Fri, September 20, 2013

Ladies first at these Olympics

Canada's female Olympians have outshone the men ... but that's no surprise

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency


Rosannagh Maclennan of Canada celebrates winning a gold medal during the women's gymnastics trampoline victory ceremony in the North Greenwich Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 4, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder


LONDON - It started with an e-mail from a colleague I worked with some 30 years ago (hack, hack).

The dude prattled on about how the London Olympics is becoming the ‘women’s Olympics’ for Canada.

To which I replied something like, ‘Don’t get me started.’

I was going to let it slide. But then a few more e-mails popped in, asking why our women seem to be doing so much better than the men.

In terms of the overall medal count, it’s pretty close. The Canadian men have eight medals and the women nine. But it’s the medals the women have won that seem to shine the most.

Think of the best memories for Canada at these Games in terms of medals: The bronze in women’s soccer, the one gold medal (even if it is trampoline), the two wrestling medals, the historic showing of women’s basketball team — and the fact that the only Canadian team sports that qualified for these Games were women’s teams: no men’s basketball, no men’s soccer.

And if there’s any chance for Canada to win another gold, it will be with Catharine Pendrel in mountain bike Saturday.

So, yes, perhaps the women have outshone Canada’s men here in Jolly Ol’ England. But so what? They should do better. A lot better. It takes me back to an argument I pull out of my, uh, hat every once in a while when the Canadian men’s soccer team or men’s basketball team gets dumped on by a public that’s fallen in love with our higher-ranked women’s teams.

The fact is, other than a few western nations — Canada, the U.S. and some European countries — women’s sports are not treated the same as men’s. And that starts with little girls.

In most nations, the majority of nations, little girls aren’t encouraged to participate in sports. In many nations, little girls are flatly discouraged from playing sports. Even in some of the nations that encourage their girls to play sports, the funding nowhere near matches the men.

So what you have are a few enlightened nations like Canada — which encourages girls to become involved in sports and, by and large, funds elite women sports to the same extent as men’s — and many more that don’t. Given that, obviously Canada’s women’s teams have a better chance to succeed internationally than the men.

Hey we’re all super-pumped about the women’s soccer team winning bronze. But why do you think such soccer superpowers as Argentina and Uruguay and Colombia have such weak women’s soccer teams, compared to their men’s teams?

Clearly its funding, encouragement — the whole deal.

I’m not hear to dump on the women. But Canadians have to put things in perspective. The depth of field in men’s sports is so much deeper. That’s not a knock against the women, and that’s not to take away from the fabulous Christine Sinclair and her fantastic teammates. That’s just the way it is.

On other hand, there have been signs at these London Games that the Canadian men are on the rise and could make some serious noise at the 2016 Rio Games — young stars like the two male high jumpers, Derek Drouin, the bronze medallist here who is all of 22, and teammate Mike Mason, who cleared the same height as Drouin and finished eighth; Damian Warner in the decathlon (22 years old and finished fifth), Justyn Warner and Aaron Brown in the sprints and the Canadian men’s basketball team — a team that could be made up of two young current NBAers (Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph), three players who were drafted in the NBA this year (Andrew Nicholson, Kris Joseph and Robert Sacre) and some outstanding high school ballers, including Toronto’s Andrew Wiggins, who is rated the top college prospect for 2014.

That unit has the potential to be spectacular.

So the next time a Canadian male fails to make a podium at these Games, cut the dude some slack, and think of better days ahead.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

twitter@beezersun