Canada’s Pan Am apathy: almost 800 representatives competed at last month’s event, but did any one back home even notice?

ADAM PELESHATY
The Manitoban (University of Manitoba)

WINNIPEG (CUP) — If you turned on the TV or read the newspaper from Oct. 14 to 30, you would have been hard-pressed to find signs of the XVI Pan American Games’ existence.

This year’s games, which were held in Guadalajara, Mexico, were the last high-profile event for Canadian athletes before next year’s Summer Olympics in London. Canada sent 794 athletes, coaches and other support staff to the competition.

Unfortunately, many papers in Canada reduced the Pan Am Games to single articles about Canadian medal winners from the previous day and completely ignored some of the great stories involving our nation’s athletes.

Stories such as the women’s 4×100-metre relay swim team wearing Mexican wrestler masks before their silver-medal winning race or Dylan Armstrong, the world’s leading shot putter, defending his Pan Am title with an event record throw were ignored by the media.

There was nothing significant written about Winnipeg diver Kevin Geyson returning to the water after being hit by a car this past summer or the women’s soccer team winning gold in its first major event since a disastrous World Cup last summer.

The men’s baseball team also won its first-ever Pan Am Games gold medal. With baseball now excluded from the Olympics, pitcher Scott Richmond stated, “This is our Olympics.” Their accomplishment should have been celebrated by Canadians, instead of being relegated to the sports briefs.

Even coverage of the games on television or articles discussing Guadalajara’s performance as the host city were lacking.

However, there may have been a few reasons for the lack of coverage.

The Pan Am Games don’t usually attract the best athletes. Canada often sends developmental teams to the event, including this year.

Media may also have been wary of travelling to Guadalajara, one of the centres of Mexico’s drug war.

This lack of media attention, of course, is unfortunate because the event could have been the starting point of Canadian Olympic success stories in the future.

For instance, Canada and Argentina played for a direct Olympic berth and a gold medal in men’s field hockey — and this year, Argentina won.

Athletes can also claim Olympic berths by meeting qualifying standards in sports such as track and field and swimming or they can simply use the games to gain international experience. Out of the 18 Canadian medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics, 10 were won by athletes with previous Pan Am medals. Therefore, success at this event could translate to Olympic success either next year in London or in 2016 in Rio.

While many Canadian sports fans may have missed out on this year’s event, the next Pan American Games will be hosted by Toronto in 2015.

Hopefully the Canadian media will be more aware of its existence.


Graphic: Devon Kerslake/The Manitoban