Oly coaches get their due

DAVE FULLER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:19 AM ET

It's not always just about the money.

Don't get Canadian Olympic coach Victor Zilberman wrong. Taking home a cheque for $10,000 on Wednesday to help him prepare his world champion wrestler, Martine Dugrenier, for the 2012 Games in London is a big deal. But...

"A lot of people don't realize the psychology of coaching," Montreal's Zilberman explained. "The focus is always on the athletes, because they really need the attention and publicity. (But) coaches are really producing behind the scenes. So, this kind of recognition motivates us to work even harder."

Zilberman, Anthony McCleary, coach of Olympic hurdler Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, and Kelly Forbes --mentor to Canadian skeleton star Melissa Hollingsworth -- were among 10 elite coaches awarded $10,000 grants from Chevrolet's "Making Dreams Possible" program.

"It's $10,000 more than we ever had before," McCleary said during Wednesday's presentation at Toronto's Varsity Stadium. "Own The Podium, GM, everyone's on board right now. I'm hoping to see this keep climbing because the talent pool is definitely here in this country."

There's the rub.

While Canadians rarely embraced their Olympians more than during the recent Vancouver Winter Games, when our athletes won a record 14 gold, seven silver and five bronze medals, the Summer Games in London will be a challenge.

Lopes-Schliep, who won a bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, was the first Canadian woman to reach the podium in track and field since 1992. Only three of our 18 medals in China were gold.

However, Alex Baumann, interim CEO of Own the Podium, and a two-time gold medallist at the 1984 L.A. Olympics, senses an attitude shift, particularly since Vancouver.

"The Olympics and Paralympics in Vancouver were spectacular," Baumann said.

"It really was a defining moment for Canada, where the general public wanted our athletes to stand on that podium.

"There was a cultural shift to a focus on excellence, certainly nothing like I'd seen in Canada before, other than a little bit after the 2000 Olympics in Sydney."

So, now -- instead of tossing grant money around in every direction -- the folks who score well at major events get more of the cash. On Wednesday, it was swimming coaches Randy Bennett and Claude St. Jean. Cycling's Eric Van Den Eynde, Allison McNeill (Basketball), Louis Bouchard (cross country skiing), Steve Tseng (wheelchair tennis) and Brianne Law (Paralympic skiing), along with those mentioned above.

Forbes said the 10 grand will allow him to invest more time with Hollingsworth.

"As we noticed from the last Olympics, competitions are lost by 100ths of a second," he said. Fifty-one community sports clubs also received grants of $2,000 for coach training, including the Aurora and Barrie youth soccer clubs, the Burlington Synchronized Swimming Club and the Durham Attack Volleyball Club in Oshawa.


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