Today the Canadian Olympic Committee announced the ‘Randy Starkman Olympian Humanitarian Award’ in honour of the late accolade-winning amateur sports reporter. The award will be given out every Olympic year to one male and one female who are role models on and off the field of play. Being a great person and a good athlete were traits Randy valued.
The first edition of the award will be presented at the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame Gala Induction Ceremony, in June.
“Wanna granola bar?”
I glance over at the scruffy fellow a few tables back, clutching a handful of chocolate chip chewys. He is sort of dishevelled, in his loose navy polo shirt. I don’t usually take food from strangers, (Mama said…), but there is a mix of concern and warmth in his voice. “Sure,” I say, “…thanks.” He tosses over the snack, in reflective wrapping, slightly smushed out of shape from its place in his bag. “Always gotta have granola bars,” he announces, “you never know how long these things are gonna go.”
That was my first experience of Randy Starkman. It was the 2012 Olympic Swimming Trials in Montreal. It would turn out to be the last sport event he would cover.
I remember noticing him before the granola bar exchange. He was vocal and well-prepared. He seemed comfortable in the dim media room, tucked away from the humid pool deck. Out in the mixed zone I noticed a curious thing. The swimmers would do a handful of TV and radio interviews right after their races. Still dripping wet, with the lactic acid slowly gripping their muscles they could have understandably passed by the waiting reporters for the comforts of the warm-down pool. Every single one stopped to talk to Randy.
At one point in the competition, then World Record holder Annamay Pierse crept reluctantly into the media room. Her face glistened with tears. She’d missed the team in her main event. Randy went about conducting one of the most considerate yet fair interviews I’ve ever seen.
Only weeks later Randy would pass away at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, after being diagnosed with pneumonia upon return from Montreal.
I’d hardly have the material to write a sweeping tribute to Randy, I only worked along side him once. But that is the point. Over that week he made a great impression on me. I still keep granola bars in my bag. You never know when you’ll need one.
But don’t take it from me, here is what some of Canada’s best Olympians have said since his passing:
“I am really proud of my friendship with Randy, he was an incredible family man, an inspiring journalist and a very special friend to so many Canadian athletes like myself,” – Adam van Koeverden
I knew Randy for so many years. He knew the real person behind the athlete. I saw Randy a week before he died. To be able to talk to him to have him know that he was telling the real story that was the most important thing. – Catriona Le May Doan
I loved having interviews with Randy. He was so easy to speak to, I sometimes had to remind myself that he was part of the media. – Alex Bilodeau
We trusted Randy. He believed in amateur athletics and he believed in promoting it. We could tell that he was inspired by us and we, in turn, were inspired by what he was doing. That was the allure of Randy. When he was around you gave him whatever he wanted and he gave you everything he could back. – Ben Rutledge