Winning is way more fun

Why are Canadian athletes okay with just “being there?” I understand having realistic expectations, but if you don’t set the bar high, how do you expect to compete with the countries whose athletes believe they are going to win each and every time out?
This defeatist attitude is just so Canadian.
Being patriotic and proud, after all, just wouldn’t be the “Canadian” or politically correct thing to do. The very core values of our society reinforce this belief. Canada doesn’t have one unifying quality that citizens of all races and backgrounds can identify with and feel Canadian by.
The “melting pot” in the United States has you embrace their strong beliefs in freedom and individuality, which encourage you to “be all that you can be”—and success will surely follow.
This very way of thinking transfers over to the sports fields. The Americans and the Chinese expect to win. There isn’t that self-doubt, or that ho-hum way of thinking. Chinese athletes are there to win and that is no better evidenced than by the large discrepancy in the number of gold medals they’ve won compared to silver and bronze.
They are all business—and it shows.
Obviously their athletes suffer disappointment, things happen, but too often ours are set up to fail because we lack that us-against-the-world attitude that brings out the best in people.
It’s certainly not a lack of funding. We have first-rate facilities in this country, the likes of which very few countries competing in the Olympic Games have access to. But just simply throwing money at the problem won’t fix it. You need smart, strategic planning with money directed in the right areas, and I think we’ve made good strides as a nation in this regard.
The “Own The Podium” funding campaign hopes to have our athletes in the best possible positions to succeed, whether it be training or otherwise, in preparation for hosting the Winter Games in 2010. But blaming disappointments on a lack of funding is a poor excuse, anyway.
Jamaica is a tiny island of three million people, yet they managed to sweep the women’s 100-metre sprint final, and their male athlete, Usain Bolt, shattered the world record in the men’s sprint. Asafa Powell continues to train in Jamaica on a dirt track—and he finished fifth in the 100-m event.
Being mentally strong is just as important as the physical. But until this self-defeatist attitude changes on a national scale, we will continue to haul in a dozen or so medals each time and end up in the second tier with the likes of Poland and Romania.
But, hey, don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not anti-Canadian and I’m cheering as loud as anyone for our athletes in these Games. And I’ll be the first to admit there have been some great team and individual efforts that have bucked the trend.
Sprinter Priscilla Lopes-Schliep surprised many by merely qualifying for the final of the women’s 100-metre hurdles event amongst a very competitive field. Her response in the interview that followed? Golden.
“You’ve got to visualize yourself doing it or else it won’t happen,” Lopes-Schliep told CBC Sports. “You have to believe it in order for it to come true.”
With that confidence and belief in herself, I was not the least bit surprised she later pulled off a bronze-medal performance. Move over, Peredita Felicien.
Sometimes confidence gets confused with cockiness, but I think you need equal amounts of both to achieve greatness. The men’s eights rowing team came in with that swagger and they did the expected in winning a gold.
“After Athens, people said ‘Oh, it must’ve been great just to be there,’” men’s eights coxswain, Brian Price, told the CBC. “For some people, maybe just going to the Olympics is great, but that’s not our goal. Our goal the whole time has been to win.”
What Simon Whitfield did in his final sprint of the triathlon was similarly impressive—making a final burst to the finish line before holding on for silver.
Winning is a lot more fun than just being there and until we start to aim higher, we’ll never see the gold-medal totals in the same ball park as juggernauts like Russia, Australia, China, and the United States.
I don’t expect us to be right up there with them—we don’t have the population or the summer environment to do so, but we definitely can aim for top 10 and we should have more than two gold medals by the halfway point of the Games.
There’s obviously pressure on Olympic athletes to perform, but the pressure an athlete puts on him or herself should be greater than anything the media can generate. If you aren’t there to win, why make the trip?
Hey, look on the bright side, at least we’ve now passed Michael Phelps’ medal total.

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