Why This Site
Champion magazine, which forms the core of this website, was designed to give a voice and a profile to Canada’s Olympic athletes.
During the time I was the editor of Champion magazine, from its founding in 1977 until 1982, 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 attention on Canada’s “amateur” athletes had never been greater.
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 Olympic gold medallist in rowing, Dr. Roger Jackson, as director of Sport Canada. It was he who gave me the go-ahead to develop Champion within the Game Plan Information Office led by the late Bill Hersh. Dr. Geoff Gowan was providing ground-breaking leadership at the Coaching Association of Canada. Throughout the system, many of Canada’s best young athletes and coaches were being hired by their sports, with many going on to become today’s leaders. And robust programs within all areas of high performance sport were being unveiled.
But not everything was rosy. Arguably the greatest challenge came when Canada joined the American-led boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980, at great cost to our athletes and coaches, and with immediate and lasting repercussions. As swim coach Dave Johnson said in my 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; we were only seeing a bit of that recovery in 2008. Why? Because the Montreal Olympics had enthused an entire nation towards swimming. That success … had the nation thrilled about their heroes and had youngsters dreaming about their own future successes … kids were just not exposed to our program in the dramatic way that competing at an Olympics does.”
All of this, and much more, is reflected in Champion magazine; it was, unquestionably, the voice of amateur sport in those times.
Although I believe that at least one university may have a complete set of the Champion issues I edited, I wanted to ensure that my set was available to anyone with an interest in that dynamic period of Canada’s sport history. It seemed that the best way to make my hard copy content available was to provide it online through this website.
Reading these issues holds relevance today for all our sports. 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. It may come as a surprise that many of the same challenges remain ─ doping, retirement, funding, technology, athlete advocacy, women in coaching, and sport science and sport medicine as examples.
Champion is unique because it was the only athlete-focused publication across all Olympic sport in Canada.