CSI Atlantic 25 years
CSI Atlantic: Celebrating 25 years of Excellence
17 January, 2024

The turn of the year brings a moment of reflection, whether we go looking for it or not. With the flip of the calendar, we find ourselves taking stock of the year gone by and curious about the days ahead. 

This January however, the staff, athletes, and coaches at CSI Atlantic find themselves reflecting on a greater period than the past 365 days. January 15, 2024 marked 25 years since CSI Atlantic’s inception.

Back in 1999 CEO and President, Ken Bagnell, could not have foreseen what today would be like and what the “sport centre,” as it is still affectionately called, would have become. 

Ken was the first employee of CSI Atlantic, which was originally named the National Sport Centre.

Ken Bagnell, 1999

“It was an interesting time because I had been working for the Coaching Association of Canada for three years before that. Working with coaches across Atlantic Canada,” recalls Ken, “the centre network had just started to form which meant working with athletes and coaches, not just coaches, and not knowing what was ahead.”

With only a few sports involved, Ken is quick to remember exactly who the first few partners in the door were: paddlers, sailors, the men’s national gymnastics team who at the time had centralized in Fredericton, N.B., and a few individual athletes residing in Atlantic Canada.

“It wasn’t much of a starting point but great roots to build towards relationships we still have today with those sports.”

With a small team, Ken and the employees of the National Sport Centre set out to make their mark on high performance sport in Atlantic Canada and beyond. 

“We were very small back then. There were two of us in Halifax and one in Fredericton. The fourth person we hired was Leo Thornley, a graduate student from Dalhousie. He was a sports scientist, which was an emerging area. Following what the centre in Calgary was doing which was involving and building around performance science which is obviously now a major part of our operations with a number of full-time and part-time providers.”

Today, Leo Thornley is the Director of Performance Science at CSI Atlantic and has a team of 21 providers across a field of performance science disciplines. In addition to the performance science pillar, CSI Atlantic has sustained coaching and performance pathways pillars, further enhancing the depth of high performance sport support and development in the region. 

Ken’s work with coaches prior to the National Sport Centre transferred nicely as the organization sought to hire coaches, making CSI Atlantic an early adopter in professionalizing the role of a coach. Ken recalls the inspiration and pride he felt seeing Olympian David Kikuchi in the role of an athlete and later as a coach. 

“David was an inspiring athlete during my first years at the National Sport Centre. He was in the first group of athletes I was involved with as a member of the men’s national gymnastics team and [I] watched him transition into coaching and it’s no accident that Ellie (Black) is the star that she is thanks to the example and environment David and Kris Burley, a national team member from Truro at the time, who showed that Nova Scotia athletes could be at the world level in gymnastics. And I think Ellie always shares her pride for this place and I think that’s directly a result of David’s journey as well.”

So what was it like to be on the athlete and coach side of the National Sport Centre? We thought there was no one better to ask than someone who has been in both roles from the very beginning: David Kikuchi. 

David remembers when he first heard the buzz about the National Sport Centre. 

“In general as an athlete, someone told me about it: a new thing to support athletes and we never really had something like that before. I remember there were snacks and vitamins, things we could get early on that people were excited about and then it turned into more things and more support and having an advantage from being from the east coast and I feel like some of my fellow athletes didn’t have the same support that early on and that personalized.” 

David Kikuchi

And although much has changed in 25 years we are proud to say we still have exceptional snack options (shout out to our dietitians). 

David was also quick to mention the immense amount of support that existed then and now for athletes and coaches. 

“As an athlete at the beginning, and some great support through that part of my career and then one of the first coaches going through the Sport Centre and that lasted for a few years and helped gymnastics in Nova Scotia and my career and then as a personal coach, especially with Ellie, the last 10 to15 years I’ve seen the very best support.” 

Ellie Black and David Kikuchi

David goes on to highlight the clear Atlantic advantage that is felt by coaches and athletes affiliated with CSI Atlantic.

“Ellie’s been a targeted athlete for a long time and it’s been such an advantage for her throughout her career. She’s received support that no one else across the country has and it started before her first Olympics and before her first major competitions and we’ve built, what we’re trying to do across the country is replicate what Ellie has here across the country.”

Another early adopter of the new-at-the-time sport centre was the sport of sailing. Brian Todd, a former Sail Canada National Team Coach, reminisced about the memorable energy of the staff. 

Brian Todd

“Due to the energy of the staff at CSC Atlantic and the success of the athletes, CSC Atlantic became the national training center for sports like paddling and sailing, despite the protestations from other more populous parts of Canada but Ken and the Centre prevailed to bring it to the successful system it is today. Now the CSI Atlantic is considered one of the leading centres in Canada (and has been for some time), developing programs with the sports and providing the highest quality services for the athletes. It was fun to be on the leading, or cutting edge, of CSC Atlantic's development and see it move Atlantic Canadian sport and athletes up to the next level.” 

Although the physical locations and the name have changed over the years, one thing has remained constant: CSI Atlantic’s commitment to offering the highest quality of services to the top performers in Atlantic Canada. When asked about a goal set and achieved over the 25 years Ken beams with pride. 

“Our main goal was to build the respect the athletes and coaches from Atlantic Canada deserve nationally in terms of reputation but internationally in terms of confidence so they know they’re supported in a way they deserve and need.”