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Tue, August 24, 2004
Athletes can't take the pressure
By -- London Free Press

Most of Canada's top-level athletes have failed to perform at the Summer Olympics in Athens but it has nothing to do with money.

It has nothing to do with a lack of training facilities. It has nothing to do with poor coaching. It has nothing to do with the media and the expectation placed on these athletes.

Let's stop the bleating about money, OK?

Years ago when Canadians were crying about the lack of success on the Olympic stage, one of the complaints was a lack of elite national training facilities. So Canada established several, including facilities for swimming and rowing.

After Canada was shut out in swimming at the current Games, former gold medallist Mark Tewksbury spoke out against national swimming centres, saying they take the athletes away from their local clubs and hurt the swimmers' competitive edge. Go figure.

The sport of rowing has produced numerous successes on the world stage, especially world champions, yet our rowers often fall short at the Olympics.

World-class athletes who fail to perform only have themselves to blame. Most will tell you that. When Canada's women's eights failed to win a medal in rowing, it's because they didn't have the talent to win. No one expects a team that hasn't done well in the past to win.

When Canada's men's eights failed to win a medal in rowing, that was something entirely different. They are the defending world champions. Lack of funding has nothing to do with their failure. They simply didn't perform well under pressure.

Diver Emilie Heymans needed only to land a decent dive to win a medal. She's the defending world champion on the 10-metre platform. She blew the dive and her chance at a medal. The pressure got to her, not funding.

Canada isn't the only nation that suffers these types of failures. But because Canadians take an interest in diving, rowing and track and field once every four years, these failures suddenly seem only Canadian.

HERE AND THERE: Let's hear it for the Olympic spirit. There were several wheelchair events at these Games as demonstration sports. Chantal Petitclerc of Montreal won the 800-metre wheelchair event and the gold medal. These medals aren't counted in a nation's totals. In the spirit of Olympic Games inclusiveness and sportsmanship, wheelchair athletes were not allowed to join other athletes for opening ceremonies.

Let's hear it for Olympic spirit Take Two. American Paul Hamm finished first in the overall gymnastic competition thanks to a calculation error by the judges who didn't give enough points to South Korean Yang Tae-young. Not a judging error as in giving someone a 9.5 instead of a 9.7, but an error in calculation. The South Korean would have won the gold medal if the calculation had been done correctly.

It's taken four days, but the U.S. Olympic Committee is indicating it is willing to discuss possibly allowing a second gold medal to be awarded.

What happened to doing the right thing?

How valuable can a gold medal be when everyone in the world knows you didn't earn it?

On second thought, it's just another example of winning at all costs. After all, the Americans haven't been world leaders when it comes to dealing with their athlete dopers, preferring to bury the positive drug tests.




Does Canada's low-medal haul in Athens bother you?
Yes, it depresses me
No, it's just sports
I'm disappointed, but not worried
We'll get 'em in Turin
Don't care

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