Antoine Valois-Fortier (second right) winning bronze headlined a great Day 4 for Canada(Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian …
Tuesday, July 31 of the Olympics would have been enjoyable for Canada even without a triumvirate of bronze medals, as crazy as it might sounds. Which means it's as good as time as any to plant a seed about wondering how badly we want that to continue.
When Canada's athletes going a week with triple zeroes in the medal standings during the previous Summer Olympics in 2008 sparked a Great Nation Hand-Wring, you were prone to hear snark such as, "I don't want my tax dollars going to pay for someone's track and field 'hobby.' " No doubt that stance still has sway in pockets, probably among the vast majority of the population who contribute to a new world record for overuse of the word epic during the third set of the Milos Raonic vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga tennis match, which lasted so long one wondered if it was directed by Christopher Nolan.
[Slideshow: Day Four of competition for Canada]
Along with the medals and the Milos Marathon, the women's gymnastics team pulled off an unprecedented fifth-place finish. Brent Hayden became the first Canadian male to reach a 100-metre freestyle final in 52 years. The women's soccer team gutted out a tie with Sweden after falling behind 2-0 and now have a quarter-final vs. Great Britain instead of Team USA. (Is that everything?) It kind of raises the question, and bear in mind the success stories could be sparser when the athletics competition begins.
This is the ripple effect from Vancouver. From Donna Spencer:
Canadian sport is still basking in the glow of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The host country led the gold-medal count with 14 and won 26 overall to finish third. Few grumbled about money spent after Canada's medal haul.
Sport avoided cuts in this year's federal budget, while the public service shrunk and CBC saw its funding drastically reduced.
How long will Canada's goodwill towards sport last in the face of economic uncertainty? At what point does the taxpayer ask: "What's in it for me if Canadians win medals at the Olympics?" (The Canadian Press)
That conversation will have to wait until the second week of the Games, but be prepared to have it. Canadian Olympic success can go in cycles. There was a boom after Montreal in 1976. On the winter side, there was an uptick in the nation's fortunes after Calgary in 1988, although that might have been artificially boosted by the introduction of some new Olympic disciplines. That's not brought up to give a 50-cent history lesson, but just to say nothing is guaranteed.
"It's really important we don't lose momentum in terms of the impact of the additional financial funding in summer sport, Olympic and Paralympic," Own The Podium chief Anne Merklinger said.
Sprint swimmer Brent Hayden of Mission, B.C., hopes those watching at home know they have a stake in every medal earned.
"When you win a medal, that should be hitting the homes and hearts of every single Canadian because we didn't get here on our own," he said. "Taxpayers, through the funding and stuff, they've helped us."
For teammate Ryan Cochrane, a medal favourite in the 1,500-metre freestyle, it's about health and reducing obesity.
"These medals really mean more kids active, more kids that can find a sport they really believe in," he said. "People winning medals shows we're great athletic Canadians."
... Canadian chef de mission Mark Tewksbury won gold in backstroke in 1992. He agrees with Cochrane that medals inspire people, particularly children, to try a sport.
"You can't put a dollar value on how many young 8- to 10-year-olds start in sport and then of course, it starts to ripple (with) healthier Canadians, who are engaged in society and part of community and on it goes," he said.
It may be a little specious whether that translates into a fitter, more athletic populace, particularly among children. It's probably a little rich for someone employed to write about sports to mealy-mouth something about having greater priorities. In any event, Canada's podium finishes and strong showings are showing an enhanced potential for a culture change, if the country is willing to pick up the tab.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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