B.C. athletes do us proud in London

By Ida Chong

Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development

VICTORIA – With the 2012 London Olympic Games just behind us and the Paralympics just ahead, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize our extraordinary British Columbia athletes whose strong performances ensured that B.C. was so well-represented.

B.C.-linked athletes – either those born and raised here or those who train here – brought in half of Canada’s total Olympic medals at the London Games. Of Canada’s 18 medals, our athletes earned nine, including six bronze and three silver. That amounts to a substantial increase in the percentage of medals won by B.C. athletes over previous Games. At the 2008 Beijing Games, B.C. athletes won 39 per cent of Canadian medals. At the Athens Games in 2004, B.C. won 25 per cent; and at the 2000 Sydney Games, B.C. earned 21 per cent of the nation’s medals. We are clearly on an upward trend.

As the minister responsible for sport, I couldn’t be more proud of our Olympians. I extend my warmest congratulations to all of our athletes for their incredible and well-deserved successes. In particular, I congratulate our medallists: Christine Girard, Brent Hayden, Ryan Cochrane, Carol Huynh, Richard Weinberger, the men’s and women’s eight rowers, the women’s team pursuit cycling team, and, of course, Canada’s heroic women’s soccer team.

But these Olympic Games were about more than medals. Although we all cheer for our athletes and hope for their success, we must also recognize that the Olympics are about inspiration. The intensity of our athletes’ training regimens is difficult for many of us to imagine. But we see their dedication to their sports and their sheer determination and we are inspired.

National heroes such as Simon Whitfield and Paula Findlay have helped the sport of triathlon grow for both competitive and recreational participants. In B.C. alone, membership in triathlon has grown by more than 98 per cent since Simon Whitfield’s gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Games. As Victoria diver Riley McCormick has said, he was inspired to get into diving because of the 1994 Commonwealth Games in his hometown.

How many young people watching the 2012 London Olympics will be inspired to pursue a sport, possibly ending up in international competition down the road?

The Olympics are also about sport at the local level. They are about elevating the awareness and stature of each sport, as our Vancouver-based women’s soccer team so resoundingly did at the Games. Our government works to ensure that athletes have the opportunity to realize their potential. Each Olympic and Paralympic athlete in British Columbia receives provincial support through our network of Canadian Sport Centres and through provincially funded support services and programs. Most have also benefitted from provincial government funding as they have participated in and risen through provincial sport organizations, often from childhood.

And we continue to fund sport. Our government will provide more than $50 million in sport funding during this fiscal year. We have invested more than $1 billion in sport since 2001. Our memories of our own Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2010 are strong, and we understand how important high-performance sport is to British Columbians. That is why we continue to work with athletes, coaches, and sport organizations to ensure that our high-performance athletes have the opportunity to excel on the world stage.

Clearly, our sport system is working in British Columbia. Our athletes have proven that in spectacular fashion with their determined performances that rank them at the top of the national medal standings.

I congratulate all B.C. Olympic athletes and our honoured flag-bearers Simon Whitfield and Christine Sinclair, both from British Columbia. I wish the greatest success to our B.C. Paralympic athletes whose moments of glory are still to come starting Aug. 29.