Excuse me Canada…
I have a slight problem
I’m not sure when the notion developed in this country, but I’m here to dispel the myth. Olympic medals don’t come out of thin air. Olympic medals are the result of countless training hours, dedication and sacrifice. Equally as important, Olympic medals are the result of money invested into the athletes. During the Olympics everyone is excited and eager to see the athletes compete. Everyone sits at the edge of their seats with the hopes of having the opportunity to hear the Canadian national anthem and watch the Canadian flag rise. However, all to often at major games the Canadian public is denied those glorious moments. The media is quick to point fingers at the athletes- “ They just don’t measure up to the other countries”. The group of friends watching at the Joeys’ in the Eaton Centre turn away in disgust- “Canadian athletes just suck”.
But where is the enthusiasm for sport when it matters the most?
Olympic athletes don’t just make a decision to show up on the day out of the blue. There are umpteen years behind the moments that are seen on TV. Too often those umpteen years are in the shadows without the support of the Canadian public.
Canada, don’t expect a bag a medals if you aren’t providing the athletes with the things they need to be successful. As an Olympic athlete myself, I’ll let you know there are many basic and fundamental things missing. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know many stories aren’t far from mine.
I currently train at a ‘High performance Centre’ in Toronto. I use the term High Performance Centre very loosely, because there isn’t actually any Centre besides a small room that has been allocated to us inside of York Universities indoor track. I train in a group with 15 other athletes, some of the best sprinters and hurdlers in Canada. And our ‘High Performance Centre’ consists of a room that serves as our weight room ( 1 squat rack, 1 platform), our treatment room, our coaches office, and our athletes lounge. Needless to say, things can get kind of hectic while the massage therapist is trying not to get hit by the squat bar, while 7 other athletes wait to use the rack, next to the coaches have a meeting using a massage table as a desk. You get the picture right? Not quite high performance. I’ve seen high schools in other countries with better facilities.
To add insult to injury we have the added challenge of attempting to prepare for a summer sport in a winter country. For 8 months out of the year we are forced to train indoors on a 200m track. This may not seem like a big deal, but it seriously limits our training and the quality of work we are able to produce. Those athletes that are able to train outdoors year-round have a serious advantage over us. Having a high performance indoor facility is imperative to our success, and there isn’t even one in all of Toronto.
As of recently, I must admit there has been a push to increase funding, but its still not enough. I think the Vancouver Olympics really helped to open some eyes to the great rewards of investing money into our athletes. My own federation Athletics Canada has been doing their best to provide us with some of things we need, however they are limited by their budget. The 2015 Pan American Games that will be hosted in Toronto is another step in the right direction. They are going to leave an amazing legacy all over Toronto with new and updated sport venues. In light of PanAm Games being in Toronto, we were recently promised an actual High Performance Centre for track and field athletes. It included an extension on the indoor track, a brand new weight room (with a lot more than one squat rack), a recovery room, and actual offices for our coaches. It checked off a lot of boxes in terms of closing the gap between us and athletes from other counties. This finally seemed like the first step towards the podium.
I’ve recently found out that the expansion has been indefinitely suspended. In true Canadian fashion, the athletes are left out in the cold again. Looks like we’ll be heading back to our small room, as we prepare to compete at the Pan Am games and World Championship this summer. And we’ll come back to our small room next season as we prepare for the Olympics to compete against the best in the world. Despite our lack of facilities, my group has been able to produce Olympic and World Championship finalist. Now imagine what we would be able to achieve with an actual centre equipped to produce high performance. There are only three medals to be won in each event, and it takes more than the average. Extraordinary preparation produces extraordinary results.
Sure I could move to the USA to train and have my pick of amazing facilities. However, my dream is to stand on the podium, with Canada on my chest as the Canadian anthem plays, knowing that I trained in Canada, developed in Canada, was coached by Canadian coaches—knowing that I was Made In Canada.
So Canada, at the next major Games that you watch you have no right to be disappointed in our athletes and no right to speak badly about their performance. Because if nothing changes, you are to blame. How can we compete against the best in the world, if we don’t have something as simple as a proper facility?