I was 10 years old in 1988, living in a tiny Manitoba town. It was a rare occasion that the Summer Olympics were occurring in Seoul and Calgary hosting the Winter Games, and from a sport perspective it was an exciting time. There are two points that vividly stand out in my mind from that year, specifically around the Summer and Winter Games. The first was watching Ben Johnson run the 100m. Regardless of the outcome, at 10 years old I could not comprehend the ramifications of the positive test and its effects on Canadian Track. Johnson running the hundred, the camera flashing and his convincing win has forever been imprinted in my mind. The second, was the events surrounding the ’88 winter games. We had a kid, a few years older than me, from a town over that was asked to carry to torch during the relay. When you are from a small prairie town, this was an event of momentous significance. I remember the articles about him, the pride around the surrounding towns. At that time, my parents owned a little general store and gas station. The gasoline supplier left complimentary ’88 Olympic toques and I wore mine with pride. As the games were on, I loved to trace the Calgary ’88 logo, and draw pictures of Andy Moog, who was the team Canada goalie at those games. In 1988, at 10 years old, I fell in love with sport.
Eventually that 10-year-old boy, who stayed in love with sport, grew. Growing up in a small town meant that I played all school sports; without everyone participating we could not field a team. It was a blessing that I did not realize until many years later. To be better at any of the given sports I was introduced to a book called Getting Stronger by Bill Pearl and began “training”. As I reflect on my training now, I had no idea what I was doing right or wrong back then, but I trained, because I loved sports in general. In a small town in 1994, training was a foreign concept, and often if I was riding my bike out of town for conditioning, the farm trucks would stop and ask if I needed a ride. Graduating in 1996 I went to University and knew I wanted to do something in sport. There was nothing else that remotely interested me, however there was no direct route or jog progression to sport scientist / strength and conditioning coach. But my passion took control and I was determined to figure a path out. All part time jobs I had an aspect of coaching, from working at the local YMCA in the after-school sport programs to traveling across the country in the summer coaching goalie specific summer camps. I was blessed to help inspire kids to love sport and physical activity as much as I did.
In 2005, at the end of my third degree (Exercise and Sport Science), all direction pointed to a move west. Calgary to be specific. In Calgary training was not a foreign concept as it was happening at all levels, grass roots to high performance/ professional. There were a few aspects that stood out when I came to Calgary in 2005. First was the immense amount of pride left from hosting the ’88 games. I worked at Talisman (now Repsol) and one of the highlights I showed friends and family when they visited was one of the original ’88 torches in a showcase at the centre. The second thing I realized when I first came to Calgary was the legacy left from the ’88 games. Kids were gifted the ability to try sports that I did not know existed. In Calgary cross-country ski was a sport. At home in Manitoba, it was an activity that occurred once a year, for a week, when the school board brought the skis to the school. Daily I was able to witness Olympic athletes training and I remember asking a friend, “How do I work with them?” I eventually moved to the University of Calgary to pursue a Masters in Kinesiology and entered I was finally in the mecca of High Performance Sport. U of C, home of the Human Performance Lab, Canadian Sport Centre Calgary, the Influences of Dr. David Smith, Dr. Stephan Norris, Rosie Neil, Matt Jordan, Scott Maw, Stuart McMillan, was where I finally felt like I belonged.
It has now been 10 years. I have been gifted the opportunity to live a life that I could not have imagined at 10 years old, sitting in a living room watching the Games. I have worked all the way from the development grass roots level of sport to High Performance and Professional. I have worn the Canadian Maple leaf with pride at locations across North America and Europe. I watch athletes inspire young kids at our facility daily, but I also have seen those same athletes inspired by the next generation of athletes. I am grateful that my daughters have the ability when they are older to try sports that I would not have at their age. As much as I show family and friends the mountains, I still take people to see the Olympic venues; the Oval, the Ski Jumps and the facility at Winsport. Bill Warren at the Nordic Centre is still in my top two favorite gyms I have ever been to. My family and I have been fortunate to attend World Cup sporting events here in Calgary; the world’s best competing in our home town. Once again, something that at 10 years old I thought only occurred on CBC Wide World of Sports.
I read a lot of rhetoric about the down fall of hosting an Olympic game; fear of the costs, the hardships in the economy, etc. And yes, I am biased working in sport at the National level where my athletes, friends, colleagues and I will benefit from hosting the games at home. But as someone who has come from out of province, out of city, to see a legacy that has remained in place since 1988, it is truly amazing. 30 years later the facilities are still functioning. The original logo I traced as a young boy is still found around the city, not lost to pictures or archived, and is a source of pride and a symbol of Calgary spirit. I write this as I sit at the Olympic Oval overlooking the ice and watch skaters on both the long and short track. On the second rink, the U of C Dinos run their summer hockey camp with kids no older than 10 years. And not one of these athletes here today are on a National team. They are here training, dreaming to one day compete at an Olympic Games. For all the negative reports and posts that occur around the decision to host the 2026 Games, there are those of us who have been shaped by the Olympics, and by sport. Facilities that have been left by ’88 have become areas where young kids come to dream and be inspired from events that happen long before they were born. We see the benefits that have been left by ’88 and see a rejuvenation of the pride, spirit and infrastructure that would come from hosting 2026. The benefits of hosting greatly outweigh and preconceived consequences. I see a legacy of individuals and the city continue to benefit from the facilities, and buildings that will remain when the games are over. This is not a situation where Calgary is starting from scratch yet renewing our commitment and spirit that started back in ’88. Having the world visit Calgary in 2026 continues the legacy juggernaut for 30 more years and establishes Calgary’s place in history as one of the world’s greatest cities to live in, and a recreational haven for all activity seekers. Hosting the Games in 2026 brings about the hope that a new generation of kids watching in their homes can grow up and experience a life they never knew could be possible, as I did 30 years ago.