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Amateur sportsCBC Sports Weekend is our field of play

Posted: Friday, October 7, 2011 | 12:17 PM

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CBC Sports Weekend is a Canadian original.

And it's very much alive and kicking.

In one form or another, this show has been telling the story of Canada's high performance/amateur athletes for 50 years. The struggles, the victories, the defeats, the joys and sorrows that occur whenever Canadians haul on the Maple Leaf and represent their country on fields of play at home and abroad.

guay-erik-get-584-110311.jpgCanadian alpine skier Erik Guay will be one of the athletes you'll see featured on CBC Sports Weekend. (Jonas Ericsson/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

CBC Sports Weekend is a Canadian original.

And it's very much alive and kicking.

In one form or another, this show has been telling the story of Canada's high performance/amateur athletes for 50 years. The struggles, the victories, the defeats, the joys and sorrows that occur whenever Canadians haul on the Maple Leaf and represent their country on fields of play at home and abroad.

This show is for Canadians who are hockey fans, yes, but also for those who have a passion for sport in general. Thus, the constituency for Sports Weekend is as far reaching as the nation itself.

In other words, there are endless horizons every time Sports Weekend hits the airwaves.

Who knows, you might see Erik Guay win the world downhill ski championship in Germany or Patrick Chan skate his way into the annals of figure skating in Moscow. Then again, it could be Dylan Armstrong, a massive shot putter from Kamloops, B.C., heaving for gold at the Diamond League in Brussels or at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea. Maybe you caught divers like Jennifer Abel and Emilie Heymans taking on and challenging the Chinese in their own backyard at the world aquatics championships that were held in the summer in Shanghai.

Sports Weekend travels the globe and leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of the passion Canadians have for sport. 

Finding the human adventure

James Michener, the prolific American novelist had it right when he articulated the importance of sport to the entire human race.

"Much of the attractiveness of sports derives from the variety of experiences they offer," Michener wrote. "For it is this enlarging of the human adventure that sports are all about."

Sports Weekend is about just that. Finding the human adventure in sport and reflecting it to Canadians. Because there can be no doubt that engaging in honest competition is a good thing and that, for the most part, individuals who shine at the top international levels of sport are worthwhile characters to follow.

Their stories are invariably intriguing and inspiring. Most of us would even venture to say that we as a country strive to be more physically active and healthy and in our Canadian, high performance, athletes, we find exemplary role models in that regard.

So it is that characters like alpine skier John Kucera, speed skater Christine Nesbitt, cross country skier Devon Kershaw, and figures skaters Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir as well as myriad others like them can find a canvas on which to paint every weekend of the year on CBC.

It's true we are not the only ones to broadcast professional sport. Our colleagues and friends at other networks make a business of it and have succeeded admirably. Our own Hockey Night in Canada still sets the standard as far as our national game is concerned and it will be bolstered this year by the appearance of Game Day.

There is an overwhelming passion for hockey in this country and we applaud it.

But hockey is NOT the only game in town and there are so many other compelling stories to follow. That's our mission at Sports Weekend; in fact, it's our mission statement.

"Sports Weekend showcases major international sport and sets the standard as an innovative and compelling source for the story of Canadian athletes. As a high performance program in tone and delivery, Sports Weekend is a destination for Canadians who love sport."

That's our mission ... it's our field of play ... it's our promise.

Meet our champions 

When we all come together to watch the Olympics, which we all understand can be a galvanizing, national experience, we'll be familiar with the stars because they've appeared on Sports Weekend in the lead up to the Games.

That's another part of the promise. At Sports Weekend we will never meet a champion for the first time in the winner's circle. We will have followed their journey every step of the way.

And so we begin another season. Each week in this space, called "Our Field of Play," we'll reflect on some of the central characters and issues of sport.

You can also connect with me on Twitter @SportsWkndScott.

We'll also make everyone aware of what's featured on the show the coming weekend as Canadian athletes confront the best in the world at home and all over the globe.

One more quote. It comes from John Shaw, the mayor of Toronto in 1904. It was a long time ago but even back then, he had it nailed.

"The greatest nations of antiquity and of modern times have been those that cultivated athletic sports ... long may they prosper."

***

Here's what's coming up on CBC Sports Weekend

Saturday, Oct. 15 | 1:00 p.m. ET
XIV Pan American Games Guadalajara, Mexico

Some 490 Canadian athletes will embark on the second largest multi-sport Games in the world. We'll have the pageantry of the Opening Ceremony along with my colleague Brenda Irving and meet some of the Canadian athletes to follow during the course of the Games.

Some of the stars include world championship shot put silver medallist Dylan Armstrong and Olympic gold medallist wrestler Carol Huynh, as well as equestrian Eric Lamaze.

We'll also have a panel discussion with athletes and journalists looking ahead to the next Pan American Games in Toronto in 2015 and whether or not the Games are still relevant as a source of major international high performance competition.

World gymnastics championships Tokyo, Japan
 
Canadian men and women are out to qualify for the London 2012 Olympics. The world championships in Tokyo represent the last chance to get a full team to the UK in less than 10 months time.

My colleague Karin Larsen will be commentating the event along with Olympic gold medallist Kyle Shewfelt and two-time Olympian and Commonwealth Games champion Lori Strong-Ballard. It promises to be a defining moment for Canadian gymnasts.

The Big Picture - Chasing Drayton

We'll meet the last man to run the Olympic marathon for Canada. Bruce Deacon went the distance in Sydney 2000. The thing is neither he nor Peter Fonseca, who ran for Canada in Atlanta in 1996, could touch the 36-year-old Canadian marathon record of 2:10:09 set by Jerome Drayton in 1975.

We ask why and wonder if there's hope that a new wave of Canadian distance runners can finally make the Olympic cut?

Sunday, Oct. 16 | 3:00 pm local
The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

It's the largest and most important marathon on Canadian soil and quickly becoming regarded as one of the majors in North America. This year there is plenty at stake as Canadian runners try to qualify for the Olympics.

Three spots are available, but the standard is a quick 2:11:29. Reid Coolsaet of Hamilton, Ont., beat the mark a year ago but has to confirm it in the qualifying period by running 2:15:00 or less. 

There's added incentive, too. If a Canadian runner can beat Jerome Drayton's 1975 national record of 2:10:09 the payday will amount to $36,000 - a thousand dollars for every year the oldest Canadian athletics record has been on the books. Distance guru Tim Hutchings will provide expert analysis. 

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