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Jeff Walters · CBC News · Posted: Nov 16, 2020 7:30 AM ET

Canada’s Steve Collins gives an interview during the ski jumping event at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Collins says he wants to see the sport grow once again in Central Canada. (CP PHOTO/COA/ J. Gibson) (CP)

There are few places left in Canada where ski jumping training takes place, and Steve Collins wants to change that.

Collins, a retired ski jumper from Fort William First Nation, on the outskirts of Thunder Bay, Ont., represented Canada at three winter Olympics, and on the World Cup circuit for nearly a decade.

Collins said he has recently started discussions with Ski Jumping Canada, to talk about equipping some smaller, local ski areas which could host training facilities for ski jumping.

Mount Baldy, in Thunder Bay, and Camp Fortune, in Gatineau were two ski areas that immediately came to mind for Collins.

“We’re just trying to get something [going],” he said, noting all discussions are very preliminary.

“Whether it’s at a ski area or not, to develop little hills and get something going again.”

Collins said he looked back at his ski career, noting it all started when he was given a pair of skis to play with Mount McKay Ski Area.

“You give a kid a brand new pair of skis, like Sontro Bannon did when I was skiing, it just raises your attention to try to be a better athlete, right.”

Collins said he got support and help from Fort William while he was skiing. That same support, he said, is needed for athletes who are learning the sport today.

“The only way you’re going to be able to develop anything in ski jumping is if you’re interested in the sport, the skiing first, and you make your way to making little hills here in Ontario, to start the development of ski jumping.”

“It’s possible, but, you have to keep the few people interested in the sport, in getting development going here. Whether it’s small hills going, stuff like that, that’s the only way it will ever be possible.”

Collins points to success in developing the sport in British Columbia, with programs in place to get young people interested in jumping, he said.

Locally, Collins said he wants to spearhead a program this winter to, at the minimum, get kids from Fort William First Nation downhill skiing. If they are interested in that aspect of the sport, they may become the next generation of ski jumpers.

The former Big Thunder ski jumps, as seen from the air. The facility on the outskirts of Thunder Bay, Ont., was shuttered after the 1995 Nordic Winter Games. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Collins said some type of facility is needed in central Canada to grow the sport, noting that since Big Thunder was shuttered after the 1995 Nordic Winter Games, interest in the sport, in this part of the country, has diminished.

“There were so many kids after ’95, they were at the point where they could have been world champions, Olympic champions in four to five years. As soon as they closed the facility, there was nothing. Their chances were gone, there was nothing.”

“It should have never closed,” he said. “This sport would have never died.”

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