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RBC Training Ground

TORONTO -- There’s a program that gives young Canadians the chance to be scouted by the Canadian Olympic team, and it doesn’t matter if you spend 30 hours per week practising your sport or you’re looking for something new to try — it’s open to everyone.

Since its inception in 2016, RBC Training Ground has enabled National Sport Organization (NSO) partners to test the speed, power, strength and endurance of over 8,500 athletes at more than 100 free local events across Canada, identifying 1,000 athletes as potential Olympians

The program is usually hosted in-person, but due to COVID-19, it’s been moved online for the 2020-2021 season. That means young Canadian athletes from any sports background have access to RBC Training Ground talent scouts in a virtual format.

“The whole premise of the program is you actually participate in a series of standardized tests,” said Shannon Cole, senior director of brand marketing for RBC. “By comparing (scores) against Olympic benchmarks, (the program) gives all these different sport organizations a chance to see talent — and sometimes it's really raw talent — and then transfer that (talent) into somebody who's really impactful in their program.”

Several athletes who were discovered at RBC Training Ground events are now emerging as Tokyo 2020 medal hopefuls. Kelsey Mitchell, world record-setting track cyclist and Tokyo 2020 medal hopeful, was a university soccer player when she was discovered at an RBC Training Ground event in 2017. She had no idea she had the makings of an Olympic cyclist until she participated in RBC Training Ground.

“This is somebody who was a high level soccer player and then… all of a sudden, based on (RBC Training Ground) tests, she was told she might actually want to try cycling,” Cole said. “All of a sudden, she's setting world records in track cycling.”

To mitigate the threat of COVID-19, the program is happening virtually this year. However, Cole hopes the shift will make the program more accessible to young adults living all over the country.

Anyone anywhere who's able can upload (a submission) onto our website,” Cole said. “It's free, and you can do it from anywhere. While COVID-19 has unfortunately forced us to pivot from our in-person events, we're actually making it almost more accessible... because we can expand the reach to people who couldn't come to one of the trials before.”

Athletes are encouraged to visit RBCTrainingGround.ca for instructions on how to complete program testing virtually, and how to upload results through video and an online portal. To participate, athletes will perform simple speed, power and endurance tests at home and submit their results online for assessment by Olympic talent scouts. Testing can be completed either indoors or outdoors, wherever adequate space permits. The deadline for submissions is December 1, 2020.

RBC Training Ground participants deemed to have high performance potential will be invited to complete sport-specific testing with National Sport Organization partners. From there, 100 athletes will be invited to the RBC Training Ground National Final (scheduled for spring 2021), with the chance to earn funding and a potential spot on a Canadian National Team.

Developed in partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Olympic Foundation and with support from the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network, RBC Training Ground is a nation-wide talent identification and athlete-funding program dedicated to finding and funding Canada's future Olympians. In the past five years more than $1.7M has been provided to 117 RBC Future Olympians to help support their Olympic dreams.

Current National Sport Organization partners of the RBC Training Ground program include Boxing Canada, Canoe Kayak Canada, Cycling Canada, Freestyle Canada, Rowing Canada, Rugby Canada, Speed Skating Canada, Ski Jumping Canada, and Nordic Combined Ski Canada.