July 19, 1996
STAMPEDE TO ATLANTA!
By LARRY TUCKER
At the Olympics
ATLANTA -- Who says Calgarians need chuckwagons and bucking broncs? When the rodeo's over, they go to the Olympics to play their games.
There are 27 proud Calgarians listed among the 306 athletes representing Canada at the 26th Summer Games. That's more naming the Stampede City as their residence than any other city in Canada.
The heat's on
Throw in 14 more locals among the 177 coaches and support staff, then count the long line of moms and dads, brother and sisters, boy friends and girl friends who've made the trip to experience high summer in the deep south ... and it's old home week.
"It's great having a big contingent from Calgary down here," says Chris Renaud. "That hometown support can never be beaten. I can't wait to represent Calgary and Canada in the sport I love.
"It's sure nice to see those familiar faces," echoes Renaud's teammate, Calgary-born Curtis Myden.
Many of those faces are covered in perspiration. It's hotter than Hades down here and Jon Cleveland has the perfect answer to the problem.
Cleveland, a medallist at Barcelona four years ago, will be the first Calgarian to compete at these games. And he'll get wet in the process. He'll dive into the pool at Georgia Tech tomorrow morning, competing in the 100 metre breaststroke.
Unfortunately, it costs him a parade. An Olympic opening ceremony is an indelible moment for any athlete. But neither Cleveland nor Myden will be able to attend tonight's big show. They'll watch it on TV from the athlete's village. The lineup outside the stadium, the march in, all that time on your feet ... it's too much for a swimmer facing an Olympic race within 48 hours.
The same thing happened to Cleveland at Barcelona. However, he's a vet. Cleveland was in Seoul in 1988 when a different schedule afforded him what turned out to be a chance-of-a-lifetime to partake in the opening ceremonies.
Myden will have plenty to keep him busy. He's the team's unofficial barber, responsible for removing those rather spotty beards the male swimmers have been growing, and trimming their haircuts down to a fine stubble.
"I don't think I'm going to let him near my hair," insists Reynaud, "not with those shears."
Yes, of course, there's more to Team Canada 1996 than Calgary, but sometimes it's hard to tell. That much-heralded Alberta advantage seemed to be everywhere last night at a pre-Games gala for the national team.
One of the more popular stars on hand to entertain our athletes and wish them well was former Edmontonian turned movie spyspoof, Leslie Nielsen. One of Calgary's favorite travelling singers, Celine Dion, was there. And one of the politicians on hand was Calgary's favorite target, Sheila Copps.
Cochrane's George Fox was there to entertain, happy as all get-out to have been invited.
"I wish I was staying the whole two weeks, but I'm booked at a rodeo in Morris, Manitoba," Fox said. "Tell you what, though. I sang the national anthem before Game Six of the World Series the Toronto Blue Jays won in 1993. That was a big thrill. But singing for these athletes ... this surpasses that."
Mark of greatness
Also at the gala was Mark Tewksbury, whose fabulous gold medal swim of four years ago continues to inspire Canadian Olympians.
Tewksbury, of course, is a native Calgarian with definite ideas why his hometown is producing such numbers of outstanding athletes.
"A lot of it has to do with Calgary becoming somewhat of a focus nationally," he said. "A lot of sports are starting to call Calgary the base for their international teams.
"The rest of it ... we have great athletes, what can you say? It's a great place to train. It's a great place, period."