GIRL POWER

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Marketplace - BY THOM BURBERRY

RE­MEM­BER ALL THE ex­cite­ment dur­ing the Rio Olympics? Kick­ing off the first week in the pool we wit­nessed the in­cred­i­ble feats of Penny Olek­siak and the rest of the women’s swim team. My daugh­ter and I watched the women’s sev­ens rugby team power their way to an im­pres­sive bronze medal fin­ish. Sit­ting at the counter eat­ing his lunch, my son asked how the men’s rugby team did. I had no idea if we even had a men’s sev­ens rugby team in con­tention. (Turns out Canada failed to qual­ify a men’s team af­ter los­ing to Rus­sia 14–12 in qual­i­fy­ing.)

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27% When you send more ath­letes of one gen­der they are more likely to win more medals, but there are other vari­ables at play that im­pact the fu­ture suc­cess of our ath­letes, es­pe­cially the men.

One of those vari­ables is the Own the Podium (OTP) pro­gram adopted in 2010 to help pre­pare ath­letes for medal suc­cess at the win­ter Olympics.

“In collaboration with our sport and fund­ing part­ners, Own the Podium is re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing fund­ing rec­om­men­da­tions to the Govern­ment of Canada, the COC, and CPC for na­tional sport or­ga­ni­za­tions who have ath­letes that demon­strate medal po­ten­tial at the up­com­ing and sub­se­quent Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games,” says Anne Merklinger, CEO of OTP.

OTP’S man­date, then, is to help Canada win more medals, so it in­vests in sports where Cana­dian ath­letes have the best chance to medal. Don’t get me wrong – OTP is both do­ing a good job and ful­fill­ing its man­date. But, if your sport doesn’t suc­ceed, or doesn’t look to be ready to suc­ceed, you won’t get as much fund­ing. This is a catch-22 – you can’t suc­ceed if you don’t get fi­nan­cial sup­port, and you won’t get money if you don’t suc­ceed. There­fore, the women’s teams and ath­letes in many Olympic sports are likely to re­ceive the money they so greatly need and de­serve, while the men’s teams might not see as much.

Of all the per­for­mances at the Olympics I saw, An­drew Yorke’s fin­ish was one of the gut­si­est – he ran up a hill to get a new wheel af­ter a crash on the bike and still fin­ished the race. He has an in­ter­est­ing take on OTP. “Dol­lars don’t nec­es­sar­ily equal medals. There is no way to pre­dict fu­ture per­for­mances, es­pe­cially in younger ath­letes, so fund­ing based on a hunch leaves lit­tle meat on the bone for the next gen­er­a­tion of triath­letes like Ty [Tyler Mis­lawchuk, who fin­ished 16th in Rio].”

Af­ter Simon Whit­field’s sil­ver medal in Bei­jing triathlon re­ceived al­most $3 mil­lion in fund­ing head­ing into the Lon­don games. The Rio qua­dren­nial saw just over $ 1.5 mil­lion in fund­ing. De­spite Mis­lawchuk’s im­pres­sive per­for­mance and Yorke’s gutsy race, we’re down to $200,000 in fund­ing for next year.

There is much more gen­der in­equal­ity in other na­tions than ours here in Canada. Coun­tries where women are sub­ju­gated and still seen as sec­ond- class cit­i­zens al­lo­cate fewer re­sources, if any, to women’s sports. While some Cana­dian women’s teams con­tinue to have to fight to be seen as equals on the play­ing field, when it comes to govern­ment and OTP fund­ing I would ar­gue that the pen­du­lum has swung the other way.

I be­lieve that both my son and daugh­ter should have equal op­por­tu­ni­ties. Given OTP’S phi­los­o­phy of seek­ing out cur­rent suc­cesses, I’m afraid that our boys will be left be­hind to al­low our girls to win on the world stage. There is no greater sat­is­fac­tion and pride for a par­ent than to see your child do well. Con­versely, there is no greater rage than to see your child pushed aside.

As a na­tion we need to con­tinue to im­prove on our treat­ment of women on the play­ing field, home and at work. It should not, how­ever, come at the cost of leav­ing our boys be­hind.

Many of the men I speak with feel they are stuck be­tween two worlds – chivalry and equal­ity. Women also suf­fer the di­chotomy of fem­i­nin­ity and em­pow­er­ment. In triathlon we have the op­por­tu­nity to mon­i­tor this equal­ity and em­pow­er­ment. We can help our sons and daugh­ters suc­ceed on an even play­ing field. We just need to make sure it truly is equal.

SPORTS EQUAL­ITY • CANA­DIAN ATH­LETES = • TO­TAL FE­MALE ATH­LETES = • TO­TAL MALE ATH­LETES = • PER­CENT­AGE OF MEDALS WON BY FE­MALE ATH­LETES = PER­CENT­AGE OF MEDALS WON BY MALE ATH­LETES = • (60%) (40%)

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