May 22, 2009
Lighten up, IAAF prezUsain Bolt has enough pressure
By ALISON KORN, SUN MEDIA
Hey, thanks for the advice: IAAF president Lamine Diack made it known this week that he recently reminded triple Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt of his "responsibility" as a champion.
Bolt, who set world records in the 100 and 200 metres in Beijing, crashed his BMW last month, has talked about marijuana use and -- horrors -- has been photographed in nightclubs. Then he found himself publicly chastised for doing things that lots of normal folks indulge in.
Diack spoke to the Jamaican sprinter this week about the extra pressures he would face following his stunning performances in Beijing last August.
"Now you have a major responsibility," Diack told Bolt. "Now you are the major star."
But wait a minute. Bolt's only real responsibility is to run fast. Will he evolve in to a role model in the future? He's only 22, so time will tell. For now, give him a break.
"Because you're good at running or whatever, it doesn't make you a role model," said Molly Killingbeck, a 1984 Olympic silver medallist in the 4x400 metre relay. "It's not a title that's bestowed on you because you've done something well. That should be earned."
Often for athletes, it's only after one's athletic career is past its peak that they have enough perspective and time to really make a difference, whether through coaching, mentoring, charity or other work. And even then -- just as with the general population -- only some do. And occasionally all those medals can get in the way.
"At the end of the day you need to remember that they're people, and people make mistakes, and role models do too," said Killingbeck. "It's how you handle it and how you come out of it. A lot of athletes don't want that role model title."
Bolt's doings are of particular interest to Toronto sports fans these days as he's slated to race at the Festival of Excellence track meet at the University of Toronto on June 11, along with such international track stars as Whitby's Olympic bronze medallist in hurdles, Priscilla Lopes-Schliep.
Killingbeck is the new coach for the GTA national development centre in sprints and relays, based at the U of T. The next four years, she thinks, it will be interesting to watch the maturing of Bolt.
"If he surrounds himself with the right people, he will morph in to the kind of person we want him to be," she said.
It will be a kick
The national women's soccer team is in town for Monday's international friendly against the U.S. and will be meeting the public and signing autographs on tomorrow from 10 a.m. to noon at the Winners store at College Park (444 Yonge St.).
The first 75 youth to arrive will get with an Adidas soccer ball.
Kids can then get their soccer ball signed and fans can collect a free team picture card commemorating the team's visit to Toronto.
The game Monday (7 p.m. kickoff at BMO field) will be the first rematch between Canada and the U.S. since last year's Olympics, where the U.S. beat Canada in the quarter finals in extra time, en route to winning the gold. Tickets are available at $15-$35 each through Ticketmaster (ticketmaster.ca or 416-872-5000).
Take a bow, Caledon
If gold medals were handed out for encouraging kids to participate in sport, then the community of Caledon, Ont. would own the podium.
The town of nearly 60,000, located northwest of Toronto, is home to the most dynamic Kids of Steel triathlon program in the country. Caledon has declared May 24 "Kids of Steel Triathlon Day" in recognition of its ninth annual C3 Kinetico Kids of Steel Triathlon.
Along with an adult triathlon, the schedule includes a five-kilometre run, a two-kilometre youth run, a kids triathlon and a mini-triathlon for three to six-year-olds -- consisting of an 18-metre swim, 100-metre bike and 100- metre run.
Online registration closes tonight at 8 p.m., at www.c3online.ca.