SPORTS

Finishing third in a small pond

Matthew Fisher October 18 1982
SPORTS

Finishing third in a small pond

Matthew Fisher October 18 1982

Finishing third in a small pond

SPORTS

Matthew Fisher

Predictably, Prince Philip called them the Friendly Games, but they did not always live up to the motto. A State of Queensland police force, reminiscent of Mississippi troopers in the 1950s, arrested aborigines during peaceful demonstrations over land rights. Inside Brisbane’s Queen Elizabeth II Stadium and at other venues for the XII Commonwealth Games, there was no more camaraderie. A runner from the Cayman Islands was shoved into the infield by irate competitors during the 10,000-m race when he would not yield as the others lapped him twice.

England’s Daley Thompson, the decathlon world record holder, boycotted the traditional victor’s press conference after a feud with British scribes earlier about his refusal to carry his nation’s standard at the opening ceremonies. Two Scottish cyclists staged a punchup, and Victor Davis, Canada’s world record breaststroke holder, kicked a chair at poolside—and it skittered by satellite from sea to sea, while Queen Elizabeth looked on uncomfortably.

There were winners, of a sort. Australia won the most medals, and England placed second. Canada was relegated to third, a disappointment after the team’s first-place finish at the Edmonton Games in 1978 (see chart).

Canada’s decline resulted from the disappointing performances by swimmers, weight lifters and cyclists and because of the exclusion of gymnastics from the Games. In 1978 Canada won gold in all seven gymnastics events. Only in two sports did Canada live up to preGames expectations—wrestling and track and field. “I think a lot of us knew as early as 1977 that the momentum we had leading up to the Montreal Olympics in 1976 was not going to last forever,” said Sport Canada’s director,

Abby Hoffman. “We’ve done about as well as we could have expected but we could be doing much better in a number of

sports, particularly in our very best sport, swimming.”

Hoffman and many of the Canadian coaches feel one reason for the sobering slide in international sport was Canada’s boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. “What we missed,” says Hoffman, “was the quadrennial stocktaking. That will occur now.”

The outcome for Canada fell short of disaster. The only Games world record was set by swimmer Alex (Sasha) Baumann of Sudbury, Ont., who knocked more than half a second off his own record in the 200-m individual medley. Two Canadian fighters with professional potential, Shawn O’Sullivan of Toronto and Willie deWit of Grande Prairie, Alta., won their gold-medal matches with devastating knockout punches.

Edmonton Games - 1978

GOLD SILVER BRONZE TOTAL

45

27

24

5

31

28

33

7

33

33

27

9

109

88

84

21

Brisbane Games - 1982

39

38

26

8

5

39

38

23

6

8

29

32

33 12 13

107

108 82 26 26

CANADA ENGLAND AUSTRALIA NEW ZEALAND

AUSTRALIA ENGLAND CANADA SCOTLAND NEW ZEALAND

Two other gold medallists, Johanne Falardeau of Quebec City and Claire Backhouse of Vancouver, battled two of the best in the world to win the women’s doubles badminton competition. Canadian wrestlers won five of the 10 weight classes and were medallists in four of the five others. Worldclass high jumpers Milt Ottey of Toronto and Debbie Brill of Midway, B.C., faced greater opposition than expected but triumphed anyway. Shot-putter Bruno Pauletto from Sept lies, Que., arrived from his coaching job in Tennessee only 48 hours before his event. But he too went away as a convincing winner.

Mark McKoy, a 110-m hurdler from Toronto, via Jamaica, set a new Commonwealth record, as did double gold medallist Angella Taylor. The Toronto sprinter won the 100-m event in 11 seconds flat. Then, in the last race of the Games, Taylor inched Australia’s golden girl, Raelene Boyle, in the 400-m relay.

Throughout the competition Canadian and Australian swimmers took to singing the Mickey Mouse theme at each other amid juvenile claims about medal performance. The Aussies came closest to their boast, with 12 firsts to nine for Canada.

Next summer Canada will prepare for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles by sending large teams to two competitions—the Pan-American Games in Caracas, Venezuela, and the World Student Games in Edmonton. Both gatherings will provide higher standards than the socalled Friendly Games, and Canada cannot hope even to match the performance in Brisbane.

“Without being too pessimistic,” says Hoffman, “if we are able to crack the top 12 in Los Angeles, we would be doing very well. However, there are only 22 months until the Olympics. We need to start taking a good hard look now at where we want to be in 1986 and 1988”—presumably facing friendly rivals.