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Fri, August 27, 2004
A new medal? Four sure, eh
It's time to recognize fourth place properly and let Canada reap the rewards
By -- Toronto Sun

Look, we're Canadians. We finish fourth. It's what we do.

Ernie Whitt's baseball team, fourth.

Diver Emilie Heymans, an agonizing fourth. Gymnast Kyle Shewfelt, a controversial fourth in the vault to accompany his gold medal in the floor exercise.

Rowers Darcy Marquardt and Buffy Williams finished one spot short of a medal. So did the Canadian women's epee team and David Ford in the men's K1 kayak.

Now, in the wake of these narrow misses, we could invest millions of dollars in coaching and training facilities. We could purge coaches and administrators. We could review our national priorities and turn our athletes from indentured serfs to civil servants.

But, all that would take leadership, vision and money. And for what? A little feel good sports buzz every few years.

Or we could say what we always say: "Screw it. Let's change the rules."

We're Canadians. When we fall short of the mark in Canada, be it pollution standards or the discourse of our leaders in question period or the elimination of child poverty or our commitment to world peacekeeping, we don't fix things. We change the standard.

And so allow me to be the first Canadian to say what we should have been saying all along:

It's time for the platinum medal, tip of the top, top of the mountain. Forget three. Four is more.

If we add another medal, we make more room for ourselves at the bottom end of the ladder and sweeten the prize should one of our athletes strike gold ... er, platinum.

Wouldn't we all feel a whole lot better if we had twice the number of medals. We would have all this newfound excellence and it wouldn't cost us one extra dime.

NOT LIKE MOSES FORGOT

It's not like Moses forgot the tablet that said you only give out three medals per event at the Olympics.

From the inception of the Games in 776 B.C., the winner, and only the winner, of an event was accorded a wreath fashioned out of limbs from wild olive trees.

At the first modern games in 1896, only the top two finishers were recognized. The winner received a silver medal and a crown of olive branches. The second place entrant was accorded a bronze medal and a crown of laurel.

Medals were very much a hit-or-miss proposition in the next two Games, in Paris in 1900 and St. Louis in 1904. Some events featured medals, others didn't.

The gold, silver and bronze format wasn't enacted until the 1908 London Games. What we have here is a slippery slope that needs a bit more greasing.

In the corresponding 96 years since the present medal system was initiated, women have taken their rightful place in more and more events. Countless kingdoms, dictatorships and political systems have been ground into dust. Training and pharmaceutical techniques have pushed athletic performance and the commitment necessary to compete into the stratosphere.

Television has brought the Olympics into our living rooms. Beach volleyball is being touted as the first Olympic pay-per-view event, for heaven's sake.

The NHL has grown five-fold in 37 years. Major League Baseball has turfed its playoff system for a wild-card format. The NFL keeps half its teams in the running for a post-season berth into its final week.

But no one has considered changing this whole gold, silver and bronze thing, even though it was probably thought up by three guys over cognac and sandwiches

We could look magnanimous and say the platinum would leave more room for the tiny nations, the Angolas and the Luxembourgs on the podium.

We could say that we're not devaluing the existing medals. Think of it, instead as a sort of share split.

However you argue it, the truth is there for everyone to see.

It's time to lower the bar, baby.




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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