The reason we’ve surrendered the podium…

I should be sitting here writing about meeting Steve Kouleas from the Score on Friday, who just so happens to be at the top of my list for people with hockey knowledge – well, maybe a tie with Bob McKenzie, but still.

I should be sitting here writing about how I also shared a passionate moment with Lord Stanley, while someone took pictures of us and another small group watched.

I would even love to be writing about meeting my little cousin Dave on Sunday, who has never been in the same room with me yet still walks in the house wearing a Habs hat and a Rush T-shirt – somewhere in Montreal right now the Active Stick (hilarious blogger) just fell in love with my 16-year-old cousin by the way.

I would love to write about all of this. But I can’t.

Instead, I really need to discuss Canada’s performance in these Olympics because it’s not only weighing on my mind the last few days but also on the minds of some of my readers, who have sent Tweets and emails showing their frustration.

But I know why we’re underachieving.

The reason we aren’t performing up to potential in these Games has absolutely nothing to do with our funding, coaching or training facilities. Our position in the medal standings has even less to do with the ability of our Canadian athletes.

The reason we haven’t been able to meet expectations is because we, as Canadians, have the wrong mindset.

Big time.

Sure, we come up with a great slogan, Own the Podium, which got everyone in the country – well those not protesting the Games’ existence in the first place anyway – super pumped up and thinking we were going to smoke everyone else in everything.

Of course, we didn’t seem to ask any questions like, “Hey, doesn’t that nation to the south have more than 10 times as many people as us?” or “Hey, don’t the Americans pour 100 times as much money into their athletes than we do?”

No, we just figured because some advertising rep thought up a catchy phrase, we’d be victorious with ease. And don’t feel bad, because I fell for it too.

But there is something else the U.S. brings to the Olympics that we simply can’t take because we just don’t have it. And that’s a win-or-bust attitude.

For the first time in our country’s history we have decided to tell the world we’re going to win, and it has backfired in every way so far. The reason for this is because we don’t put any pressure on our athletes to be No. 1, ever.

Until now, unfortunately.

When an athlete loses, we applaud. Is that wrong? No, but that same concept does not create winners. How can we constantly tell people their best will always be good enough and then spring golden expectations on all of them the minute they arrive at the biggest event of their lives, in their home nation no less?

Canadian athletes aren’t used to this type of pressure because we never pressure them. If we want to win a Winter Olympics – and I’m not even saying all Canadians do – we have to put high amounts of expectations on these athletes to win every time they step on the slopes, oval or skating rink, from the moment we realize they are elite.

We are seeing an epic amount of athletes fail so far and it’s not because they can’t handle pressure, it’s that they don’t even know what it is.

How stupid was it to make such a big deal out of that first home gold? The last time Canada hosted the Games, pretty much only our curlers, one bobsledder and some of our hockey team was even alive or could remember. And we’ve won gold medals in every single Olympics since, sometimes even taking home several.

So we ALL knew Canada would win some gold medals in these Games but we still had to add even more pressure onto the shoulders of those competing early.

Both Jenn Heil and Charles Hamelin were expected to win golds on day one but they didn’t. Mistakes? Maybe. Succumbed to the heat of the moment? Almost for sure.

It took a kid from Montreal, whom nobody expected to win and so hadn’t pressured, to take home that first one. That’s no coincidence, folks.

We can’t be the nation of “You tried your best” if we want to be on top. We can have one or the other but we can’t have both.

I inadvertently said this all the other day but from a hockey standpoint. Is second place acceptable in hockey? Hell no, and that’s why we’re the best at it.

And what really bugs me in all of this is we’re almost the best in the other sports too. Look how many Canadian medal favourites have finished fourth or fifth in these Games. Had we taught hem how to handle pressure in the first place, we really would be owning the podium.

Don’t let morons like Lawrence Donegan – that absolute reject from The Guardian in London – tell you this is a major Canadian bust either.

Trust me, Great Britain has bigger issues than we do. They have twice as many people and a whole lot more money, yet they suck at absolutely everything. You think we choke? Watch the English national football team from time to time.

Kool takes a drink from the Holy Grail. No word as to whether he achieved eternal life though.

Shmitzy puts the moves on Stanley. We're going to dinner and a movie on Wednesday.

Have a great Sunday Canada! And to my American readers, good luck tonight. This should be a great hockey game.

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9 Responses to “The reason we’ve surrendered the podium…”

  1. Uh – what can I say? ATTA BOY!

  2. theactivestick Says:

    I hope you plan on calling the Cup the day after your date… it’s the proper thing to do.

    I agree with what you’re saying. I think the United States does have a ‘win or bust’ mentality, while Canada’s mentality is more like ‘do your best and also play nice’ and Great Britain’s is more like ‘fuck it, let’s go get sloshed.’

    I’m tired of being proud of our athletes because they improved from 10th and 15th place to 4th and 5th. I think they can afford to be a little meaner. Take no prisoners, like our hockey guys. Corey Perry can’t wait to dish out some hits on Team USA. Those Korean speedskaters would rather be disqualified than miss the podium. They might be a little ridiculous but you know what I mean.

    And I’m a little too old for your cousin 😉

  3. Sorry Scott… You lost me at Lord Stanley. I didn’t read the rest of your post, completely distracted by that statement. I love that you got to experience that. No one deserves it more!

  4. I say that right now the public is applauding our losers because there is a need to present a “gosh golly we are so nice ” Canadian face to the world. We have always had this attitude towards our athletes because we have not funded them…we are not the USA. Canadian olympians trained and competed on their own coin, so any placement was good… a medal was a bonus (suprise! we got a bronze! WOW!)
    After this dismal failure I hope that our country doesn’t let the OTP program off the hook. A helluva lot of money was pumped into Own the Podium, at least 118 million govenment type dollars over 5 years to the Winter athletes. Taking a page from the successful Australian program to gain medals at their olympics, the 13 Canadian winter sports federations who concocted the OTP program in 2005, guaranteed medal returns in 50% of the disciplines. This would place Canada at the top of the medals. Medals come only when the gold flows, they demanded, so fund them we did. We need better training, coaching, facilities, sport psychologists they said. For five years the money has been there. Five years is enough time to prepare athletes for the pressure (maybe we had crappy psychologists!). Canadians should be livid and the Canadian sports press should hold the speed-skated-snowboot trodded feet of these federations to the fire. The 13 Winter sports federations guaranteed only one thing with OTP…five years of government funded salaries for their phony baloney jobs, gentlemen!
    If the pressure of a 50% medal guarantee wasn’t apparent for the past 5 years then I would say the federations and the athletes are suffering from oxygen deprivation because of too much time on mountains or brain damage from crashin on the ice.
    So applaud our choking Canadian athletes while the world is watching…its a Canadian tradition. Two seconds after the cameras are off…off with some heads!

  5. Well we won’t be No.1. We won’t have many medals. But as the host nation, in the end we will own the actual podium…

  6. Interesting, Scott. You want nasty? Wait until the Games are over and it’s time to figure out a new Canadian Olympic strategy with new funding.

    • Unfortunately you’re right. That will get ugly. More unfortunate still? The fact our performance had nothing to do with money. The money worked. We had athletes ranked in the top-three in the world in more than half the sports. They didn’t blow it in the biggest moment of their life because money wasn’t spent correctly. If a father buys his son a $50,000 car for his 16th birthday and it gets wrapped around a tree a week later, does it have anything to do with costs if the kid was never taught how to drive it? As in, can funding be blamed for creating elite athletes when those athletes don’t know how to handle being elite in the first place? I think we’re learning the hard way that the answer is no.

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