By Ian Ransom

By Ian Ransom

 

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - The 2010 Vancouver Olympics holds a special place in the memory of Canada's Barrett Martineau.

 

The giddy feeling during the Nordic combined event when he took his mark and peered down from the top of the ski jump.

 

The rush of the descent, the whirring of the cameras and the relief of landing the jump in front of a roaring home crowd.

 

A teenage dream fulfilled in all respects, bar one - he wasn't actually competing.

Martineau was just a floor jumper who had been called up midway through the event to test out the jump when conditions became a little windy.

"I was kind of like the test dummy," Martineau, now really competing in the Pyeongchang Games as a skeleton racer, told Reuters on Monday.

"It was windy so they put me up there and I think the announcer actually thought I was the athlete from Austria that was coming up.

"So he announced it and the crowd roared. It got super-loud, it was awesome.

"The cameras were on me like it was on TV and stuff, so I got the jump and it felt like the real thing. Only it wasn’t."

Martineau had just missed out on qualifying for Canada's Nordic combined team at the age of 18 but he felt his jump was probably better than some of the real skiers' efforts.

"The Olympic committee owns the video ... I found it on Youtube once many years ago," he said.

"It wasn’t a very good jump but I certainly wouldn’t have finished last in the ski jumping event."

Eight years on, the 26-year-old Calgary native is soaking up being an actual Olympian.

LEAP AWAY

The sliding sport of skeleton may seem a fair leap away from Nordic combined but they both have adrenaline in common.

The seed of the switch was planted at Vancouver when Jon Montgomery claimed the skeleton gold, keeping the title in Canadian hands following Duff Gibson's triumph four years before in Turin.

"I was in the Canada House when (Montgomery) came by to give a speech and in the village when he walked by me with a pitcher of beer and I thought it was pretty inspiring," Martineau said.

"I thought it was a pretty cool sport. I retired from ski jumping and six months later I thought about that moment and I kind of jumped on the bandwagon and started skeleton."

Having won medals in Turin and Vancouver, Canada's skeleton racers drew a blank in Sochi, so getting funding for Pyeongchang has been a battle.

But a full quota of six Canadians will compete, a testament to the athletes' commitment to the fringe sport, said Martineau.

"The funding structure kind of fell apart after Sochi 2014 and we had to start from the beginning," he added.

"Me and my team mate Dave (Greszczyszyn) were both in the top 10 (of world rankings) at various stages and we are completely self-funded, the only ones in our program.

"It’s been a hard experience but it’s been a good one.”

Clinching a medal could help pries open the coffers again and Martineau is confident the skeleton tournament, which starts with the men's event at the Olympic Sliding Centre on Thursday, is wide open.

But he will just be glad to hear the announcer call out his name when he gets his slide ready at the start of the track.

"From day one it was, 'I want to go to the Games'," he said.

"It's a fulfilling feeling to know that I am basically on the road to achieving what I set out to achieve."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)