Donovan Bailey Wants To Run Canadian Federation



On the greatest night and biggest race of Donovan Bailey’s athletic life, he crossed the finish line, pumped his fist, grabbed a Canadian flag, looked into a television camera and immediately said “hi” to his uncle Keith.

Only his favourite uncle wasn’t watching. Keith Ashley had died of pancreatic cancer the night before the final of the 100 metres was run at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

“Nobody told me. They didn’t want to upset me. I dedicated the race to him,” said Bailey almost a decade to the day later, sitting in his well-decorated office on Wellington Street.

"My uncle had passed on the Friday night of the semi-finals. I called him right after the race. It’s like a bittersweet thing, I’m celebrating the win in Atlanta and my uncle’s gone. I was really close to him, really close.

"Immediately after the race my first instinct was to say ‘hi’ to him. Right after the press conference, I called the house. That’s when they told me.

“To me, it was one of those things that has been frozen in time.”

In a poignant kind of way, that night, too, has been frozen in time for Canadians. Bailey’s win in the 100 metres, in the greatest of all Olympic events, was much like his career, glorious and bittersweet. Even now, just about 10 years past that July 27, 1996 night in Atlanta --two nights really, counting the following Saturday when Bailey anchored the Canadian team’s 4x100 relay gold – the gold medal runs of Bailey remain among the most stirring sporting moments in Canadian history.

“I think it means more to Canadians as I get older,” said Bailey, now 38 years old, who has had a love-hate relationship with media and sporting administrators over the years.

"I recognize what it means. I was the first man to have all three titles – world champion, Olympic champion, world record holder. Not just the first Canadian. The first man in history.

"It’s still the biggest gold medal at any Games. If you live in Canada, it’s not always such a big thing. Because we’re a hockey country, it isn’t viewed the same way it is around the world.

"I see what guys (in other countries and here) who haven’t accomplished half of what it is I accomplished, I see how they are recognized. I see what they get. When I’m in Canada, nobody really recognizes me. Nobody really understands.

“But when I land in the Caribbean, or in Italy or Germany or the Middle East or Africa, it’s different. Everybody wants a piece of you. Everybody remembers.”

Donovan Bailey remembers the 100 metres he ran in 1996, remembers every step, every jerking motion of his unorthodox running style. He will never forget, like many of us, the morning of the race – and the first words he heard from his coach upon waking up.

"Dan (Pfaff) said, ‘A bomb’s gone off.’ And I thought he was joking. Dan would say things like that, just to see how I’d react.

“Then he said rather seriously, ‘No, a bomb’s gone off.’ At first, we didn’t know what to think. We watched the news. We were living in a villa in Buckhead (an Atlanta suburb)and walked outside to see if you could see anything. We weren’t sure if there was going to be a race or not. And I had to issue some kind of statement with my reaction to the bomb.”

The bomb that rocked the Atlanta Olympics – which occurred in Centennial Olympic Park and killed two people, injuring over 100 – exploded just after midnight Friday. Before that, uncle Keith had succumbed to cancer. And all day long, Donovan Bailey managed to do what he always did best.

“I focused,” he said. "I really think that was my strength as an athlete. I could really prepare. I’m thinking, ‘I was the world champion. This was the Olympic Games. I still recognized, if the event was going to take place, I had to be mentally, physically and psychologically ready to compete.’

"Two weeks before the Games, I tore my left adductor. I couldn’t even walk. I figured that was it. Dr. (Mark) Lindsay did a phenomenal job of getting me ready. I knew I was as good as I was going to be.

“I don’t know what it is about me, but the more stressful and bigger the stage was, the better I got, the more calmer, more relaxed I got.”

With an entire country still buzzing about the bombing, the race went on, but not normally.

"The thing about having a coach like Dan is, he prepares you for everything. You go through every possible scenario. Although nobody prepares you for a bomb.

“We’d go through the possibilities and how we would react to them. What happens if there’s a bad start? What happens if there’s a false start? What happens if this happens? What happens if that happens? Dan is a preparation freak. He didn’t want any kind of surprises.”

Linford Christie, the British sprinter who had won the 100 metres four years earlier in Barcelona , was a contender in Atlanta until two false starts resulted in his disqualification. Christie initially refused to leave the track and a chaotic 100-metre final ended a most chaotic Olympic day.

“The race was delayed 10 to 15 minutes,” Bailey said of Christie’s protests. “If I hadn’t been prepared for this, I think I would have gone crazy.” And then the gun went off … and 9.84 seconds , Bailey owned a world record and Olympic gold.

Was it the perfect race?

“I still haven’t run my perfect race yet and I’m retired,” he said.

The gold medals – the second one from the 100-metre relay one week later – remain locked away in a safety deposit box. Only recently, with the 10-year anniversary of the achievement tomorrow, did he take them out for a television interview.

For such a large public figure, there is a private side to Bailey, an emotional side, that he doesn’t always choose to share. Sometimes, his posture being what it is, it has seemed he carries chips on both shoulders. Part of him cares desperately what others think of him and part of him doesn’t appear to care at all. It depends on the moment, the question, the mood.

“I never competed for accolades,” Bailey said. “I wasn’t running for office. I didn’t expect a vote to see whether someone liked me.”

But he did care. Because it still bothers him that he never carried a Canadian flag, in or out of any opening or closing ceremony. “I thought I would get it for Edmonton in 2001 (for the world track and field championships). Didn’t happen. I don’t know why.”

It bothers him that he has been linked to a Jamaican-Canadian controversy: “I’m both,” he said. "It’s what I am. That’s like asking someone, ‘Which of your parents do you like best?’

“People define me by what I did, not by who I am. I look at it differently. I think I’m someone who was taught to work really hard and aspire to do great things. I had great parents, man. They beat it in to my head, literally, that I should be the best at what I do, whatever it is.”

His life now remains busy – a little real estate, a few investments, a wellness clinic, speaking engagements, and forever a new project of some kind on the go. Bailey always has described himself as an “entrepreneur” but usually has been somewhat ambiguous about it.

His most recent ambitions – and there are many – relate to Wayne Gretzky’s involvement with Hockey Canada and Ken Read’s involvement with Ski Canada.

"I look at what Ken Read has done with skiing and I look at what Gretzky has done with hockey and I say, 'Why not me? :slight_smile: I’d like to run athletics in Canada. You think about it?

"Can you imagine having hockey and not having Gretzky involved? How foolish would that be? And look at the phenomenal things Read has done for the skiers. What I love about it is, they are running hockey as a business, not a sport, and Read is running skiing as a business, not a sport.

:slight_smile: "We need to run athletics the same way. Every year I get a job offer from another country. Why not here?

“You have to create a new infrastructure. I see all these talented young athletes. I don’t think any of these kids have the proper work ethic. And they have this sense of entitlement about them. :eek: They run a 10.1 and they are the best in Canada and they think it’s a big deal. They don’t realize how far away they are from a world record or being top 10 in the world.”

Donovan Bailey knew and he got there.

“It was a sense of accomplishment,” he said. “That’s what I did. It’s not who I am. There are many great things I have yet to accomplish.”

“We need to run athletics the same way. Every year I get a job offer from another country. Why not here?”

If he’s so good, why doesn’t he take a job offer somewhere else and show us what he can do, rather than talking about it? Just because he ran a 100m in 9.84 - doesn’t mean he can run a National Sports Federation. A lot of us saw his public relations talents after the Bailey-Johnson 150m showdown - very Gretzky-like. Maybe we can give him a company car, so that he can crash it and leave it in flames at the side of the road, without reporting it.

Just my opinion… I could go on.

:stuck_out_tongue: :stuck_out_tongue: :stuck_out_tongue: :eek: :stuck_out_tongue: :smiley: :rolleyes:

I’m sure he would be better than the people working there today!! Or wouldn’t he??

He was on CBC newsworld tonight.

Depends on his philosophies. It seems the people in charge now are doing all in their power to limit the chances of our athletes to perform in international championships.

:rolleyes: well, that’s bullshit for starters… Carl Lewis was given the world record and held the 100m world and Olympic titles de facto after Seoul 88 and Tokyo 91 (where he ran “another” world record).

Picking the lesser of two evils would be quite the challenge. I propose a game of Russian Roulette to solve this dilemma.

If the standard is merely being better than what’s there today, Spongebob and Patrick Starfish would be acceptable candidates also.