We’re getting beaten by Togo:eek:
Published: Thursday, August 14, 2008
Our women’s softball team or men’s baseball team may yet redeem these Olympics for Canada.
And there is still a chance, beginning Thursday, that our rowers (often our strongest team at the Summer Games) and men’s divers will capture a few medals.
Many of the sports we are best at – canoeing, kayaking, track and field, trampoline and sailing – come in the Beijing Games’ second week.
But seldom in recent decades have our teams gone so far into Olympic competition – six days and counting – without winning a single medal. What’s wrong?
After day five of competition, 50 countries had medalled, but not Canada. Such sporting powerhouses as Armenia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Togo had each managed at least a bronze, while we had racked up a big goose egg.
Azerbaijan had three medals. So did Zimbabwe, a nation that’s been racked with political chaos and mass starvation for years. War-torn Georgia was 10th overall with two golds and a bronze. Even North Korea, where citizens have been known to boil twigs for food (although, presumably state-chosen athletes have been given a better diet) had seven medals.
South Korea, a nation roughly as prosperous as our own, was third overall with 13 medals – including six gold and six silver – just behind China and the United States. And Australia, which culturally, demographically and economically may be the country most similar to Canada in the whole world, was sixth with 12 shiny baubles. If the South Koreans and Australians can do so well, why can’t we?
It’s true we are a cold-weather country. Australia and the Koreas cannot hold a candle to us at the Olympic Winter Games. But many of the sports of the Summer Games are held indoors – badminton, basketball, boxing, diving, volleyball, gymnastics, swimming and others. They do not require year-round outdoor training and competition for their athletes to reach world-class standards. And few other cold-climate nations have been shutout so far in Beijing. Russia had 12 medals at the end of five days and Finland, Sweden and Norway all had at least one.
Before the Games began, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) was projecting our team would place 16th or better. It was assuring reporters we could do no worse than the 12 medals – three gold, six silver and three bronze-- we earned in Athens in 2004, which itself was Canada’s worst showing at a Summer Games in nearly 20 years. Now both of those goals look unrealistically optimistic.
It’s likely true that the new federal and corporate funding for summer competitors – and programs such as the COC’s Road to Excellence – came too late for these games. As Mike Chambers, the COC president, said on Tuesday, “It’s not going to have a big impact (in China). It will be felt in 2012,” in London. And our national sports organizations’ embrace of the “Own the Podium” program, in anticipation of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, has shunted their summer counterparts aside to some extent.
Still, a country as young, prosperous, healthy and intelligent as Canada should be doing better, now. We have heard for years that our athletes will shine at the next Summer Games or the one after. It’s time to stop putting off success until tomorrow while making excuses today.
If a lack of training facilities is the problem, let’s ensure that athletics funding is better targeted. If we need better coaches, let’s broaden the search beyond our borders. Is our national attitude the problem, or our athletes’ attitude? Are we and they too content with their personal bests rather than world records and Olympic wins? Is it the fault of our national sports associations and executives?
It cannot just be funding, although the inadequacy and inconsistency of the money athletes in training receive is undoubtedly part of the problem.
It’s time we as a nation did some soul searching – not to mention some expert strategic planning – so that in London in 2012, Chambers or his successor is not sitting before another group of disgruntled journalists spinning daydreams about future glories.