pride: (noun) something that causes a person or persons to be proud.
For those of you who know me on Facebook, my opinions (read: status updates) of the Canadian Olympic team during the first week were rather blunt; mainly, I wasn't impressed. My biggest issue came in swimming, with numerous Canadian swimmers posting national records while consistently finishing sixth, seventh, eighth or even out of the finals. And my thoughts on this go two ways.
First, why are we sending athletes who really can't seem to compete internationally at this level? Second, why aren't our athletes good enough to compete and win internationally at this level?
I must say at this point that I am a firm believer in sponsoring amateur athletics and I always cheer for the red 'n' white at all international competitions. (Except when it's professional athletes competing in amateur competitions, but that's another post.) I want to see Canada do well. I want to see us win. I want to hear our anthem but I also want to see the silver and bronze medalists smiling and waving. (Of course, I'll still cheer on the fourth place finishes, but really, I want hardware dammit!)
So why is Canada sending athletes that don't seem to match up? The simple answer is because they qualify, during whichever trials/meets/tournaments/competitions for their sport count towards getting them to the Games. And I really can't argue with that. To say that Canada isn't good enough to go to the Olympics in certain sports is to say that only the top ten should go, rather than the top 50. And that would likely cut out many athletes and their respective countries and that would negate the spirit of international competition.
I guess the bigger issue (okay, I know the bigger issue) is why aren't we that good? Where is our Michael Phelps? Is it commitment? Is it talent? Is it coaching? Is it facilities? Or is it that wonderful F-word: funding? In honour of the 2010 Games in Vancouver, Canada has instituted the Own the Podium program, aimed at getting our Winter athletes on the podium. Why do we need to host the Games to care about doing well? The response to this question is the Road to Excellence program, which started in 2006, even though Own the Podium started in 2005.
While both initiatives aim to help develop our amateur athletes, it seems we really only care about 2010 in Vancouver. As the host nation, of course we should care, but as a country we should care every time we send athletes to compete and we should continue to care about and support and fund our athletes for every Games we plan on attending. We have the talent. We have the commitment. We have the coaching. We have more than hockey to be proud of.
So, here's to Tonya Verbeek, Carol Huynh, Simon Whitfield, Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, Karine Sergerie, Ryan Cochrane, Melanie Kok, Tracy Cameron, Ian Brambell, John Beare, Mike Lewis, Liam Parsons, David Calder, Scott Frandsen, Kevin Light, Ben Rutledge, Andrew Byrnes, Jake Wetzel, Malcolm Howard, Dominic Seiterle, Adam Kreek, Kyle Hamilton, Brian Price, Karen Cockburn, Jason Burnett, Eric Lamaze, Mac Cone, Jill Henselwood, Ian Millar, Emilie Heymans, Alexandre Despatie and Thomas Hall for being do damned awesome and running up that medal count.
***An interesting note: at the time of this post, Canada has 17 medals and is in 17th place. However, we are behind Romania (who is tied for 14th place). Romania only has eight medals but four are gold. Canada has three gold medals. It saddens me a little that it's apparently gold or bust.***
Up next: Yellow (a.k.a. gold) - Michael Phelps