other, but we’re strong in both. It was definitely hard to make that decision.

“The bid committee did choose archery and we take responsibility for it. It comes down to what is different here, and that was numbers and the fact the archers have the larger organization. We definitely have empathy toward the situation. In our bid we tried to have both sports included, but they (Canada Games Council) said no, and gave us the parameters.

“It would be nice to see both sports in the Games. It wouldn’t be a problem with us, but we have to stay out of it and let the Games Council decide.”

Wood realizes he will eventually have to take his fight to the Games Council, but still plans to seek an audience with city council.

“We’re prepared to go to the Games Council. I’m going to meet with council to get their approval, their backing,” said Wood. “I also want to get the approval of whoever did the choosing.”

“Neither the bid committee nor the host society has anything to do with (a protest). The Games Council deals with them,” said Radford. “If the Games Council came back to us and said ‘OK, we’re going to include them in the Games’, then we’d have to make arrangements for it.”

If an email the Advocate received Thursday from Canada Games Council communications coordinator Joel Allard is a true indication, Wood might be fighting a losing battle.

“The interest in the Canada Games program has grown beyond what the sport program and funding can support,” said Allard. “At this point, based on the Canada Games Council’s sport selection process and the Red Deer bid committee’s host choice, the sports for the 2019 Canada Games are now final. The Canada Games supports all opportunities to support developing athletes in Canadian sport and wishes the national sports organization the best of luck in future Canada Games Council sport selection processes.”