Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Amateur Athlete Turmoil

We are now four days in to the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Summer Olympics and our great Country of Canada has a lot to be thankful, particurarily in swimming with Penny Oleksiak leading the charge and becoming the early candidate to lead this country out in the Closing Ceremonies. The swimming discipline has been a clear strength with not only  Oleksiak but a lot of our young swimmers are setting personal best times and on the peripheral of a medal. Track and field, to call a spade a spade is a lost cause unless your Jamaican, terrible stereotype I know and incredibly inaccurate. The point is though and this somewhat leads into my overall tangent this afternoon, that as the general public following these sports in Canada and I presume America is largely the same way, the truth is we're just uninformed with a lot these amateur sports. I ask all of you reading this, how often aside from  a summer every four years do you follow the state of the Swimming tour events or the annual World Championships in Fencing or Track & Field? There are undeniably some sports that if even shown remotely would peak my interest, Beach Volleyball and Diving come to mind but how am I, a hardcore fan of sport supposed to invest myself in the sport when it's NEVER shown on television?

Here in Canada, and I don't want to touch too much on the diversification on American Sports television. the onus falls squarely on the shoulders of TSN and Sportsnet. Sure, some who find some of these sports showcased in the Olympics tedious are thankful that major networks subject us to  constant re-runs of CFL Football or Sports Center" Top Thirty plays of(insert month here)", but here's how this dreary perception of our Olympics can change, let's see on a Saturday Afternoon live from Beijing the 2017 Diving World Championships. I'm sure network executives when reading this(who am I kidding) will firmly point to being driven by numbers by saying the third incarnation of the Wednesday Night Ottawa Redblacks at Toronto Argonauts in Ottawa(that may or may not have been a direct dig at the CFL) or the 678th nightly showing of the "Blue Jays in 30" on Sportsnet draw more of an audience then something like diving would but what they fail to realize is by preaching patience, if the audience is forced to watch something they'll flock and before you know it Divers become household names. I'm all for funding athletes with the programs Sport Canada have put in place and the results have flourished due to it but there are limitations to government funding. Not to just advance placement results in these sports, because that is important but the reason for television networks to get behind the amateur movement is because of the copy cat society we live in.Matt Duchene wanted  to be the next Joe Sakic because he grew up watching Sakic on tube, ditto for Summer olympian David Hearn as he shot up the golf ranks idolizing Mike Weir. Every sport needs their heroes and if they're only brought to our attention once every four years that defeats the purpose. To reference diving again just by virtue of my affinity for it, I couldn't name you one diving great aside from maybe the Quebecois, current broadcaster Alexander Despatie but I want to, I desperately want to learn more about the sport. I'm willing to compromise with television producers, if stuffing our airwaves with Amateur athletes is too much then as a concession at least make a honest effort of upping your online content with more individual athlete features.

Why is Michael Phelps so marketable world wide? Twenty one gold medals not withstanding, it's the fact that Phelps has sponsorship opportunities that doesn't dwindle him to obscurity away from the Olympics that the American Swimming program is and will continue to be a powerhouse. There are so many examples within the American swimming hierarchy of swimmers who decided to begin competitively BECAUSE of Michael Phelps. One comes to mind is Canadian/American Missy Franklin who regrettably chose to represent the states in International competition. She spent her younger years admiring Phelps and that idolization translated into record setting performances in London 2012. The program has got so strong that someone like Franklin couldn't even qualify for some events due to the tremendous depth the country now has. In Jamaica, they've long ruled the track and would not for a minute suggest Usain Bolt is the pioneer behind this because predecessors well before his time paved the way for that country to dominate the way they are. I already echoed once the realization we live in a copy cat world and top athletes will feel obligated to try a sport there countrymen and women have triumphed at. It'st time for Canada to figuratively step up to the plate and start following suit. We now have a star in the sport of swimming, arguably not seen since the wonder years of Mark Tewksbury and it's imperative that we capitalize on it. I can guarantee this is what'll happen, she'll arrive home from Rio to a thunderous applause. She'll do her round of interviews, both locally and Nationally and then be not heard again until the 2020 Olympics commence. It's time for us to do the right thing and elevate  Oleksiak and any other athlete that rises to the top of their craft over the next two weeks to superstardom status. Lest we not forget about the accomplishments and continue to marvel.  This is a crucial time for because unless I'm going way out on a whim, which I'm not, it's abundantly apparent Canada is in a crisis not truly being the favourite for gold  in any sport. How do we change this? Exposure, exposure, exposure. It' s a long road but eventually our Marie Philip-Poulins and Sidney Crosbys of our fine nation will find their way to the mat or the pool and we can for the first time in possibly ever send athletes to these games with a gold or bust mentality, a mindset that exists in select Winter games sports.

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