SEARCH 2000 Games

Saturday, September 2, 2000

Impressive medal haul

 Canada is graced with oceans in the east and in the west.

 The country is also blessed with thousands of lakes, large and small ones.

 No wonder that, over the years, we have developed outstanding swimmers.

 In fact, without going through all the Olympic records, one could argue that our swimmers have been our most successful athletes at the Olympic Games.

 The 2000 Games at Sydney are but a few days away and it behooves me to recall some of the great achievements by our swimmers in previous Olympic Games.

 Regardles of whether Calgary's Curtis Myden, or Hamilton's Joanne Malar win Olympic medals Down Under, let's take a glance at previous successful Canadian human torpedos and aquamaids.

 Canada's gold medal rush began in 1912 when George Hodgson surprised the best of the U.S. and Europe and won gold medals in the 400m and 1500m freestyle events at the Stockholm Games, followed by George Vernot's silver and bronze medals respectively in the same two disciplines in the 1920 Olympics at Antverp, Belgium.

 The next Olympic medals didn't glitter with gold, but the men's 4x200m freestyle relay of Gamet Ault, Munroe Bourne, Walter Spence and Jim Thompson captured a bronze medal in 1928 at Amsterdam.

 A 40-year hiatus followed with no Canadian swimmer making the podium in Los Angeles (1932), Berlin (1936), London (1948), Helsinki (1952), Melbourne (1956), Rome (1960), or Tokyo (1964).

 The Second World War prevented the holding of Olympics in 1940 and 1944.

 In the Games held during those 40 years, we had several finalists, including Dick Pound, first vice-president of the IOC and a serious candidate to succeed Juan Antonio Samaranch as president of the venerable body.

 Richard made the finals in the 100m freestyle in Rome.

 Silver and bronze medals greeted the return of Canadian swimmers at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico with Elaine (Mighty Mouse) Tanner placing second in the 100m and 200m backstroke events.

 She was touted to win gold, but media pressure did her in. The women's 4x100m freestyle relay of Angela Coughlan, Marilyn Corson, Elaine Tanner and Marion Lay swam away with the bronze medal.

 It was again a crop of silver and bronze medals in 1972 at Munich and 1976 in Montreal, mainly because of the undetected drug-using East German swimmers, who swept the opposition away.

 That's why Canadian swimming fans had to wait for gold 'til 1984 in Los Angeles, after the Canadian government decided to boycott the 1980 Games and no Canadian athlete was allowed to compete in the vicinity of the Kremlin. The East Bloc boycotted the '84 Games.

 Four gold medals featured our swimmers' output in Tinseltown. Alex Baumann won the 200m and 400m individual medleys, Victor Davis the 200m breaststroke and Oshawa's Anne Ottenbrite the 200m breaststroke for women.

 The departure of top Canadian swimming coaches affected the success of our swimmers and, as a result, only Mark Tewksbury managed to win a gold medal in the past dozen years by capturing the 100m backstroke at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

 Other than that, our swimmers were mining only for silver and bronze since Los Angeles. How will our swimmers fare in Sydney? It's hard to tell. But even a single gold medal would satisfy the success-starved Canadian swim fans. Unfortunately, considering the power of the Aussies, Yanks, Russians, Chinese and some Europeans, it won't be easy.