Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton Slides into 2024 with New Look Board of Directors
CALGARY—Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton will slide into the new year with a freshly-elected full Board of Directors.
The Membership took time out of chasing performance goals on the track to continue its mission of meeting the organization’s commitments to its funding partners – Sport Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee – to re-establish a strong foundation for the creation of a more promising and sustainable future. This includes implementing good governance practices; providing operational leadership and stability; and creating a supportive culture that ensures wellness for all participants.
“The number one priority for the Board of Directors over this past year was to restore order and lead from our respective positions to ensure everyone operates at Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton in a culture of respect, fairness and kindness. We always have more work to do, but safe sport is non-negotiable in our organization,” said Tara McNeil, who took over as President of the organization in November 2022. “With that foundational belief, we have worked diligently to serve our mission of creating, nurturing and supporting the champions in our sport – the athlete community. But more importantly, understanding and addressing how these champions are built. This is a fundamental part of our mandate for the foreseeable future.”
Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton was delivered a clear mandate from Sport Canada on what was needed to be done to meet sport objectives. Specific conditions were also established to ensure there was appropriate oversight for public funding.
Establishing good governance practices to ensure Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton was compliant with the Canadian code of good governance was a key priority for the new leadership. In response, Sport Canada has released development funding to BCS to support the next generation of sliding talent, while the COC has provided the organization with Safe Sport funding.
The addition of two newly-elected members at the 2023 Annual General Meeting – Todd Burton (Treasurer) and Mary Lay (Director at Large) – is a major step forward towards achieving these goals.
Todd brings 30 years of financial experience to the Board – a career that began in personal banking before progressing to commercial and corporate banking before he transitioned into the oil and gas space where he has served a number of senior positions responsible for business development, preparing financial statements, execution of budgets, analyzing statements in addition to providing leadership and human resources support. Todd is currently a part-time teacher at Mount Royal University and operates his own financial services business.
Mary Lay will also begin a four-year term as Director at Large. A practicing lawyer in Alberta and British Columbia, Lay brings more than a decade of legal experience to the position. Lay is no stranger to board responsibilities and governance. She has previously served on the boards of non-profit organizations focused on amateur sports and wildlife rehabilitation where she has gained valuable experience in organizational governance, strategic planning and community engagement.
“It has been the Board of Directors’ goal in 2023 to grow the Board, diversify its skillset and seek expert external support to ensure the organization is continually challenged to raise the bar,” said McNeil. “We are thrilled to welcome both Todd and Mary to these important positions. The experience, strength and diversity they both bring will ensure a continued focus on athlete wellness, excellence and a renewed growth and development of our sports nationally.”
Following the official Annual General Meeting on December 21, the athlete community met to elect their two new athlete representatives on the Board to replace Olympians – Mirela Rahneva (skeleton) and Cynthia Appiah (bobsleigh) – who both chose to focus their energy on training and competing. Two former athletes – Jeremiah Huo (skeleton) and Justin Wilkinson (bobsleigh) – will now help shape a promising future for the two sports while bringing the athlete’s voice to the organization’s leadership group.
Huo represented Canada for three years on the North American Cup skeleton circuit. A well-rounded athlete, Huo has also competed in soccer, track and field and handball at an elite level. He previously represented Team Alberta in handball.
Justin Wilkinson developed a passion for bobsleigh and the people in the sport during his 10 years sliding on Canada’s National Bobsleigh Program. Wilkinson has also coached provincially in Alberta and served on Alberta Bobsleigh Association’s Board of Directors. With a focus on athlete welfare and betterment, Wilkinson has strong relationships throughout the international bobsleigh community, and is never shy to get in a sled. He has enjoyed a trip down a track with 63 pilots from 14 different countries.
“Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton would like to extend its heartfelt appreciation to both Mirela and Cynthia for the leadership, dedication and passion they have both instilled in our Board while pulling double duty over the last year. They stepped up significantly when the organization needed them and have help get us to a place where the organization can now grow,” added McNeil. “We are excited to work with Jeremiah and Justin to continue to bridge the gap between the athletes and the Board members while also building on the work Mirela and Cynthia had already done in these positions for the continued development of the sport and the organization.”
With McNeil at the helm, the four new faces will join previously elected Vice-President, Stephen Norris, and Director at Large, Matt Stapley.
In addition to implementing good governance and re-establishing relationships in and outside of our sport while also delivering the critical resources athletes and coaches required to train and compete safely on the field of play, the Board has been equally committed to ensuring its dedicated staff consistently has the day-to-day operational leadership and support they required to achieve the organization’s collective longer-term operational and performance goals.
Earlier this fall, Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton hired Alicia Wight as interim executive director to immediately address the organization’s operational needs to stabilize operations, provide leadership, foster continuous improvement of the culture in order to pave the way for a culture of excellence – enabling the Board of Directors to transition into a governance role, and develop a comprehensive succession plan to fill the role permanently at the end of the 2023-24 season.
Wight has made an immediate positive impact on the organization with her leadership experience, particularly in organizational change as a people and culture leader. Wight, who has a proven track record of building high-performing, people-centric teams and fostering sustainable cultures that drive organizational excellence, has been helping Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton implement the necessary solutions to support long-term success.
Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton is working to fully adopt all governance principles in the Canadian Sport Governance Code as requested by Sport Canada by April 2025, which also includes an extensive review of all by-laws.
Bobsleigh CANADA Skeleton is a non-profit organization and the national governing body for the sports of bobsleigh and skeleton in Canada. With the support of its valued corporate partner – Karbon – along with the Government of Canada, Own the Podium and the Canadian Olympic Committee, Bobsleigh CANADA Skeleton develops and supports champions in the community, on and off the track, who have a passion for bobsleigh and skeleton. Please visit us at www.bobsleighcanadaskeleton.ca.