ALSO ON SLAM!
Sunday, August 29, 1999
Ego trips up Canada
One man's ego. A coaching staff with no power. And inexperience in a place in the lineup where it didn't have to be has ended Canada's reign as the best 100 metre relay team in the world.
With two world championship golds and the Atlanta Olympic gold, they told us every time that they won because they were a team.
Team Canada wasn't a team here. That's what was wrong.
Bruny Surin was the second-fastest man in the world, winner of the silver medal in the men's 100-metre final. That, his ego told him, made him anchor.
The coaches thought otherwise. Les Gramantik said he wanted to change only one wheel on the Canadian relay race-car. He wanted to keep the same batting order, other than replacing Robert Esmie with a new man running the lead leg.
Glenroy Gilbert to Bruny Surin to Donovan Bailey, just like they'd done to win the Olympic and two world golds. Why break up Tinkers to Evers to Chance? Relays are not all about speed. They are about knowing your job.
Trevino Betty did not know his job. He failed to grab the baton that was passed to him from Gilbert. Trying to grab it a second time, he ran out of his lane.
Canada was disqualified.
There's some video evidence to suggest maybe he didn't run out of his lane.
But it didn't matter.
The final qualifying time for today's final was 38.76 seconds. Canada ran 38.78.
It's over. And the era ends because of ego?
'`I don't want to comment on it,'' said Gilbert, the ultimate team-man on the Canadian team, of the ego trip that changed the batting order.
'`Obviously it was wrong. We made a decision. It didn't work out.''
'`You come to your own conclusion,'' he said with an editorial edge.
Gilbert didn't even want to talk about how he feels not even to get to the final to defend the back-to-back Canadian world titles.
'`My brain is all over the place. I don't know.''
With that he took his leave.
Surin bolted. He didn't even walk through the media mixed zone, jumping the four-foot fence to avoid media comment.
Betty followed his lead.
That left Donovan Bailey, who had managed to get his job done, left to speak for everybody.
'`We've won every year I've been on this team,'' he said of the shock of what happened at the other end of the track.
'`I've never been in a championship where we weren't favoured or the No. 1 contender for the gold.
'`I'm very disappointed.
'`Trevino is a fast young guy, but the world championships might not be the place to test him.''
The team, he says, has to have a meeting about what happened here and make sure it doesn't happen again.
'`After we go home and cry,'' he suggested.
'`All I have to say is the world championships are a tough place to be in the position Trevino was in tonight. It's tough.''
Should they have kept the old lineup to avoid the inexperience situation in a two-three pass?
'`My answer is yes,'' said Bailey.
That left Gramantik to speak for everybody when this team, in effect, wouldn't let him or the coaches make the call on the lineup.
He's a 10-day head coach. As of Monday morning, he's not a head coach anymore.
Only in Canada.
'`We put the decision in their hands and they made it,'' he said.
'`What we're dealing with here is a directed program versus an elected program. What we're dealing with here is the strength of an individual being more than the team.
'`It's a decision they made. It's a decision they made among themselves. They have to live with it.
'`Hopefully this is a huge lesson for next year and the year after. The last thing I want is to see something like this in Edmonton.''
It exposes the Canadian setup, he said.
'`I was very worried. We were all worried. It's a matter of having power for the short term. I had power for 10 days. But power for 10 days is not very useful.
'`I know I'm going to get in trouble for saying it, but who wants to be part of an elected program instead of a directed program?''
It's not all over for Canada here. The women's 4x100 relay team surprised everybody and qualified.
Who picked that team?
'`We picked them,'' said Gramantik.