Sacrifice for Olympic Gold

( [email protected] ) Aug 20, 2004 12:45 PM EDT

With the first several days of Olympic competition over, it’s not surprising to see the same competitive super powers at the top of the list for medal totals.

Why is it that countries such as China, Russia, Germany, Australia and the United States make it to the podium competition after competition? Better yet, with only a bronze medal in women’s platform diving after the first three days of the games, why does it seem that Canada continually fails to do so?

Canada’s Reality

First of all, let’s set the record straight; it’s not our athletes’ fault! The truth is, it’s our training system that continually fails us. Starting from the top, there’s not enough emphasis, support and focus on athletic development.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that in order to achieve world-class performance levels, athletes must adopt a lifestyle that includes a personalized nutrition plan, supplementation plan, sport-specific conditioning, professional recovery and regeneration plans, as well as a positive mental attitude.

Sport nutritionists, professional strength coaches, sport psychologists and supplements all require time and money; two things that most of our athletes continue to struggle with. While our athletes are out canvassing for sponsors and working to make ends meet, most of our competition is out perfecting all aspects of their training regimen. With all these obstacles in our way, it’s not surprising that we continue to fall short of the medal standards.

As well, there is a Canadian tradition that has our athletes and coaches aiming for Canadian records, not world records. It almost seems as though we are accepting that we will never be able to compete at a world-class level. In my opinion, if we do not set higher standards and expectations, we will never achieve them!

Competitor’s Reality

All successful countries begin by developing athletes from a young age and handpick their potential future champions. These young athletes are then provided with specialized coaching and training all year round. For example, the Japanese men’s gymnastic team showed childhood training footage of one of their recent Olympic champions. From a young age, they focused on developing this boy into gold medal winner. The same can be said for the Romanian women’s gymnastic team who also won gold this year. Their team lives and breathes together as a family for the majority of the year at a secluded training center.

From a sport-specific training perspective, our competitors provide their athletes with the best training methods by following a concept called the periodization of strength. This training method allows the athlete to reach peak performance levels at the appropriate time of year, namely at the Olympic trials and Olympics. The world-renowned sport planning specialist, Dr. Tudor Bompa, developed this scientific approach to maximizing the results of athletic training.

Dr. Tudor Bompa has been an integral part of coaching and athletic development programs for Australia, the United States, Romania, Spain, China and many other countries. In all cases, he was recruited to help raise the standard of their programs by educating their Olympic coaches. He introduced and developed the concept of periodization training for their sport-specific training centers. It’s obvious that their athletes have experienced positive results. As an unfortunate and ironic side note, Canada has never called upon his services, even though he currently resides in Ontario.

Make it pay off in gold!

It was exciting to see the South African men’s 4x100 relay team win the gold and break the world record. As their lead swimmer flexed his muscles and posed on the take-off block after their win, it became clear that their success was a result of specialized strength training. My thoughts were confirmed in the post-competition interview when they said that all their hard work in the gym finally paid off! It was their coaches’ knowledge of the benefits of sport-specific strength training for elite performance that led them in the right direction.

Canada has the resources, but lacks the knowledge and commitment required to help our athletes get to the next level. We need to adopt a new attitude and commitment to athletic development if we want to be included in the list of competitive super powers.

It’s still early in the competition and with over a week to go, we can always hope and pray for more success for our Canadian athletes.