Jason Burnett (left) is a two-time Canadian Olympian. (Canadian Press)As a two-time Canadian Olympian Jason Burnett understands the importance of funding when it comes to harnessing his skills as a trampoline gymnast. The money brought in from various programs helps Burnett and other Canadian Olympic athletes train for international events and pay for their travel expenses when attending qualifying competitions.
So the 25-year-old was enthusiastic when news was announced Wednesday that the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) would be providing national sports federations with a $2.6 million funding boost ahead of the 2015 Pan Am Games slated for Toronto.
"This announcement is incredibly exciting for myself and all the other athletes because it will assure that everyone who qualifies to compete at the TO2015 Pan American Games will have the support they need to do so," Burnett, who brought home a silver for Canada in Beijing said at a news conference at the University of Toronto Wednesday.
Canada has plans for 1,000 of its athletes to compete in 2015 and construction is already underway in Toronto to get the city ready to host the Pan Am Games. President and CEO of TO2015 Ian Troop says everything is falling into place in terms of construction and the plan is to have all the venues completed a full year in advance of the Games.
"In my mind, Canada has served notice that we will bring our 'A' game to the 2015 Games and it's to stand on the podium in July 2015," Troop said Wednesday. "Other countries will have to step up and bring their top athletes as well," Troop said Wednesday."
And there in lies the biggest hurdle for Toronto to overcome looking ahead to 2015. The Pan Am Games have often been cited as an event very few people care about so in order to have these Games resonate with the general public it will be up to organizers to attract as many big name national and international athletes as possible.
For Burnett, having the event in Toronto is especially significant as being a native of the city he will get the bonus of having his entire family at the competition to show their support in person.
"I think that's going to be incredible for every local Toronto athlete," he said. "There's not a lot of people who have that luxury of their family coming with them [to competitions] so it's going to be great that every local athlete will have their family here."
He's hoping to use the 2015 Pan Am Games as an opportunity to bounce back from what was a disappointing performance at the London Olympics this past summer. Heading into London, Burnett was seen as one of Canada's medal favourites, but a fall in his final routine eliminated him from contention.
"I had a little bit of rough luck in London so this will sort of be my time for redemption," Burnett said. "I'm really looking forward to that and with all the extra funding coming in it will allow me to focus a little bit more on training as opposed to doing other extra-curricular, acrobatic things which may not be so productive towards my sport."
Asked what his expectations were looking ahead to 2015, Burnett was quick to respond. "A gold medal for sure," he said. "I feel very strongly that I can be on top of my game and that I can still be dominant within the Americas in the next three or four years.