Inspiring the Future – It’s a Team Effort


August 3rd, 2021

If you’re like me, you might still be feeling somewhat groggy today after staying awake late Sunday night to watch Canada’s Women’s National Team oust the four-time Olympic champions from the United States in the women’s soccer semifinal at Tokyo 2020. Long gone are the days where I could do the good old university all-nighter with little to no effects the next few days. Yet this night of forlorn sleep was worth it.

It was a 1-0 victory that will go down in history as one of the most important in Canadian soccer history. When team captain Christine Sinclair – the Burnaby-born and raised Queen of Canadian Soccer – gave the ball to Jessie Fleming and asked her to take a penalty kick in the 74th minute, the eyes of a nation – at least the eyes of those awake – were peeled on the 23-year-old midfielder from London, Ont.

Combined with the solid goaltending of Stephanie Labbe of Edmonton, Alta. and the leadership of players like Sinclair and Torontonian Ashley Lawrence, Fleming’s game winner sent the women’s national team into its first-ever Olympic gold-medal match and the country into a soccer-induced frenzy.

It was the kind of moment that becomes known as an iconic moment in Canadian sports history; a hall of fame moment, so to speak.

That semifinal win and Thursday night’s gold medal final against Sweden will be forever enshrined in the lore of the Canadian national women’s team and soccer history in this country. Win or lose, this team will have inspired many more young girls and women – and boys and men – to play soccer in Canada, just as it did by winning bronze at London 2012 and Rio 2016, and by making the quarter-finals at the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup.

They exemplify the mantra of the BC Sports Hall of Fame – inspiring the future.

That’s true to varying extents of every medal won and every performance – on and off the podium – at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

It’s also true of our friends at Canadian Sport Institute Pacific, operated by President & CEO Wendy Pattenden – who doubles as an executive member of the Board of Trustees of the BC Sports Hall of Fame – and chaired by Lance Macdonald of Kelowna, B.C. Canadian Sport Institute Pacific does its own share of inspiring the future by lending its many athlete services and sport science resources to approximately half of Team Canada at these Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

That means that Canadian Sport Institute Pacific is overperforming when it comes to generating success stories for B.C.-born, B.C.-trained or B.C.-resident athletes. For a province with 13 per cent of the Canadian population, 52% of Canada’s Olympic team is linked to British Columbia. That includes 49% of Team Canada athletes who receive services from Canadian Sport Institute Pacific or a member of the PacificSport Regional Alliance in Victoria, Nanaimo, Fraser Valley, Okanagan in Kelowna, Interior in Kamloops and Northern B.C. in Prince George. Those numbers represent the highest percentage of B.C. affiliated athletes in the Canadian Olympic Committee history.

Of 370 athletes in Tokyo, 192 have a direct connection to B.C. A total of 131 athletes list B.C. as their home province or current residence and 182 have received sport science, sport medicine and other athlete services provided by Canadian Sport Institute Pacific or a member of the PacificSport Regional Alliance. Needless to say, it’s working. The proportion of Team Canada athletes connected to CSI Pacific is about four times what you’d expect based on share of national population. The service percentage when it comes to athletes winning medals is even more impressive. At the Rio 2016 Olympics, 50% of Canada’s 22 medals were won by B.C.-affiliated athletes and in PyeongChang 2018, 28% of the athletes had a BC connection and they won 38% of Canada’s medals. The service provided by CSI Pacific extends to Paralympians, where the corresponding B.C. numbers are similar at recent Paralympic Games.

There are multiple factors contributing to this powerhouse of athlete services, from the year-round climate for outdoor training and facilities and equipment to a high percentage of top-rated sport scientists and sport medicine practitioners residing and operating in British Columbia and the Team BC model associated with the BC Summer and Winter Games. Credit also goes to the annual investment of $50 million to sport by the Government of British Columbia and the collaboration model that has made high performance monies even more effective and efficient in partnership with National Sport Federations (NSFs) and Provincial Sport Organizations (PSOs).

Big shoutout and congratulations to Pattenden and her entire team of sport scientists and athlete services professionals, including the team of eight who are at Tokyo 2020 in the culmination of the toughest 18 months in their careers: Physician Dr. Paddy McCluskey; Dr. Trent Stellingwerff – Physiologist & IST Lead; fellow physiologists Dr. Gareth Sandford and Wendy Pethick; Christie Gialloreto and Alex Hodgins in Mental Performance; Zach Kalthoff in Strength & Conditioning; and Ryan Brodie in Performance Technology and on the Canadian Olympic Committee Core Mission Team.

These sport scientists and the rest of the CSI Pacific team are only helping to consolidate B.C.’s status as a hotbed for Canadian high performance sport. They are paying off huge dividends in the percentage of athletes representing Canada in the Olympics and in the ratio of athletes winning medals. And by doing that, it is going to give our selection committees at the BC Sports Hall of Fame plenty to think about in the coming years, especially given the tremendous concentration of high performance athletes – and success stories — that are calling B.C. home.

Tom Mayenknecht is the Chair of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. A principal at Emblematica Brand Builders in Vancouver and a nationally-recognized sport business commentator and founder and host of The Sport Market sport business radio show, he is a strong advocate for KidSport, Right To Play and other children’s charities. He is also a member of the Ringette Canada Hall of Fame as a builder and Chair of the Paul Carson Sports Broadcast & Media Awards.