Celebrating Canadian Sport History: New Website Spotlights Game-changing Years

A Piece of Canadian Sport History  

A Piece of Canadian Sport History is a newly-launched, free website that covers the period 1977 to 1982, five critical years in Canadian sport. The website features news, articles, profiles, and results from Champion magazine, all focused on Canada’s Olympic athletes.

Sheila Robertson, the magazine’s founding editor, developed the website in order to ensure that the material is available to anyone with an interest in that dynamic period in Canada’s sport history. “Sheila’s Blog” provides occasional commentary on current events. (http://canadiansporthistory.ca/sheilas-blog/).

During Sheila’s tenure as editor of Champion, Canadian sport stood at a critical juncture. The 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal had brought unprecedented attention to Canada’s athletes and coaches. To ensure the best possible results for the first-time host country, more money than ever before was poured into the sport system ─ from $5-million a year in the late 1960s to $31-million by 1977. Media interest in Canada’s ‘amateur’ athletes surged.

What next? How to build on the successes? How to move forward to ensure the successes were lasting and positive? How to keep the athletes and their performances in the public eye? How to avoid the perils of an increasingly politicized international sport environment?

The stars aligned with the appointment of Iona Campagnolo as Canada’s first full-time Minister of State, Fitness and Amateur Sport. Vibrant, committed, and dynamic, her time in office coincided with that of Dr. Roger Jackson, Olympic gold medallist in rowing, as director of Sport Canada. Throughout the system, impressive numbers of Canada’s best young athletes were transitioning into the sport system; many, including Anne Merklinger, CEO of Own the Podium, Dr. Bruce Kidd, Richard Pound, and Sue Holloway, are today’s leaders.

Not everything was rosy. Doubtless the greatest challenge came when Canada joined the American-led boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980. The boycott was arguably very costly to Canada’s athletes and coaches and produced immediate and lasting repercussions. As swim coach Dave Johnson said in Sheila’s 2012 book, “Shattered Hopes: Canada’s Boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games”: “We had a tremendously strong program in that era and I honestly think that not going to the Olympics in 1980 pushed us back a long, long way. It took a really long time to recover …”

All of this, and much more, is reflected in Champion; it was, unquestionably, the voice of amateur sport in those times.

Today, the Champion articles continue to be relevant. They provide an understanding, a context of where sport in Canada has come from when we consider where we are today, and where we want to go. Of concern is the fact that many of the same challenges remain, including doping, retirement, funding, technology, athlete advocacy, gender equality, women in coaching, and the ethical application of advances in sport science and sport medicine.

A Piece of Canadian Sport History website was designed and built by Susan Dodge of Dodge Ink Web Solutions.

For more information:
Sheila Robertson
Tel: 613.692.2993
Email: sheila.robcom@gmail.com


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