________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 4 . . . . October 10, 2008


Canadians in the Summer Olympics: Canada’s Athletes, Victories, Records, Controversies, Firsts and Weird Facts.

J. Alexander Poulton.
Montreal, PQ: Overtime Books/Éditions de la Montagne Verte (Distributed by Lone Pine Publishing), 2008.
189 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-1-897277-33-1.

Subject Headings:
Olympics-Participation, Canadian.

Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up.

Review by Ian Stewart.

**½ /4


In a world that idolizes and rewards its athletes with untold wealth and fame, winning had become everything, and Ben Johnson became the poster boy for a system that had gone wrong. In 1984 before he began to take drugs, Johnson was only good enough to finish in 3rd place behind rival Carl Lewis. In his mind, performance-enhancing drugs were the only way to achieve the recognition he wanted so badly. And he got it. But Johnson was recognized for all the wrong reason.

     No Canadians who watched Ben Johnson run the 100 meter race in the 1988 Seoul Olympics will forget the joy they felt as the young runner defeated the favored American, superstar Carl Lewis. They will also never forget the heart stopping moment they experienced when Johnson was stripped of his gold medal for steroid abuse. However, what most don't remember are the honest accomplishments of the other 10 Canadian athletes who lived their dream and, after years of training and effort, won an Olympic medal for themselves and their country.

J. Alexander Poulton's book is a testament to many of the often forgotten 242 Canadian athletes who won medals in the 21 Summer Olympic Games in which Canada has participated. In total, 4176 Canadian athletes have competed for medals in the Summer Olympics. The book's chapters cover track and field, aquatic events, the combat sports (boxing, wrestling and judo) and sailing. As well, Poulton devotes a chapter to athletes who have participated in the Paralympic Games, which were added to the Olympic calendar in1960. As well, we learn that Canadian athletes hold medals given for sports that are no longer part of the modern summer Olympics: two medals in art, one in golf and one for ice hockey ( believe it or not it was a Summer Olympic event).

     Winning an Olympic medal is a joyful event. Of course, there are many stories of athletes who only win a silver or bronze instead of the expected gold. But, as the excerpt on Ben Johnson's illustrates, some of the stories Poulton tells have heartbreaking endings, and a few speak to
the tragedies of our time.

     World record holder, multiple medal winner (Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988) and one of Canada's favorite athletes, Victor Davis was rundown in a parking lot after an argument in a Montreal bar. Black athlete Harry Jerome (Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964, Mexico 1968) battled racist smears from Canadian sports journalists. The story of Black-American Jesse Owns, in the racially charged 1936 Berlin Olympics, is well known; however, Canada's Phil Edwards (Amsterdam 1928, Los Angeles 1932, Berlin 1936) disproved the lies of Nazi superiority by medaling in the 1500 meter race.

     Some of the profiles seem to have been thrown in as simply fillers and their consequent skimpiness detracts from the overall quality of the book. However, on balance, this would be a worthwhile addition to any school or classroom library.


Ian Stewart teaches at David Livingstone School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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