My Olympic Glory

I'm not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination, but boy oh boy, do I ever love to watch sports on T.V. As long as it's not baseball or football, I have no problem with spending an entire day in front of the television cheering on Canada's finest. That's why the Olympics are like Christmas for me. With the exception of baseball, I'll watch whatever Olympic activity the networks deem worthy of my attention.

And here we are, not one week into the games of the 27th Olympiad, already being introduced to a brand new Canadian hero. Simon Whitfield has captured the nation's attention with an amazing 'underdog-comes-from-behind' gold medal performance in the Men's Triathlon. And I am proud to say that I was right there with you, Simon, jumping up and down in my living room, begging you to run faster. I clapped my hands and danced with glee as you passed Germany's Stephan Vuckovic just metres away from the finish line and ended the race victorious. My sentimental heart was beating wildly, and tears came to my own eyes as I saw you accept your gold medal and listen to our nations anthem, overcome with emotion. I felt your joy, Simon. I really did.

I have never met Simon Whitfield, as I'm sure is the case for much of Canada's population. But unlike many Canadians, I am proud to say that I was aware of his existence before Saturday evening. I cheered him on as I watched him place second in Corner Brook last July, and third at the Pan Am games in Winnipeg. Now that he's become a household name, I can’t help but be proud that I 'knew him when...' sort of. But the question is, why didn't you?

This may come as a shock to some of you, but athletes like Simon Whitfield don't only compete in the Olympics. There are many, many sports competitions held every year, and we are afforded ample opportunity to get acquainted with athletes who don't play hockey or baseball. The problem is that public interest in lesser-known events is so low that network television feels it's not worth the money to televise these competitions. If the public is not given the avenues to watch lesser-known events before the Olympics, Sport Canada will not be pressured to fund small-scale sports. So the onus is partly on the sports fan to support the home team. While the Olympic Games are a breeding ground for overnight heroes, we have to make sure that names like Simon Whitfield are not forgotten. Athletes need funding to train. I'm not asking you to fork over your hard-earned summer grant money, I'm simply asking you to stop and watch Simon Whitfield in the Iron Man Triathlon or the World Triathlon Championships. The Olympics are on for another 10 days, but Canadian athletes will be around competing in many competitions until the next summer games role around in 2004. Tune in. You just might be introduced to the next Simon Whitfield before the medals are awarded in Athens.

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