Hosted by veteran broadcasters Scott Russell and Andi Petrillo, Road to the Olympic Games chronicles athletes’ journeys on and off the field of play. Here’s what to look for on this weekend’s show on CBC Television and CBCSports.ca.
“Most young Canadians are born with skates on their feet,” former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson once famously declared, “…rather than with silver spoons in their mouths.”
He was probably talking mostly about ice hockey, of which he was both an ardent admirer and accomplished player. But there is speculation Pearson had a more universal notion in mind which included the artistry of figure skating and the raw, race against the clock, embodied in speed skating.
Speed skating on the long track, or oval as it has come to be known, is the most productive sport in Canadian Olympic history. At every edition of the Winter Games, which began in 1924 in Chamonix, France, Canadians have been represented in speed skating, not even the dominant Dutch can claim that.
There have been 35 Canadian speed skating medals won in that span, eight of them gold, and athletes from this country have not been shut out from the Olympic speed skating podium since the 1992 Games in Albertville, France.
That’s a successful run of a quarter of a century and counting.
For Team Canada, long track speed skating is the beast of burden that, like clockwork, delivers the goods when the Olympics roll around.
A case can be made that a significant troop of iconic, even legendary, figures in Canadian Olympic folklore has come from the sport of long track speed skating. In Sochi, it was the unselfishness of Gilmore Junio that led to the triumph of his teammate Denny Morrison. In Torino 2006, Cindy Klassen set a record by winning five medals at a single edition of the Games. At the Salt Lake City Games of 2002, Catriona Le May Doan became the first Canadian to repeat an individual gold medal in the same event in Olympic history.
The great Gaetan Boucher