Own the Podium has reached to one of Canada's top winter sports, freestyle skiing, for its next director of winter sport, selecting Peter Judge for the job, the long-time chief of the successful Canadian Freestyle Ski Association.
Judge is the successor to Ken Read, who stepped down from the director of winter sport job in March, after serving in the role nearly three years following the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
Judge is a pioneer of freestyle skiing and is a member of Canada's Ski Hall of Fame. Raised in Calgary, he learned the tricks of his trade at Sunshine Village, near Banff, and competed from the mid-1970s through 1984. He thereafter immediately became coach of Canada's national team and along the way also coached in the United States, Australia and China. He took his current job as CEO of the Canada's freestyle association in 2004.
Through it all, Judge has overseen decades of consistent victories and, along the way, helped push the various disciplines from freewheeling florescent-clad outsiders to the Olympic level – starting in Calgary for the 1988 Olympics where freestyle was a demonstration sport through the 2014 games in Sochi where ski and snowboard slopestyle, and ski halfpipe, debut on the Olympics roster.
Judge's job at OTP will begin after the Sochi Olympics and he will continue to run Canadian Freestyle through the games, with the organization's athletes among Canada's top medal contenders. During his years as a leader, he has helped deliver 10 Olympic medals – which includes mogul skier Alex Bilodeau's gold in Vancouver, the first Canadian victory on home soil.
"Peter has been a proven performer throughout his career in sport," said Anne Merklinger, CEO of OTP, in a statement on Thursday morning when the hiring was announced. She, along with Judge, cited the need to better connect the various winter sports organizations in Canada, with the goal to "win more medals."
Judge, in his current job at Canadian Freestyle, has recently led a push to create a snow-sports consortium of seven organizations, which includes Alpine Canada and Canada Snowboard. The goal is to drum up bigger sponsorship dollars as a larger group rather than small entities. The consortium has hired TwentyTen Group to promote the effort. TwentyTen Group is a marketing/sponsorship agency started three years ago by the people who ran marketing/sponsorship for the VANOC, the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee. Together, the winter sports hope to collectively get the backing big-time corporations consistently, rather than in bursts around Olympics.
On Thursday, Judge indicated such initiatives are essential if Canada wants to remain a top winter sports nation, competing against much more populous countries such as the U.S., Germany, Russia, and China.
"We have a small gene pool of athletes relative to other leading sport countries," said Judge in the statement announcing his hiring. He highlighted the need to "leverage our financial resources."
Like Read before him, Judge's challenge is money, to keep the flow of cash moving. Under Read's watch, OTP channelled the most money ever to winter sports in the four years ahead of Sochi, $89-million, up more than 10 per cent from the $80-million that went into Vancouver, and nearly sextuple the $16-million invested for Turin. The investment for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea will be Judge's No. 1 job.
"Success," Judge has written on the Canadian Freestyle website, "is fickle and it is not 'owned' by anyone in perpetuity."