Team Canada won a lot of medals at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.
Although not every one of the 715 athletes got to stand on a medal podium, just about all will take away valuable experience and unforgettable memories from Canada’s latest Games.
Here are 10 things that made TO2015 amazing for athletes:
1. Home crowd support
Every athlete interviewed in a mixed zone after competing couldn’t say enough about the cheers and applause and what that meant to them. They are so used to seeing other athletes enjoy that kind of support at World Cups and World Championships (in Europe especially) so it was extremely special for them to get to experience that feeling here.
2. Competing for family & friends
There’s nothing better for an athlete than having mom and dad, brothers and sisters, neighbours who have seen them develop over the years, get a chance to watch them compete at a world-class event and be there for a post-event congratulatory or consoling hug.
3. Compete (and train) in legacy venues
The track cycling, BMX and swimming teams in particular were thrilled with their facilities and what it means for the future. The track cyclists are no longer nomads, constantly on the road looking for a world class venue in which to train. The previous closest velodrome that met top UCI standards was in Los Angeles. The BMX riders were gushing about having a World Cup-calibre track in the eastern part of the country to go along with the one in Abbotsford, BC. Toronto-based swimmers (such as Martha McCabe) no longer have to move to Victoria or Vancouver to train.
4. Learning how to win
Every athlete that leaves Toronto 2015 with a medal will also leave with more confidence and belief in their ability to win. They know now that they can perform under pressure. That is a huge stepping stone for any athlete to be consistently successful, especially at the Olympic Games.
5. Rio 2016 dress rehearsal
These Pan Am Games were a great preview of what an Olympic environment is like. Loud, powerful, intense. A record number of Canadian athletes got to experience an Olympic-type atmosphere before ever setting foot on the Olympic stage. They now have an idea of what to expect in Rio, both with regards to fan reaction and what it is like to live in a village, eat in a dining hall (which featured incredible food options), ride the buses to the venues.
6. Olympic qualification
There were 10 sports that had Olympic quota spots on the line for Rio 2016. A number of Canadian teams/athletes were successful in securing these spots (a complete number will be tabulated at the end of the Games), meaning that they can relax and compete for the next 12 months without the pressure of having to earn Olympic qualification.
7. Buzz about Canadian summer athletes
In a country in which summer athletes are generally not as well-recognized as winter sport stars, this was a great opportunity for these athletes to get on the front pages of newspapers and be talked about as sporting heroes.
8. An uniform they could wear with pride
The Hudson’s Bay kit was a resounding success with athletes tweeting about it when they were finished with their outfitting sessions.
9. Non-Olympic sports getting their due
For sports such as squash, water skiing and karate, the Pan Am Games are the biggest event these athletes will ever compete at. Having very little attention paid to them at all (not even every four years like most summer Olympic sports do) Toronto 2015 was a great opportunity to expose their sports to new fans and new potential participants, as well as potential sponsors and funding opportunities.
10. Canada House
Instead of being seen as second-class because these are “just” the Pan Am Games, medallists were feted for their podium finishes just as they would be at an Olympic Games. That recognition for their success at Canada House is greatly appreciated and also a great motivator for when they return to training.