"Athletes - More than Just Medals"
by Dr. Brian S. Seaman, DC, FCCSS(C), FICC
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Sports role models inspire young Canadians to reach
There is no doubt that we all get excited when Canadian
athletes succeed at international competitions, world
championships, and especially the Olympics.
For an athlete, there is no greater honour than representing
their country. Succeeding in competition and reaching
the podium, in particular after giving a gold medal
performance, is the ultimate achievement.
However, getting to the podium takes years of hard training,
dedication, focus, adequate funding, and mental preparation,
along with top-level coaching and equipment. A support
system of family and friends, and a network of expert
health-care professionals (including a rising number
of sports chiropractors) are also very important to
On the world stage, the top athletes are very close
in terms of their performance. At the 2004 Athens Summer
Olympics, for example, the average difference (i.e.,
weight lifted, race time, height jumped, etc.) between
the gold medallists and those who just missed the podium
(4th place) was only one per cent. That's not much,
At that level of competition, physical training is obviously
important but mental preparation and focus represents
the split between medalling and going home empty-handed.
But there is another side to the story. Athletes are
more than just the medals they win. I have had the privilege
of representing not only Canada but also the chiropractic
profession at a number of national and international
events including the Pan American Games and the Olympics.
As a result, I have seen first-hand that all of our
athletes are great ambassadors for Canada. They are
outstanding individuals, personable and accommodating,
who make excellent role models for our young people.
These people are modest about their athletic achievements
as well as about the work that they do, largely behind
the scenes and without expectation of acknowledgement.
THE ESTEEM TEAM
The Esteem Team Association (ETA) offers a national
program through which athlete role models annually deliver
more 1,000 presentations across the country. It all
started as a dream of Olympic wrestler Chris Wilson
in 1994, when he began inspiring students in British
Columbia schools with his experiences in high-performance
sport. The program was further expanded in 2001 with
the support of Sport Canada.
Research has demonstrated that, when asked to name role
models, young people will most often choose athletes.
A variety of positive values such as sportsmanship and
fair play, integrity and respect, courage and composure,
character development and maturity are instilled by
The stated goal of the Esteem Team is to motivate younger
generations of Canadians to reach their full potential.
The ETA's mission is "youth development through
sport and education." Team members speak about
setting and achieving goals, overcoming challenges,
dealing with disappointment, and making the right decisions
THE PERSONAL TOUCH
Two-time Olympian and world champion kayaker Karen Furneaux
trains at Cheema Aquatic Club in Waverly, Nova Scotia.
A member of the Esteem Team, she frequently touches
the lives of young people by meeting with groups of
students in Nova Scotia.
Before leaving for last year's summer Olympics, Karen
promised a young kayaker that after getting back from
Athens she would take her out in a K2. Despite her busy
schedule, Karen was true to her word, and showed up
at Banook Canoe Club in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia to surprise
my daughter, who was just finishing up her own workout.
In CJ's words, paddling with Karen was "way cooler"
than anything else she could have thought of that day.
More importantly, it also provided memories that she
will cherish forever.
Karen is not the only Olympian who adds the personal
touch to the communities and the children who look up
to them. Adam Van Koeverden (Olympic champion and 2004
Canadian Athlete of the Year), who trains at the Burloak
Canoe Club, surprised a youngster in Ontario last fall.
The young fellow had decided, after much thought, to
go out on Halloween dressed as Adam, complete with a
papier mâché kayak. After being shown a
photograph of the boy, Adam phoned him for a friendly
chat (Source: Glen Benison, Paddles Up, January 2005).
Sometimes the little things make such a difference -
especially to impressionable young people.
So, the next time you see our athletes competing on
the international stage, be sure to cheer them on! Not
only do they represent our nation but they are an integral
part of our communities from coast to coast. In other
words, they are far more than just medals.
Reprinted by permission of Canadian Chiropractor