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Brassard appointed assistant chef de mission for Sochi

The Canadian Press

2/22/2013 3:29:45 PM

DRUMMONDVILLE, Que. -- Retired freestyle skier Jean-Luc Brassard is teaming up with former Crazy Canuck downhill star Steve Podborski to help motivate Canada's 2014 Olympic team.

Brassard will serve as assistant chef de mission for the 2014 Games, which will be held in Sochi, Russia. Podborski is the team's chef de mission.

"This is an extraordinary opportunity, and I am proud to join (Podborski) and the entire 2014 Canadian Olympic Team," said Brassard, whose appointment was announced Friday at a news conference. "As a member of four Canadian Olympic teams, I know that the team behind the team has a critical role to play and I look forward to supporting each and every member of the Canadian Team in reaching the Olympic podium."

The Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Que., native won a gold medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. He also took part in 1992 Games when freestyle was a demonstration sport as well as in 1998 and 2002.

Podborski said Brassard, who is fluently bilingual, will help ensure all Canadian athletes get the support they need before and during the Games.

"Perhaps most importantly, he'll help motivate and inspire the athletes and the coaches and all of the others do well in Sochi because it'll be a great big challenge," said Podborski.

The duo will speak on behalf of the Canadian Olympic team and also gather athletes beforehand to help them prepare for the conditions in Sochi and develop cohesion. Podborski said he and Brassard will essentially try to help Canada improve on its performance at the Vancouver 2010 Games, where Canadians won 14 gold medals, seven silver and five bronze.

The Canadian team will have to stick together more in Sochi than it did in Vancouver, said Podborski.

"In Sochi, it's going to be profoundly different than it was in Vancouver, when everywhere we went there was a real positive vibration, because all the volunteers and all the people working the lifts and the guys in the hockey arenas (were) all Canadian guys," he said.

Podborski and Brassard are part of a growing trend that has seen countries select former athletes as the chef and assistant chef de mission to ensure teams are properly motivated. Previously, bureaucrats held the posts but Podborski, who won an Olympic bronze medal at Lake Placid in 1982, believes former athletes can provide more inspiration.

During the Games, Brassard will primarily assist athletes in the mountains while Podborski helps Canada's hockey teams and others competing on ice.

"He'll be another tool in the chest that will allow us to be successful in Sochi," said Podborski.