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BARRIE SHEPLEY’S FINAL POST OLYMPIC ANALYSIS

WHAT CANADA DID WELL AT THESE LONDON OLYMPIC GAMES

It would be easy with only one gold medal to consider these Olympics somewhat of a disappointment even though we got 18 total medals.  The Canadian officials had wanted 20+ medals and a top 12 finish.   That didn’t occur and there are a number of reasons that I will discuss below.   We have to properly assess what Canada did well (and we did some things very well), and what we need to improve upon to move up in the overall rankings by Toronto 2015 Pan American Games and 2016 Olympic Games in Rio Brazil.   Below are some of the things that I think the Canadian Olympic Committee, Sports Canada and Own the Podium did very well at these Olympic Games.

  • PROPERLY FINANCED OUR BEST ATHLETES:  Top Canadian Olympians were the best financed they have ever been in our history (training camps, equipment, and competitions).  Later on I will discuss the problem with not funding younger development athletes (but the top athletes were well funded and money should not have been an excuse why they did not win).

 

  • INJURY PREVENTION OF “MOST” OF OUR BEST ATHLETES:   In general our athletes showed up at these Olympic games with very few injuries.  This is a huge tribute to the Canadian Sports Medical Services across the country (physios, massage, chiro, osteopaths).   As athletes are training at a higher and higher level, Sports Medicine moves from being optional  to being absolutely mandatory for them to have a chance to win.    Without being able to train healthy and consistently our future athletes will not be able to be competitive on an international stage.

 

  • SUPPORT FOR OLYMPIC PARENTS:  Companies like P & G (with their “THANK YOU MOM” program) and PETRO CANADA (with their FAMILY SUPPORT program) were important to our athletes.  Simon Whitfield and others talked about how valuable it was that their parents were taken care of (so that the athlete could just focus on their sporting needs).

 

  • TOP 10 FINISHES:  I will talk about getting gold medals later on, but Canada had its deepest Olympic Games when it comes to top 10 finishes.  We had many life-time bests (4th-10th place finishes that don’t show up on the medal count, but are an indication that we are becoming more competitive internationally. Our challenge now is to covert top 10’s to podiums and to convert our many bronze medals to GOLD!

 

  • DESIRE TO INSPIRE OUR COUNTRY:  Virtually every single athlete on our Olympic Team, were terrific, articulate kids who want to be great role models in the Canada.  Our Olympians have done many talks to schools and groups and want to do more in the future.

 

  • DEDICATED COACHES:  I know many of the coaches and I am amazed at how hard they work and how dedicated they are to their athletes.  These coaches are paid a very modest income and the number of hours they are away from their families and homes in a year (particularly the Olympic year) is massive.  

THINGS THAT I BELIEVE CANADA NEEDS TO IMPROVE UPON TO BE COMPETITIVE 

  1. HELP FINANCE DEVELOPMENTAL ATHLETES:  Right now the vast majority of any government carding, and corporate sponsorship is going to the already established small group of Olympic athletes.  The Clara Hughes and Adam Van Koverden type names are currently reasonably well financed (right now), but the future champions are starving to death and in many cases dropping out of sport.  If Canada wants to have great athletes in 2016 and 2020, we have to support those kids now (because many of them will be gone from sport long before they are world-class simply due to financial stress).  I have seen first hand, how the modest amount of money I am able to raise keeps elite athletes in sport until they are able to be better sponsored by the Federal Government and other private Sponsors.  I guarantee you that there are Olympic medalists from 2016 and 2020 in the country, right now, who we will lose simply due to them not being able to afford to stay in competitive sport.  Your money (whether its through donations, sponsorships) does make a difference.   If you can, I encourage your money and time to go to smaller organizations.  Larger groups like the Canadian Olympic Committee and others do have money in the bank (which they usually save for a rainy day and rarely spend it on developing athletes). Putting your money into smaller programs where the active clubs and coaches are directly helping Canada’s future star athletes it will make a direct impact.  The Burl Oak Canoe Club that Adam Van Koverden & Mark Oldershaw belong to have created those paddling champions and your small donations to organizations like Burl Oak or my C3 Canadian Cross Training Club have direct impact on creating future champions.   Obviously I am not saying DON’T SUPPORT THE COC OR CANFUND, but I am simply saying that to significantly help future Olympic Champs, the COC, SPORTS CANADA and OWN THE PODIUM make little or no attempt to help the younger athletes who are not on the international stage yet and this is a great place where Canadians can make a direct impact.

 

2.  SHARE ATHLETES BETWEEN SPORTS: I have fought tirelessly for four or five years and will work even harder in the years to come, to get athletes to move into the sport they can ultimately be best at.  You see some ex-gymnastic athletes now getting into diving.  You see some ex-sprint athletes (like Jesse Lumsden from football, or track runners) becoming bobsled team athletes.  Essentially, athletes need to be encouraged to move from a sport where they will have modest national success, into a sport where they can have International success for Canada (perhaps even win major titles in the new sport).  My sport of triathlon is a perfect example.   There are likely 20-30 swimmers and runners in Canada right now who should be directed to triathlon from their single sports.  The level of running against the Kenyans and swimming against the Americans is so ridiculously high, that very few Canadians will ever even make it to the Olympic Games (and if they beat those odds to make our Olympic swim or run team they would have a very very low hope of an Olympic medal).  Swim Canada or Athletics Canada can pretty much already identify their 1-2 future Ryan Cochrane or Dylan Armstrong superstars and keep them in swimming and athletics.  Bu there are many athletes in Swim Canada and Athletics Canada who already swim  or run fast enough to beat the triathlon champions we saw in London this past week and if we work on their other skills, they could be a champion by Rio Brazil 2016.   American Gwen Jorgensen was a collegiate swimmer and runner in Wisconsin just three years ago.  After graduating and starting into her accounting career,  USA Triathlon recruited her into triathlon even though she had never done a triathlon in her life. Within 2 years Gwen made the American Olympic Triathlon Team and has won major races in her first 2 years in the sport.  That would have been virtually impossible for her to accomplish in swimming or running.  Universities, Colleges, and National Teams should be working together to push athletes into sports that they are more physically suited for (and which Canada could be successful at in the future).

3.   BETTER SUPPORT FOR OUR COACHES:   While I don’t want to get into specifics in this newsletter, I personally believe there were elite coaches, heading to London, that needed some extra help and mentoring themselves.  In general, coaches believe they are an endless battery that has to continually support their athletes and have all the answers.  Over 1, 2, 3+ years coaches wear down and become less effective.  Under the stress of an Olympic campaign, I believe some coaches become less effective.  We are spending more resources on our athletes, but I believe the coaches need some “coaching” and “mentoring” themselves.  I personally would like to see a resource team be put together to focus just on our high performance coaches (and how the coaches can be more effective to help our elite athletes).  Their role would be to interact with the Olympic coaches (not the Olympic athletes).  If we want better athletes, we need better coaches (and resources for those coaches).

4.  STREAMLINE THE SPORTS WE ARE COMMITTED TO:  The great Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer Alex Baumann 100% believed that Canada should focus on less sports at the Olympic Games.  This is a controversial topic that will have some people loving me (if I keep their sport) and hating me (if I drop their sport).  Canada only has 30 million people.  There are some activities that we have never been successful at and the chances are very slim that we will ever be successful at them.  To keep pretending that we will be a power in certain sports is unreasonable and low probability.  We have to prioritize which sports we fund.  This prioritization should take into consideration some of the following items.

           A.      Are we currently showing success in this sport (or have we).   Obviously we will always be great at ice-hockey but perhaps not cricket (just an example)
            B.      Do we have the infrastructure to do well in this sport.  That includes buildings, coaches, clubs, participants and likely (or proven) sponsors.
            C.      How many other power house countries are already excelling in the sport.   The more big countries already doing well in the sport will make it tougher for us in the future.
            D.      Are there sports that most nations don’t care about (we could move up quickly in that sport with some extra focus/attention).  
            E,      Do we have some “special” thing that makes us successful in that sport (ie. our culture of paddling and water in Canada = many successes and past medals)
            F.      Do we have an abundance of coaches or resources in that sport (i.e.. A very deep competitive development program of Canadian female soccer players or ice hockey players).  

5.  FOCUS MORE ON FEMALE SPORTS:  Wow I am going to get gang tackled for this one, and it might sound sexist.  But if you look at the past trend, Canada is getting more and more medals from our female athletes (and our team is now made up of more then 50% females).  This is not because our male athletes are weak, its because the entire world does not treat their female athletes as fairly and equitably as Canada does.  As a result, relative to the rest of the world, our Canadian female athletes are better funded and resultantly staying in sport longer and performing better at the Olympic Games.    I have known for a decade that the same amount of time and money I invest in one male athlete will not get me the same number of medals as if I invest the exact same time  and money into a female athlete.  So if we are looking for medals, we should be giving more opportunities and encouraging our Canadian females even more.  This is not to say stop supporting male sports, its just to realize that the same amount of time and money we invest in our male athletes, will give less medals than our female athletes.   With Milton building a new world-class cycling velodrome for the 2015 Pan American Games, I would personally recruit and hugely support a group of female track cyclists.  There are not many female track cyclists in the world (due to the need for a great track).  I believe we could become very competitive in a short time in women’s track cycling.

 

6.  BRING OUR BEST ELITE ATHLETES TOGETHER MORE OFTEN:  There is a great energy and learning that the top athletes have when they are around each other. In my mind, we have not taken full advantage of this resource and they only see each other every four years when they are under great stress.  Perhaps every 18-24 months (half way between Olympics), bring a group of our top current summer and winter athletes (and best future prospects) together to learn, share and challenge each other.  Adam Van Koverden may have some wisdom he can share with our younger track sprinters and Clara Hughes could certainly help and improve Paula Findlay’s competitive package.   You can’t tell me that having ex-NHL hockey player Mark Messier could not teach Dylan Armstrong something that might have made the difference in moving from 5th to 3rd or 2nd.  While I understand the practical challenges (location, time of the year within your sport’s competitive time, cost), I do believe it could be worth while on many levels and is worthy of considering.

 

7.      BETTER EXECUTION OF OUR TAPERING & PERFORMANCE ON DEMAND REQUIREMENTS:  Many athletes can perform well once or twice a year when it really doesn’t matter, but they are not capable of executing as well “on demand”   “ON DEMAND PERFORMANCE” is performing on the day of your Olympic Final (even when you don’t feel 100%).  I believe a number of our athletes/teams were over-cooked and missed their tapers. In some cases I believe this may have occurred based on poor Olympic Team selection criteria set up by their sport leaders/federations.   Simply picking 1st, ,2nd and 3rd athletes across the finishing line at a National Championship may leave your best athletes off the team (due to the flu, a flat tire, or some bad luck).   I have seen National Federations nearly kill their athletes putting them through the “hoops” just to make the Canadian Olympic Team and in the end, they were so tired and exhausted chasing the selection criteria that they had nothing left to compete against the other competitors on race/competition day.  Make sure that the selection and the resultant taper is more optimal for the athletes to actually perform well on race day.

8.  BETTER – MORE COMPETENT GYM CLASS IN SCHOOL:  The grade schools and high schools are the breading grounds for Future Champions.   We need to do a much (much) better job at encouraging and supporting more and better physical activity in schools.  While some schools in Canada have great gym classes and varsity teams, it is declining and every senior retiring teacher I speak to tells me its significantly worse than it was 20 years ago.  That does not bode well for us having many future star athletes.   Simon Whitfield was a great soccer and basketball player and because of that he created extraordinary sprinting power and agility.   We need more kids with higher skill levels graduating from grade 8 into high school and from grade 12 into college.  

9.  WE NEED TO MAKE THE PEAK ATHLETIC EXPERIENCE FOR MOST KIDS TO BE AT UNIVERSITY  / COLLEGE AGE:  Far too many sports have a major “peak” at about 12-14 years of age.  That is to say, they try to have very very competitive athletes by 12-14 years of age and if your not winning at that time, you generally drop out of the sport completely (I could write a full paper on just this topic).  With few exceptions, I believe that the age we are trying to get GREAT PERFORMANCES out of many athletes should be significantly pushed up to older ages (19-24) while at University.  By making the University age a high priority, we delay drop out of sport to a much later time and catch late developing kids.   Olympic Swimmer Rick Say  (2000 Sydney) was a summer swim club athlete in BC until he was 17 years of age.   American Gwen Jorgensen didn’t do her first triathlon till 3 years ago.   To have more kids involved in sport at a later age, means a healthier population AND more kids to eventually pick from for future Olympic Teams.

10.  CONTINUE TO MAKE SPORT MORE ACCESSIBLE:   Organizations like JUMP START (with Canadian Tire) and KIDSPORT and other organizations are trying to help make it cheaper and easier for kids to get involved in sport.   We know how much money it cost to lockup  juvenile criminals up in a detention center or prison.  A fraction of that amount of money can be spent to keep more kids (particularly kids in high risk areas) involved in sport.

 

11.     BETTER MENTAL PREPARATION:  While this was hit and miss in London, I definitely believe numerous top Olympic athletes WERE NOT fully prepared to deal with the stress.  Look at how many of our much talked about medal hopefuls came up short of the podium.   While some of the athletes had a bad day (or bad luck), there were numerous ones that appeared to me to be overly (or under) stimulated.  Many of the top OWN THE PODIUM ATHLETES seemed to be overly stimulated by the burden of being one of Canada’s medal threats (and faces of the team).  Dylan Armstrong openly talked about how nervous he was and how much pressure he felt being in that role.  Instead of seeing it as a privilege, some only felt the pressure of having to bring home a medal.  I 100% believe in the value of the OWN THE PODIUM program, but I think there are some holes and areas where we need to enhance our athlete support and MENTAL PREPARATION is one of those areas.  

12.  BETTER  PERIODIZATION:   I have sort of discussed this in other areas, but in general we had some athletes who were too old or improperly prepared.  That is they to stay they were stars 1-2 years ago, but they were headed in the wrong direction by the time the Olympic Games came along.  Or, they may have won their big tournament or competition 1-2 years ago (that got them recognized for OWN THE PODIUM).  In numerous cases our best athletes who did not perform in London, had their best performances 12+ months ago and did not come close to their best performances at the Olympic Game.  Because some of these athletes were earlier identified as our MEDAL THREATS (Mary Spencer, Dylan Armstrong, Paula Findlay) and the media continued to write about them as medal threats, there was a growing pressure on those athletes.   While World Championship or Circuit Championships are valuable, I saw athletes like Dylan Armstrong be injured in early 2012 due to pushing too hard to win  titles in 2011.  It would be interesting to see how many of our 18 medal people were on top of their game in 2011 (or did they peak in 2012 when it was most important).   

13.  GOOD LUCK:  Sometimes you simply need some good luck to go your way.  I like the old saying “the harder I worked the luckier I became”.  Canada is a small country (relative size to the world) and we try to be very competitive in winter and summer Olympics (very few countries try to do this).  So when you add summer & winter Olympic participation, with just 30 million people, and a cooler climate, you need to be wise in your decision making and resource allocation to ultimately be successful at Olympic sport AND to ultimately win medals (preferably Gold).


Scones with Strawberries and whip cream

 

What is more British than scones with strawberries and whipped cream? Well, nothing is really, especially if you are a regular Wimbledon Tennis fan.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves 20):

  •     4 cups self-raising flour
  •    1 tablespoon caster sugar
  •    1 cup thickened cream
  •    1 cup milk
  •    2 teaspoons vanilla essence
  •    2 tablespoons icing sugar mixture, to serve
  •    Strawberry cream
  •    1/4 cup strawberry jam
  •    1 1/2 cups thickened cream, whipped
  •    150g strawberries, diced

 

Directions:

  1. Make sure you have the ingredients!
  2. Preheat oven to 190°C. Line a flat baking tray with baking paper. Sift flour, sugar and a pinch of salt into a large bowl.
  3. Combine cream, milk and vanilla in a jug. Pour into dry ingredients. Stir with a flat-bladed knife to combine. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until smooth.
  4. Pat dough out to a 2.5cm-thick round.Using a 5cm scone cutter, cut 12 scones from dough. Gently press remaining dough together and repeat. Place scones on prepared tray, allowing a little room for spreading. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven. Cover with a clean tea towel and stand scones on tray for 10 minutes.
  5. Make strawberry cream: Stir jam in a bowl until softened slightly. Add cream and half the strawberries. Gently fold through until just combined.
  6. Split scones in half. Top bases with a dollop of strawberry cream, remaining strawberries and scone tops. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Source: www.taste.com; Super Food Ideas- June 2006, Page 24. The recipe is by Julie Jansen