We are winter...but only during the Olympics ~ Passion/Patin/Vitesse - Passion/Speed/Skating


18 janvier 2017

We are winter...but only during the Olympics

Carl Savard
Editor in chief

In the spring of 2012, my work brought me to start traveling all over Canada. One day, at the Vancouver International Airport, as I was heading towards a newsstand to grab snacks and a magazine for my flight back home, I noticed that two years after the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, there was still this huge picture of short track speed skating champion Charles Hamelin gracing the entry of the shop. I remembered how proud most of us were of having the 2010 Olympic Games at home, being able to see our champions winning on our own land, on the biggest stage possible in front of the entire world. At the Vancouver Olympics, Canada finished the games with twenty-six medals.  Ten of those were in speed skating or short track speed skating. Four years later in Sochi, the team had difficulties, but they still managed to gather five medals. In olympic history, Canada is 6th on the list of countries with most medals in speed skating and 3rd on the list for short track speed skating behind South Korea and China. In canadian olympic history, speed skating and short track speed skating are one and two for total of medals won by Canada during winter games. You may wonder why I'm stating all those numbers today? Well, here's why:

Last weekend, Montreal was hosting  the short track speed skating Canadian Senior Championships. An exciting competition that crowned smiling sensation Marianne St-Gelais and first time national champion Charle Cournoyer. As usual, a press release was shared the next day to announce the results of the weekend.  The press release also shared comments from the skaters who took part in the most important national competition of the season, but through the flow of good news, there was one phrase sharing a really bad one: «Canada will not take part in the sixth and last World Cup stage of the season in Minsk, Belarus.»

A few articles on the subject came out yesterday in major newspapers. To Sébastien Lajoie of La Tribune, Speed Skating Canada representative talked about major financial issues that needs to be taken care of right now before it gets worse. The value of the dollar and the lost of private investments are cited as major problems. Patrick Godbout, Communications and Media Relations Manager at Speed Skating Canada, also stated that the budget of the organisation was cut after the Vancouver Olympics. It would be hard not to think that the drop from ten medals to five between Vancouver and Sochi may be partly related to that budget cut. To CBC, Speed Skating Canada talked about the possibility of letting athletes, that would be willing to pay for their expenses, fly overseas to represent our country in the last World Cup event. If they are seriously thinking about giving out those permissions, they should give them  right now before it becomes too much of a hassle for athletes to buy tickets and found their best housing option. Even though this should be a short term solution and not become the norm, I hope athletes will get the OK. The idea of Canada not being represented at a World Cup event is unacceptable. Even tough the news that was shared yesterday was more focused on short track speed skating, long track is also concerned by this situation. While Canada sent 20 athletes in a long track speed skating World Cup event last fall, only six will take part in the 5th one and none in the last one of the season. We're talking major cuts here.

But now, what do we do? Is it acceptable that the hashtag #WeAreWinter only means something during the Olympics? That the winter sports that brings us the most recognition all around the world outside of hockey is not important enough to make sure canadian athletes will represent the country in the entirety of the World Cup season? That we may have to let our athletes pay to participate in a major event but still ask them to wear their national attire? What can we do to make sure such a sad situation doesn't resurfaces right after the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games, because don't be fooled, today's cut are made to be sure that we'll be fine to show the world that we're strong when everybody's watching next year. 

I'm not putting the blame on Speed Skating Canada for every problem that led to this decisison, we definitely need to question our government and also see how we can convince private investors to support speed skating in Canada. I do have some ideas and I'll be more than happy to share them soon on Passion/Speed/Skating at www.passionpvss.com but for now, if some of our best athletes are willing to go by their own means, let them go. 

Our athletes' pride deserves to be acknowledged, not restrain. We may not be winter 365 days a year every year after all, but they are. 

Erratum: a few minutes after sharing this text, I received a message from an athlete telling me they got the OK early this morning to go by their own means, but this situation still needs to be adressed. It shouldn't become the norm. 

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