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Saturday, July 22, 2000

Little pins, big results

  A few years ago, Olympic canoeing champion Larry Cain received some mail from his Latvian rival, Ivans Klemenjevs.

 "It was picture of him at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, standing in front of the official logo of the Games, holding his silver medal in the air," Cain, of Oakville, said. "On the back, he had written: 'Part of this medal belongs to you.' "

 And it did.

 Prior to the 1992 Games, the Canadian canoe team had invited Klemenjevs, a three-time world champion and 1988 Olympic gold medallist in the singles canoe 1,000, to their pre-Games training camp in Florida, sort of repayment for the times the Canadian team was invited to train in Moscow.

 However, with the breakup of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the Russian ruble, Klemenjevs touched down in the U.S. with virtually no money, believing that the deal included free food, etc., when it didn't.

 "We hardly had enough money for our own athletes," said Cain, who won the 1984 Olympic gold in the C1 500 and silver in the 1,000.

 Even though Klemenjevs was one of Cain's expected rivals in Barcelona, the three-time Canadian Olympian decided to do something to help his friend.

 "So I grabbed a bucket somebody had used down at the dock to wash their boat and wandered around the compound asking for donations. There were about 13 different countries training there and I was able to raise about $350 US," he said. "Klemenjevs was able to stay for the entire month."

 Klemenjevs went on the win a silver in Barcelona while Cain switched to the C2 with partner David Frost.

 The moral of the story is that Cain sincerely believes that small acts of kindness and support can go a long way in helping Olympic athletes, and that's why he refused yesterday to dump on the Canadian Olympic Association's latest initiative to raise money -- the commemorative pin campaign.

 The Canadian Olympic team pins, which will go on sale next month at all Sears retail stores and on-line from Roots (www.roots.com), go for $10 a pop with the proceeds going to Canada's Olympic athletes.

 "If people buy a pin, I think they will have a small part in the success of our athletes in Sydney," said Cain, a teacher at the St. Mildred's-Lightbourn school in Oakville.

 "Just like I believe I had a small part in Ivans' success in Barcelona."