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ROBIN SHORT: Joke’s on us, but it’s not funny

Canada Games Council
Canada Games Council - Contributed

Time for province to withdraw from Canada Games; if there’s no commitment from government, why should we even bother?

Enough with the pretense. It’s time to end the charade.

It’s time for Newfoundland and Labrador to withdraw from the Canada Games program. Let’s bring an end to the stale joke.

The medal totals have been declining yearly, and there’s nothing to suggest the slide won’t end anytime soon.

As of this writing Friday, this province had won two medals at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta.

Two.

A Special Olympics figure skating gold, and a judo bronze.

That may change over the weekend as Nathan Young’s team has been one of the top rinks in the curling competition, in the thick of it to win a Canada Games curling medal for the first time since 1999 when Ryan Ledrew skipped his team to a bronze medal in Corner Brook.

Who can forget that winter in Corner Brook, when this host province won 19 medals?

The provincial government invested heavily in the Games program in the years leading up to 1999; the rewards were a record medal haul.

It’s been pretty much downhill after that — four medals in the 2003 Bathurst-Campbellton, N.B. Games; three in 2007 Whitehorse, Yukon; five in 2011 Halifax and four in 2015 Prince George, B.C.

The commitment to the Canada Games program and our athletes from the provincial government is disgraceful, and it’s showing in the results.

That lack of commitment was on full display a couple of years ago when the province took a pass on playing host to the 2021 Summer Games, when it was Newfoundland and Labrador’s turn to host (that’s a first in Games history, by the way).

Instead, those Games were deferred to Ontario, where they will be held in the Niagara region two years from now.

Consequently, Newfoundland will take Ontario's slot for the Summer Games, meaning this province will now stage the 2025 summer event.

And there are many within sporting circles doubtful those Games will even fly.

So if the commitment from the folks up at Confederation Building is at best dubious, let’s pull out now. Time to say adios.

You’re in either in, or you’re out.

And we’re out.

If our ill-prepared athletes are sent to the Canada Games every two years, only to be embarrassed with losses to the Northwest Territories and P.E.I., then it’s time to ditch the program.

The investment in sport and recreation — an investment in health, really — displayed by this province is pitiful.

The provincial training centre — the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Centre in St. John’s — is in place only through the enormous efforts of Dr. Pat Parfrey, and contributions from some of the provincial sports governing bodies.

The province, despite the harsh climate in which we live, has no indoor Field Turf facility. The Techniplex, of which we need another two or three province-wide, is private enterprise.

Equally pitiful is the funding athletes in this province receive for training.

Our athletes, in other words, have few qualified structures in which to train, and fewer opportunities to travel for training and competition.

Is it no wonder we’re doomed for failure?

Some of the sports need to shoulder a certain degree of blame for their inability to compete at the Canada Games level, their refusal to engage in training and coaching programs reasons, in part, for the now-routine ninth- and 10th-place finishes.

Given Newfoundland and Labrador’s population base, and the endless resources at the disposal of other provinces, it is delusional to believe this province can consistently compete with Ontario, Quebec and Alberta .

But is not unreasonable to expect our athletes to be the best-conditioned at the Games, and our coaches to be the best prepared.

It gives us a bit of a competitive edge, and we could use every advantage.

But it doesn’t make a difference now.

It’s time to walk. Time to take the scraps this province has allotted for Canada Games and disperse them to the sports to use how they see fit.

Because there’s no point trying to maintain this parody any longer.

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email robin.short@thetelegram.com Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort


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