Where Are Canada’s Field Athletes?

H. H. ROXBOROUGH April 15 1926

Where Are Canada’s Field Athletes?

H. H. ROXBOROUGH April 15 1926

Where Are Canada’s Field Athletes?


TWENTY years ago, on a memorable May afternoon, 75,000 Athenians and their guests sat expectantly in the Greek stadium at Athens. For over two hours fifty-four runners, representing nearly all the nations of the world, had been steadily pounding their way along the strenuous twenty-five mile course from Marathon to the Grecian capital. The eyes of the waiting multitude were turned to the great entrance^and each spectator burned with the fervent hope that the first runner to enter would be a citizen of his own land. About six o’clock the cheers of the throngs outside the arena brought to a climax the tension within. Then a little fellow, crowned with a battered fedora, entered the concourse and completed the circle. Bill Sherring, of Hamilton,

Ontario, was the champion distance runner of his period.

In June, 1910, a Toronto Y. M. C. A. athlete, George Goulding, heeled and toed himself to everlasting fame by establishing a world’s record for mile walking that has never since been equalled. Two years later, on a Brooklyn indoor track, he broke all existing American times for two indoor miles, and then, to remove any lingering doubt as to Canadian superiority, he crashed through the world’s records for three and four miles. And he still holds these palms after fourteen years of walking campaigns!

Two decades ago Canadian track and field athletes were smashing world's records. Two years ago the Dominion sent twenty-five track and field competitors to the Olympic Games and failed to score a win. Canada still takes her share of world honors in other sports. In the simplest and most elemental of all sports she is no longer producing champions. Whyf

While Goulding was piling one triumph on top of another, another Canadian, Walter Knox was demonstrating his right to be called the greatest all - round athletic machine of modern times; George Orton was leading the international field in steeplechase and cross country runs; G. R„

Gray was putting the shot far ahead of America’s best, and Hapenny, Desmarteau, Petch and Tom Longboat

were peerless.

Two decades ago Canadians were whipping the cream of American and European track and field athletes.

What does more recent history show?

In 1920 Canada sent a team of twenty-eight athletes to Antwerp. They competed in twenty-two individual competitions and four team events. How many triumphs were recorded? Earl Thompson, Canadian born, but long a resident of United States, was first in the 110 metre hurdle race; Archie McDiamond, of Vancouver, was fourth in 56 lb. weight throwing—but no other track and field athlete in a roll of twenty-eight was even mentioned in despatches. Yet, at this same meet, South Africa had seven placed men and a total score of 24 points!

In 1924—just two years ago this summer—Canada sent twenty-five competitors to the Olympic Games at Paris. For the first time since 1904 not a single win was recorded for this Dominion. No athlete from Canada’s camp finished better than fourth, and only Johnston (400 metres), Fickard (pole vault) and Canada’s team in the 1600 metre Team Relay race were placed even in that position.

There may be many explanations for this feeble showing, but it cannot be denied that, in the opinion of disinterested international observers, Canada’s rout was complete. The United States, Finland, Great Britain, Sweden, France, Italy, Switzerland, South Africa, Hungary and Australia were all well placed, but the wearers of the Maple Leaf failed to display that prowess which at the opening of this century, raised Canada to the highest pinnacle in the realm of sport. In other divisions of sport

laurels have been borne to the Dominion, but in the field

and on the track the depression is acute.

The Phenomenal Knox

1VTO ANALYSIS of causes can be made until comparisons are complete. The hands of the stop-watch must go back. The feats of Sherring and Goulding have been outlined. What of the others of their day?

Imagine a young athlete weighing less than 150 lbs., who could compete with the world’s champions, not in one specialty alone, but in all three of sprinting, jumping and weight-throwing. That was Walter Knox, born in Listowel, Ontario, and raised in Orillia. His best efforts were 100 yards in 9 3-5 seconds; 220 yards in 23 seconds Standing High Jump—5'0"; Running High Jump—5'7" Pole Vault—12'6"; Standing Broad Jump—10'7}4" Running Broad Jump 24' 2"; Putting 12 lb. shot—55'4" Putting 16 lb. shot—46'5". Need it occasion surprise that at Santa Clara in one afternoon he won five firsts; at Sudbury, Ontario, 10 firsts; that in one 100 yd. trial, he was clocked by four expert timers in a 9 2-5 performance that has never been touched by the best sprinting of any age; that in one summer in Scotland he earned and secured 106 prizes; that in 1907 he won the all-round indoor Canadian Championship; in 1913 the all-round outdoor professional championship of America, and in 1914 won the Manchester Sporting Chronicle competition to decide the best professional athlete of the world with six victories in eight events?

These figures but indicate the wealth of athletic ability in one of Canada’s sons, but if the achievements were detailed in all their interesting glory they would depict a triumph of courage, perseverance and superiority that has never been equalled in the realm of track and field

athletics in all time.

Just prior to the era of Knox’s triumphs, George Orton, a member of the Toronto Lacrosse Club, and now physical director of the University of Pennsylvania, galloped his way to international fame. During a six year activity he won sixteen American championships in one mile run, two mile steeplechase; senior cross country and ten mile, races, and his best one mile time was beaten only once in thirty-four years of United States competition.

During Orton’s period of supremacy, G. R. Gray, of Toronto Athletic Club and National Club, held the 16-pound shot putting championship of America for ten years, and his longest lunge of 47'0" was the “heftiest toss” in thirty seasons.

Whole Range of Peaks Conquered


'HILE Orton was running them dizzy on the track and over the hills; when Gray was

giving the old iron pill its aerial rides, Harry Gill, of Coldwater, Ontario, now coach of University of Illinois, brought to his native land the all-round championship of the western world with the highest aggregate secured by any versatile athlete over a period of twenty-one years.

These performances of Sherring, Goulding, Knox, Orton and Gray may serve as mountain peaks in Canada’s athletic Rockies—but there are still many other important ranges that are respected and admired by the people of Canada. In 1876, H. Lambe, of Argonaut Club, won the half mile and mile American honors; C. C. Mclvor, of Montreal Lacrosse Club, breasted the tape first in the 100 yard championship of 1877; Henry Pellatt (now Sir Henry Pellatt) represented Toronto Lacrosse Club in 1879 and restored Lambe’s honors to this Dominion. Forty years ago J. S. Robertson, of Montreal A.A.A., battled to leadership in the American 440 yard race in faster time than accorded the winner in the 1925 Canadian championships.

Twenty years back, G. M. Gibbs, the mile runner; W. Hapenny, pole vaulter; E. Desmarteau, the weightthrowing policeman, and Charlie Petch and Tom Longboat, the Marathoners, all won the highest honors in their respective events and forced the best of other nations to appreciate the speed and strength of the men of the land of the maple.

It was only natural that on such à substantial foundation Canada began to rear a real athletic structure, and in 1908, the building was well under way. Such real Canucks as Bobby Kerr, Don Linden, George Barber, Frank Lukeman, J. D. Morrow, Frank Halbaus, Bill Sherring, Harry Lawson, Tom Longboat, Jack Tait, Cal Bricker, J. G. MacDonald, George Goulding, Elwood Hughes, Ed. Archibald, Lou Sebert, Jack Tressider and Walter Knox were all genuine champions who could step into any international track and field tournament and set the pace and bring home the shining mugs.

To-day, nearly all the old crews have retired from active competition, but their records continue to speak of that former greatness and grandeur, and their performances would be exceptional now.

Bobby Kerr’s best 200 metre timeof 21 4-5seconds made in 1908, would have equalled or beaten the winning time in every one of twenty-five heats preceding the final in the last Olympic Games. Jack Tait’s high spot of 4.05 for 1500 metres bettered every one of six trials preceding Nurmi’s recordbreaking final in the 1924 Paris contests, while Cal.

Bricker’s masterly leap of 23'8K" would have been only 3” short of second

place in the world’s jumping championships.

Since the passing of these boys of the 1908 brigade, an occasional Northern Star has brightened the athletic firmament. Cyril Coaffee, of Winnipeg North End A.C., established a record of 9 3-5 seconds in 100 yards; L. S. Armstrong, Coaffee’s fellow club member, flashed in 50 and 60 yards; Earl Thompson, a Canadian by birth but Yankee by training, now assistant coach of Yale University, hurdled to world’s records in 110 metre and 120 yard hurdle races; Phil Granville, a West Indian, and E. C. Freeman of Toronto won American walking championships.

Depreciation of the Canadian Mark

BUT, with the retirement of the great group that represented Canada at London in 1908, there has been a steady slump in the Dominion track and field market. Just take a look at the debit side of our present athletic institution in Canada. For 1926 there are sixty-seven accepted marks on the Canadian Amateur Athletic L’nion Records, and fifty-one of these records are over ten years old. In the past fifteen years—with the exception of walking—not a single American championship has been won by a Canadian born contestant. In the year 1908 alone, fifteen national records were established by Canadians, and to-day, eighteen years later, every one of them still remains as a challenge and a defiance to the athletics of 1926.

That the decline has been steady and complete is further attested by Canada’s experience in the Olympic Games. At Stockholm, in 1912, Sweden, the United States, Great Eritain,

Finland, Germany, France, Denmark, South Africa, Hungary and Norway all finished ahead of Canada, who tied with Australia and Italy at thirteen points.

And all the melancholy notes have not yet been piped. At least five of Canada’s best Olympic representatives of the last two lean games have departed for other climes. Pickard, Thompson, Coaffee and Hester are now residing in the United States; Johnston, the Rhodes scholar from McGill, is in England. True, all these would be ineligible for Olympic competition as representatives of other nations, but their experience and ability will not be available for Dominion coachings.

It must be frankly admitted that at the present moment there is no Canadian threat in track and field athletics. What is the reason? The decadence is not attributable to lack of courage or sporting ability in Canadian manhood, for in nearly all other athletic endeavors save the spiked shoe game, our boys have been, and are to-day, worthy foemen of any foreign competitors.

As an antidote for the athletic depression, just recall Canada’s great achievement in other sporting pursuits. In sculling races the names and achievements of Ed Hanlan,.Jake Gaudaur Ed. Durnan, Lou Scholes, Butler, Belyea, and Bob Dibble are recognized and appreciated wherever international or world’s champions are discussed. Argonauts, Dons, and Univer-

sity of Toronto have been consistent victors at all Eastern America Regattas, and British Columbia and Maritime Province crews have dominated along the Pacific and Atlantic shores. And in the last Olympic Rowing Championships, the Canadian Vancouver four were second only to Great Britain, while the Toronto Varsity Eight was victorious up to the final race, when Yale University snatched a narrow win. So the depreciation in the world market of running and jumping has not infected rowing.

And a similar condition exists in swimming. Unless it was beaten recently, the mile free style swimming record, 23 minutes 34 5-10 seconds established by G. R. Hodgson, of Montreal, on July 10, 1912, is the fastest mile ever traveled in human navigation. In 1920, George Vernot, of Montreal, was second in Olympic 400 metres and third in 1500 metres. And in Tommy Walker and George Young, Canada now has two “submarines” who will torpedo the ambitions of many aspiring swimming celebrities in the next Olympic aquatics.

Revival ol Lacrosse

/CANADA’S ^ “he-man’s’

national summer game, Lacrosse, is a sport that has so extended its scope that it is now fostered by all large universities in the United States and the British Isles. But the best players in the world are still to be found swinging the old stick in any one of the nine Canadian provinces, and practically all the prominent coaches are products of the recent Dominion Lacrosse crops.

It would be reasonable to expect that the United States would greatly dominate the realm of baseball, and that it might be difficult for Canada, with less chan ten per cent, of its neighbor’s population, to compete with much success against the American amateur baseball players. But away back in the childhood of the diamond pastime, a team from Guelph. Ontario, showed them all the way to go home. In 1924 and again in 1925, the Osier Baseball Club of Toronto handily defeated American teams who had been heralded as amateur champions of the UnitedStates. So Canadian boys are not listening to any sound of retreat in even the national game of LTncle Sam.

Speed skating is a picturesque spectacle that provides a great test of judgment and strength, and Canada has always furnished rugged competition. Fred Robson won a barrelful of good American medals. Gorman, of St, John, Continued on page 68

Where Are Canada’s Field Athletes?

Continued from page 11

N.B. is always a keen and successful contender for international honors; and Harry Smythe, Moncton, N.B., and Chester Cole, Sackville, N.B., a couple of young Maritime Province lads, have been traveling so fast that recently they annexed United States championships.

It is readily agreed that hockey is a sport that would speedily reveal any symptoms of a physical weakness in our athletic youth. But instead of a withdrawal in the face of foreign competition, there has been an increase in the superiority. In 1920, the Falcon Hockey Club of Winnipeg competed in Europe and decisively won the Amateur Hockey Championship of the world. At Chamonix, in 1924, the All-Canadian Team, composed largely of Granite Club players, won every game and scored 110 goals to their opponents’ three. Every leading amateur or professional hockey team in United States has been largely or entirely recruited from the ponds and rinks of Canada.

And lest my funereal comment concerning the track and field condition be still considered an unfavorable reflection on Canadian manhood, let me mention one more important branch where the Maple Leafs are on top. Boxing is a game wherein science, courage and hardiness are paramount, and in this sport Canada’s record has been really worthy of admiration. In 1920, at Antwerp, our boxing team of only eight men captured five places and were undoubtedly the best octette in the world. At Boston, in 1925, a Pan-American Boxing Championship was held. Canada sent eight boxers, South America eight and United States sixteen. Out of eight championships, Canada, with Burlie,of Toronto and Belanger and Snider, of Winnipeg, won three of the final honors. And many similar instances of International gloveswinging successes could be provided.

Let us also recall that the professional cycling champion of the United States for some time has been an Ontario boy, Frank Spencer, and Frank’s brother, Bill, is one of his closest competitors.

Then, for good measure, let us record that in Edmonton there is a ladies’ basketball team that could hand any feminine five in the world a good score and then beat them handily to the final whistle. And just to keep the feminine champion pot bubbling, let it be added that Gladys Robinson and Leila Brooks, now Mrs. Potter, both of Toronto, hold international championships and still more world’s records in nearly all womens’ speed skating performances.

In girls’ sprinting competition, Rosa Grosse, Toronto, and Fanny Rosenfeld, Toronto, hold world’s records in 100 yards and 220 yards and could undoubtedly finish one-two in any open competition. Miss Bramley, Toronto, and Miss Rosenfeld, with training, could top the bar in most any high jump struggle. Miss Rosenfeld, Jean Godson, Toronto, and Miss Ballard, Montreal, would be an unbeatable combination in discuss, shot or javelin. Grace Connacher, Toronto, is an exceptional hurdler, while the world’s relay record for womens’ 440 yards was established in 1925 by the Canadian National Exhibition Team composed of Miss Dyment, of Jerseyville, Ontario, and Misses Cook, Rosenfeld and Grosse, of Toronto.

In womens’ athletics, Canadian girls, properly coached and working harmoniously, would be victorious over the British Isles, the United States, Czechoslovakia, Finland, France and any other land where woman suffrage stretches from legislative halls to stadium cinder paths.

So Canada is not sluggish in sport. She has champions in nearly all the “he-man” spheres. She is athletically sound in every respect save one. Does it mean anything to Canada, then, if her sons never break a world’s record in athletic competition?

It is generally assumed that every Canadian believes in the desirability of a well-developed manhood, but it may be asked why must we produce outstanding star athletes in order that a general development may result? Is it possible to have too keen a desire to hang up a new high level? The answer is that a record breaker or a world’s champion in sport becomes a national hero; his performances and pictures are widely discussed and scattered. The young lad idolizes his athletic ideal; he endeavors to emulate

his achievements, and in this effort, grows in strength and efficiency.

Variation in Diagnoses

ONE prominent Canadian authority, a member of the Olympic Committee and a leader in sport direction, believes that the principal reason for the comparatively poor showing of our runners and ; jumpers and heavers is the lack of suffi! cient competitions. He believes that the best developer is constant testing, and his belief is shared by other eminent advisers.

But there is another athletic school, and this includes many of the best athletes as well as directors and coaches, j which claims very strongly that Canada’s | athletic weakness is attributable not to j lack of competition but rather to faulty ! coaching. Adherents to this view emphaI tie-ally state that the Canadian lad who ¡ shows great promise is “burned out” by ] intensive training and constant racing.

The result is that when the youth should he in his prime and doing his best performances, he is almost a tired old man. The method adopted by some Canadian instructors is similar to the ancient Olympic methods. Prior to those historic Grecian games all athletes were rigidly trained for ten months preceding the event, and the last thirty days were spent at a special gymnasium where concentrated effort was expected. But the results were evidently similar to those emphasized by many Canadian authorities to-day for Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, in his discussion of games recorded this observation: “The evil of

excessive training in early years is strikingly proved by the example of the Olympic victors; for not more two or three of them have gained a prize both as boys and as men; their early training and severe gymnastic exercises exhausted their constitutions.”

Proper coaching at the beginning of a boy’s athletic career is absolutely essential. In the opinion of Canada’s greatest coach -Walter Knox—after learning style, the development should be steady—not rushed. There should be less gruelling struggles and more preparation. An athlete may have splendid natural ability, and with his own style he works up to a limit not quite equal to international standards. He does not continue improving. He loses interest and retires. W’ere he coached, he would see improvement and would appreciate that he was gettin» somewhere, and would continue.

But in addition to coaching there are other problems and a solution may be found in examining conditions in the United States. Ever since the Olympic revival in 1896, our Yankee cousins have steadily won the championship, and in some years her aggregate pointage has equalled a combination of all opposing nations. In the 1924 series the Americans won twelve firsts in twenty-six events, equalled one world’s record and established two new ones.

Climate, of course, has some bearing on such results. In Canada the outdoor training season is of about five months duration, from May to September inclusive. Indoor training is not beneficial, for floors have not the resiliency of cinder tracks, and there is a tendency to shock the muscles, and with short turns the danger of injury multiplies. In the southern States, however, the climate permits constant outdoor conditioning, and so the sunny south contributed nearly thirty of the last American Olympic Team.

The United States leans heavily upon educational institutions for its athletes. Fifty-seven members of her last great team were university students and many more were graduates.

Taking Them Young

TN THE United States—also in Finland 1 -—the athletic directors begin real early to select their stars. Three high school boys are now world’s champions. Expert scouts detect a phenomenon in a lower grade school. The lad is advised, inspired and is kept everlastingly at his specialty until he becomes able to do his act better than anyone else.

But, undoubtedly, the greatest factor of all in American success has been in the coaching. Her years of winning have re-

suited in a great accumulation of knowledge and style, and this is readily given to promising boys and developed intensively into them. Her professional coaches are capable men—fully qualified to teach the best methods essential to accomplishment.

What can Canada apply to herself?

Firstly, she must have the athletic material—and while the “world champs” are not actually visible, yet there are many promising prospects. The raw material awaits development.

Two of the brightest Canadian prospects are R. M. Mitchell, of Toronto, and Clifford Bricker, of Galt. Mitchell, a Toronto University student, only nineteen years of age, has won several one mile races in better than 4.30. On one occasion last summer, he started from scratch against thirty runners, ran all around the large field, and finished first in four minutes and twenty-six seconds. He won the Ontario championship in 4.25 2-5. Mitchell is Canada’s best miler since Tait and Orton, and in the opinion of experts will show sufficient speed to justify his presence at the Olympic games in Amsterdam in 1928. But he needs coaching to assist in knocking off another ten seconds.

Clifford Bricker, twenty-two years of age, has been winning races from five to fifteen miles with a consistency that is rarely found in middle distance running. He possesses courage, judgment, stamina and every attribute of a champion;

Harley Russell, Toronto, who has won the 100 yards and 220 yards Ontario Championships for two successive years, and has won eight 100 yard races in ten seconds flat, also is a splendid prospect. Shaughnessy, of Midland; St. Clair Davidson, of Listowel; Skeffington, a Toronto half-miler; Finlayson, a sprinting champion in both distances; Munro, an eighteen-year-old high jumper, credited with 5'11" indoors, are good Ontario lads who show evidences of being entitled to represent Canada on the dykes of Holland.

But all the good track and field athletes are not located in Ontario. Away down East athletic leaders are systematically planning and working to bring back to Canada its former cinder track prestige. And they have some real timber, too. Andrew Malcolm, of St. John, N.B., who won three firsts, one second and two thirds at the last Dominion championship, is putting the sixteen pound shot well up in the forties. Nathan Rubins, St. John, N.B., only a junior in age holds the Canadian mile championship. Colin Thomas, also a St. John citizen—only twenty years old—won the 1925 half-milp Dominion championship in two minutes and one fifth seconds. Lee Miller of Halifax, N.S., very young, will hit ten seconds flat in the 100 yards this year and will make an excellent prospect in both sprints at the next trials. And Phil McDonald, of Charlottetown, P.E.I.; H. Bayley, of St. John, N.B.; Len McDonald, of Sydney N.S.; and J. C. Miles, a middle distance runner from Sydney, N.S., will all carry the Maritime torch in the next National Games.

And the West is not going to allow Ontario or the Maritimes to monopolize the honors. Armstrong, formerly of Winnipeg, holds Canadian records for 50 and 60 yards; Cyril Coaffee, also of Manitoba, retains the fastest times in the 100 and 200 yards sprints and in 220 yards hurdles; Thomas Town, of Brandon, is 5000 metre record holder; the 880 yards relay honors are held by Winnipeg North End A.A.C.; R. S. Sheppard, of Edmonton Y.M.C.A., holds the standing high jump record of 5' 2 \ . So the West has

always produced top-notchers and can be depended upon to come through with some young stars to replace these old record holders.

What of Universities?

BUT the list of possibilities must be enlarged. Canadian universities are not producing their share. Well-educated men in their athletic prime should be worthy national representatives. But to-day the average student trains halfheartedly. He is glad to represent his year or his Alma Mater, hut when he graduates, he usually forgets his spikes and rarely joins any athletic club. Many a promising Canadian athlete has blossomed on a college campus but was unwilling to be transplanted into a larger and more competitive garden. And Canadian prestige has suffered.

Out of forty-five Canadian champion-

ships held by native Canadians not a single record holder competed for a university when the mark was established. It is true that some champions had at one time been university students, but it is more than passing strange that all the years of intercollegiate track and field competitions failed to produce a single national record. Who is responsible for the inability to develop to the limit this great natural resource, the college athlete?

Does the athlete receive suitable cooperation and direction from the executive generals? Many of them answer—no. Why is it that provincial and national finals are usually listless affairs? The Canadian Amateur Athletic Union championship games in 1925 were held in Halifax under the direction of the Wanderers A.A.C. But imagine the disappointment when only one athlete appeared from all the provinces other than Quebec and Maritimes. Could not better team-work be produced? Some of the boys also point out—whether rightly or not is open to question—that the Olympic Committee itself is an unwieldy body, composed of over forty members; that such a large group necessitates considerable delay in action; that athletes are sometimes selected by geographical location rather than ability; that the committee errs in choosing many athletes of ordinary prowess—who admittedly have no chance of success—rather than concentrating on a smaller but more promising group; that $52,000 was raised for Olympics Committee purposes in 1924 -that according to 1924 Annual Report of A.A.U. of C.—eighty-six Canadian athletes were sent to France—and only nine points obtained. The Olympic Committee officers are capable, public-spirited citizens but, from an outside viewpoint, was such an expenditure justified by results? Might it not have been better to have eliminated half the entries and used the saved revenue to conduct a real all Canadian championship that would have enabled sport to become a great welder in

Is the work of the Olympic Committee to be confined to raising funds, attending ¡ International conferences, gathering and ¡ selecting the actual team and arranging for their delivery in good condition at the athletic arenas of Europe? All these objects are necessary and worthy, but j would the committee not be even more ! helpful to the athlete and the nation if more direction was given to the discovery and the development of the athletic ore in between the four-year high spots? For instance, in the summer of 1924 the Paris games were completed. What direction did the Olympic Committee give during 1925 towards finding the timber for the 1928 crop? Was any attempt made to secure competent coaching? WTas any : enthusiasm developed?

uniting Canadian provinces? Or could ¡ not more money have been invested in scouting and coaching?

These problems are not of ordinary moment -affecting only those who are competitors -they are national questions the solution of which will have great bearing upon Canada’s international reputation.

Best Coaches Have Left

IF CANADA is going to treat her athletes fairly she must have the best teachers in the world—and Canada has ¡ produced some world renowned instrue! tors. Tom Eck is in Chicago; George I Orton at University of Pennsylvania; ! Earl Thompson is at Yale University; Harry Gill is at University of Illinois. And Walter Knox, once head Olympic coach for British Isles and now being utilized by Ontario Athletic Commission, is internationally famous. How many of these would be available if a national campaign was begun? What others could be secured? Canadian boys have the natural ability they need the coaching. Whether they get it—and get it during 1926 and 1927— will decide the issue of a renaissance in the athletic life of this Dominion or a continued decadence that will border on oblivion.