Canada has been skunked in the medal count so far at the Olympics and, wouldn’t you know it, the old “we don’t fund our athletes enough” argument/plea/whine is being trotted out.
As if money alone will make Canadians medal winners. It’s a tiresome old refrain.
Get serious. For one thing, Canadians have repeatedly shown in polls (including one currently running on our site, www.therecord.com) that they are unwilling to have their taxes raised in an effort to give the country a few fleeting minutes of national flag-waving feel-good over an athletic medal.
It’s true that, relatively speaking, we don’t fund our athletes as do some countries, particularly for the Summer Games. So what? Perhaps we have things, like real-life needs, in better perspective. Besides, we put more of our funding towards the Winter Games where, being a northern nation, we tend to do better — as we should. Government funding, in the form of the Own the Podium program, is geared towards doing as much as possible to avoiding an embarrassing three-peat in Vancouver in 2010; that three-peat being Canada becoming the only country (again) to host an Olympic Games without winning a gold medal. We’ve done it twice already — in Montreal in 1976 when everyone unnacountably went bonkers because Greg Joy finished second in high jump, and in 1988 in Calgary.
The truth of the matter is, Canadians -- at least in the Summer Games, tend to choke. Or, if you want to be more diplomatic, fail to live up to expectations. Oh, we do great in off-Olympic years. Remember Perdita Felicien, hurdler? World champ. Come the Athens Olympics, she couldn’t even make it over the first hurdle. Sorry, that’s the harsh truth.
Beijing? World champion 100-metre freestyle swimmer Brent Hayden, he of the TV commercials leading up to the Games, couldn’t even make it out of the bloody semifinals in China this week. Maybe he spends too much time on photography, as in the commercials, than he does on swimming.
Lack of government funding didn’t prevent Felicien from becoming a world champion. Nor did it prevent Hayden from becoming a world champion. Come the Olympics, though, something happens to these world champions and let’s face it, one wouldn’t be surprised if it happened again this weekend with the medal-favourite men’s 8 rowing team, as it did four years ago. That, more than anything, is what frustrates Canadian fans. Our top contenders rarely meet with expectations at the Olympics.
As a result, one can only conclude that what poorly performing Canadian Olympic athletes need more than more government funding is a good psychologist who can help them improve their mental toughness, so that they can better perform under the pressure and spotlight of the world’s biggest stage.