As the Vancouver Olympics of 2010 draw to a close there is no question that Canada has had a terrific Olympics and that the Own the Podium program has been successful in delivering support to the athletes so that they can focus on becoming better at what they do. So why the derision – Is it wrong to set up a difficult goal for your team? Are your expectations so totally swayed by the naming of a program supporting Olympic athletes that it takes away from their accomplishments?
In my opinion, the bad press received by the Own the Podium program is entirely linked to media attention – just as similarly to the derision received by a baseball player who calls his home run shot and then bloops a fly ball easily caught by the second baseman to end the ballgame. And yet, when Babe Ruth calls his shot and pulls it off, he is a great hero. People are amazed and heartened by the accomplishment of a truly unlikely goal, and are dismayed and derisive when a ‘reality check’ presents itself.
The Own the Podium program should NOT be looked at in this context. This program is about support for the Canadian Athletes so that they might have better opportunities to compete. This might be accomplished through additional coaching, availability of training facilities, advancement of sports medicine, etc – the list is lengthy and expensive. Our return on investment as Canadians, are athletes that are more prepared to compete. The parity of the athletic skill from all nations is evident, and clearly each nation has programs in place to support their athletes. They still have to run the races and determine the winners and on any given day there are a hundred factors including the athletes’ own state of mind and body that go into the determination of the winner of the race/competition. It certainly is not wrong for us to set lofty goals and expectations for the athletes who compete for our country, but we can never “expect’ a specific outcome – that’s why they play the games…
Some might question the amount of support – it might be interesting to compare medal standings to team size and and overall support dollars. I think you would find that the best funded teams are doing better than average, but are they ‘buying’ their achievements? In some cases I suppose that they are – but the athletes must still compete and be successful against a field of other athletes who may not be as well funded, but who may be better prepared mentally, physically or just by luck.
The success of the Canadian program cannot be judged only by the calculation of medal standings, but also by the improvement of each individual athlete who competes. In setting up the Own the Podium program, Canada has clearly stated to the world that we want our athletes to be successful, and we are willing to help them and support then during the training before the Olympics and at the Olympics as well. As a spectator of the competitions I can only say that I enjoyed every minute that I watched, and took pride in the efforts of the Canadian team, win or lose. Canada’s Olympic athletes at all levels of success have displayed grace and charm and represented Canada so very well at Vancouver. How can we not support them?
The Own the Podium website can be reached here.