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Thursday, August 31, 2000
Canada's greatest Olympic Summer Games success was in last decade

By NEIL STEVENS -- Canadian Press

 Canada has a long and rich history of participation in the Summer Olympics, and James Worrall has seen most of it in the making.

 Worrall was a member of the 1936 track and field team and carried Canada's flag in the opening ceremonies in Berlin.

 Worrall became an International Olympic Committee executive and attended every Summer Games since '36 -- until now. At the age of 86, the highly respected Torontonian has decided not to fly to Australia.

 Let's go back to the beginning.

 The Olympics were revived in 1896 in Athens but Canada did not enter a team until 1904 in St. Louis, although George Orton of Strathroy, Ont., who was attending school in the United States, went to Paris in 1900 with the U.S. track team and won gold in the 3,000-metre steeplechase and bronze in the 400-metre hurdles.

 Orton is regarded by the Canadian Olympic Association as the country's first Olympic medallist.

 In 1904, Canada's 43 competitors produced six medal-winning performances. The soccer team won gold, and to this day Canada has never won another medal in the sport. Etienne Desmarteau's gold in the shot put also stands as the only medal ever won in the athletics event. There also were wins in golf, by George Lyon, and lacrosse -- two sports no longer included in the Olympic program. Golf was axed right after Lyon's win.

 Canada sent 91 men to London in 1908 and there were 15 medal-winning performances. Robert Kerr won the 200-metre dash and was third in the 100. Walter Ewing was best in clay pigeon shooting, and Canada prevailed in lacrosse's final inclusion.

 Only 36 went to Stockholm in 1912, when electronic timing devices were introduced. Swimmer George Hodgson won gold in 400- and 1,500-metre freestyle, and George Goulding won the 10-kilometre walk. Four of Canada's seven medals were won in track and field events.

 There were no Games during the First World War. In 1920 in Antwerp, Belgium, Germany and other defeated countries were not allowed to participate. Five of the eight medal-winning performances by Canada's 47-member team were by boxers, including 66-kilogram champion Albert Schneider. Hurdler Earl Thomson brought back the only other gold medal.

 A team of 73 went to Paris in 1924 and only four medals were won. None were gold.

 Amsterdam, 1928, saw Percy Williams etch his name in Canadian sport history by winning the 100- and 200-metre dashes.

 Women were on Canada's team for the first time. There were only six among the 71 competitors, and they excelled. Ethel Catherwood won the high jump, and Florence Bell, Myrtle Cook, Bobbie Rosenfeld and Ethel Smith won the 4x100 relay. Rosenfeld also won silver in the women's 100 metres.

 Canada sent 102 to Los Angeles in 1932 and they won 15 medals. Gold medallists were Duncan McNaughton in the high jump and Horace Gwynne in 53-kilogram boxing, and Alex Wilson won silver and bronze in middle-distance running. In the depths of the Great Depression, many countries reduced participation.

 The 1936 Berlin Games are remembered for German ruler Adolf Hitler's failed attempt to prove Aryan superiority. The only gold medallist among the 109 Canadians was Francis Amyot in 1,000-metre canoeing. Nine medals were won, including the first for Canada in men's basketball, a silver.

 "Those Games were well organized and competitions were good," Worrall recalls. "Of course, we were all aware of the Nazi propaganda."

 Because of the Second World War, the Games were not held again until 1948 in London. Germany and Japan were not invited to participate but Communist countries took part for the first time. None of Canada's 106 participants won gold. There was silver and bronze in canoeing, and bronze in the women's track relay. That was it.

 In 1952 in Helsinki, 113 Canadians brought home only three medals, and clay pigeon shooter George Genereux was the only winner.

 Rowing, which had achieved nine podium placements in preceding Games, reaped gold for the first time in 1956 in Melbourne when Donald Arnold, Ignace D'Hondt, Lorne Loomer and Archie MacKinnon won the fours final. In all, the 99-member team had six medal-winning performances. The only other gold was won by rifle marksman Gerard Ouellette.

 "Australia in 1956, in my mind those were one of the happiest Games," recalls Worrall.

 Rome in 1960: Canada's least successful Games. A team of 97 managed but one podium finish: Arnold, D'Hondt and MacKinnon were in an eight that won rowing silver.

 There were only four podium appearances for the 118 in Tokyo in 1964, and pairs rowers George Hungerford and Roger Jackson, were the only gold medallists.

 "The Japanese went all out to build new facilities and improve transportation," Worrall says in pinpointing the year the Summer Games began to be transformed. "The cost of those Games was being viewed with a certain amount of concern, although by today's standards it wasn't out of line."

 For the first time, the opening ceremonies, which had previously been conducted to strict IOC protocol, included theatrical presentations, and TV coverage became more globally extensive.

 Mexico City in 1968, with a team of 143, and Munich in 1972, when Canada entered 220, resulted in only five medal-winning performances each. The equestrian jumping team won gold in '68, when swimmer Elaine Tanner emerged as the individual star with three swimming medals. Swimmers accounted for four of the five medals in Munich, with Bruce Robertson bringing home silver and bronze.

 The Olympic movement was permanently scarred on Sept. 5, 1972, when eight terrorists broke into the Olympic village and made their way to the dormitory of the Israeli team. Eleven Israelis died. The Games were suspended for 34 hours and a memorial service was held in the main stadium.

 The Summer Games came to Montreal in 1976, and we were gracious hosts. Our team of 414 didn't win an event.

 There were five silver and six bronze medals, and swimmers won eight of our 11 medals. Nancy Garapick, Becky Smith and Anne Jardin earned two each. Greg Joy's high jump silver was the most ballyhooed accomplishment by a Canadian in the Olympic Stadium. For the first time, women's races were added to the rowing schedule. Years later, Canada would dominate women's sweep-oar racing.

 Canada was not represented in 1980 in Moscow after the federal government went along with the U.S. boycott resulting from Soviet intervention in Afghanistan.

 The Russians evened the score by not sending a team to Los Angeles in 1984, and Canada's 436-member team won 44 medals including 10 gold in the absence of many of the eastern Europeans.

 Linda Thom started things off by winning her sport pistol event, and swimmers Victor Davis, Alex Baumann and Anne Ottenbrite, rhythmic gymnast Lori Fung, diver Sylvie Bernier, paddlers Larry Cain, Hugh Fisher and Alwyn Morris, and the men's rowing eight all stood atop podiums. Davis and Ottenbrite each won three medals.

 With the Russians and East Germans back in for Seoul in 1988, there were 10 medals for Canada's 354 competitors. Boxers won three of them, including Lennox Lewis's heavyweight gold. The rest of the gold was won in the synchronized swimming pool when Carolyn Waldo won her solo event and joined Michelle Cameron for the duet.

 Seoul will always be remembered, of course, for the scandal that saw Toronto sprinter Ben Johnson stripped of his 100-metres gold medal for failing the doping test.

 The 1990s saw a significant upsurge in Canada's Olympic presence. In consecutive Games, record Canadian medal hauls for non-boycotted Games were registered.

 "Barcelona was very exciting in terms of performances," Worrall recalls of his 1992 trip.

 There were 18 medal-winning efforts by the 314 Canadians competing in Spain, including seven for gold. The rowing team led the way with five medals, including all three women's sweep-oar events, the men's eight, and Silken Laumann's bronze in single sculls mere weeks after an horrific leg injury in a practice collision.

 Mark McKoy won the 110-metre hurdles and Mark Tewksbury charged from behind to win the 100-metre backstroke. A judging error kept Sylvie Frechette from being awarded gold in her synchronized swimming solo event. The mistake would eventually be rectified, and Frechette was presented with the gold medal months later.

 It was on to Atlanta in 1996, when 307 Canadians flew south to win 22 medals. The rowing team again excelled, earning six medals and the regatta points title. Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle each won the third gold medals of their careers, in double sculls this time after taking gold in sweep-oar pairs and the eight in '92. They also won bronze in a quad. Laumann and Derek Porter, the stroke of the '92 eight, took silver in single sculls.

 "We've gradually improved our status over the years," says Worrall.

 Cyclist Clara Hughes of Winnipeg and swimmer Curtis Myden of Calgary each won two bronze medals.

 The highlight for many watching on TV will always be the image of Donovan Bailey after his win in the 100-metre dash, and of the flag-draped relay team after Bailey was first to the finish to double his take of gold.

 Security was intensified after a bomb was set off in a downtown park, and Atlanta was a transportation nightmare.

 Canadians who shone despite the distractions will try to do the same in Sydney.

 "The Summer Games include more than 10,000 athletes now, and the media outnumber the competitors," Worrall says with no hint of regret in his voice. "Certainly, the Games are much bigger now.

 "The athletes are highly skilled and the methods of training, the facilities, the equipment, the coaching is all so advanced -- all these things have led to a big improvement in performances."

 Perhaps there is an over-emphasis on winning, he says, but the zeal merely reflects the mores of present-day society.

 "Of course, it is best to approach the Games with the outlook you will give your best whether you win or lose," he says. "That's the fundamental philosophy behind the Games.

 "But it's great to win. It makes us all feel very proud."

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