Olympics 100: Canada at the Summer Games.
All grades / All ages.
If Canada had any political, economic or cultural clout in the world, Chariots of Fire would have been about Percy Williams in 1928 at Amsterdam and not Britons Harold Abrahamson and Eric Liddell at Paris in 1924. Williams was a sickly wisp of an eighteen-year old at just 110 pounds when he was discovered at a school meeting in Vancouver by high school coach Bob Granger just two years before the Amsterdam Olympics.
I suppose also that it is typical that a Canadian should have won the first gold medal ever and nobody knows about it. It was the Paris Olympics of 1900 and George Orton won the gold medal in the 2500m steeplechase, the first medal ever given in the modern Olympic era. Oh yes, there was one slight twist, Orton, a Canadian, was competing for the Americans. He was captain of the University of Pennsylvania's track team and was chosen by the Americans to be part of their team, which was mostly made up of university students. Still today, his accomplishments are listed as Canadian and George Orton is another unknown Canadian hero.
The definitive work on the modern Olympic Games is the documentary series by Bud Greenspan. His work sets the standard against which all must be measured. But Cleve Dheensaw comes close. He follows the Greenspan model in that he reports on the important and universally memorable events in each Olympics. We briefly relive the tragedy of the Munich Games, the triumphs of the Barcelona games and the joy of the Melbourne games. We exult with Fanny Bankers-Koen and stagger to the finish line with Dorado Petri. In addition, Dheensaw gives us the Canadian highlights, from George Orton to Percy Williams to Doug Read to Elaine Tanner and, of course, Ben Johnson.
Despite some severe shortcomings - a style more reminiscent of television or radio reporting, no index, too few pictures and no medals tables - this is an enjoyable book. There are some wonderful stories of the triumph of the human spirit. In our time, this is best exemplified by Silken Laumen, who won a bronze medal less than two months after suffering a leg injury that should have kept her out of competition for at least eight months.
This book is highly recommended for those people, including children, interested in learning more about Canada's Olympic athletes.
Marsha Kaiserman is Head of Conferences Cataloguing at Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) in Ottawa.
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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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