PEI

P.E.I.'s Olympic streak to end in Rio

When you tune into the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in a few weeks, you may notice something missing from the action: Islanders competing. In each of the last six Olympic Games, P.E.I. has had at least one athlete on the Canadian team. But this year, that streak comes to an end.

Summer Games marks first Olympics since 2002 without an Islander

(CBC)

When you tune into the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in a few weeks, you may notice something missing from the action: Islanders competing. In each of the last six Olympic Games, P.E.I. has had at least one athlete on the Canadian team. But this year, that streak comes to an end.

"I think it's just numbers. We're a very small province, and if you compare our size of a province to a small town in another part of the country, I think we do very well," said Gemma Koughan, Sport PEI's executive director. "I think the fact we've had one or two attending Olympic and Paralympic games since that time, is phenomenal. This just happens to be a year we don't have one."

I think saying we can't do it because we're small is a cop out.- Two-time Olympian Jared Connaughton of New Haven, P.E.I.

Islanders have had big reasons to cheer on their own at recent Olympics — from bobsledder Heather Moyse's gold medal wins in both 2010 and 2014 to sprinter Jared Connaughton's near bronze medal in the 4x100 relay in 2012.

But Connaughton — a two-time Olympian now retired from sprinting —  says the P.E.I. government and Island sports organizations could do more to increase the odds of more Islanders reaching their Olympic dream.

Gemma Koughan, Sport PEI's executive director, thinks the Island has done "very well" for a small province. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

"I think saying we can't do it because we're small is a cop out," said Connaughton, from his home in Fort Worth, Tex.

The New Haven native thinks there should be more of an investment in, and focus on, athlete development and high-level coaching across the Island. 

"We have some great coaches, but they're really stretched thin. I think that needs to change," he said.  "We should demand that all our Island coaches have some sort of formal teaching.  If we do that, we initiate the idea that we don't just land upon or it's happenstance that we just find great athletes. It's harboured through a system of coaching that manifests that success."

P.E.I. Paralympic representation still likely

Connaughton and Koughan both stress, however, the lack of Island representation in Rio isn't a reason to tune out in August.  

"Maybe we don't have any Islanders to watch on TV this set of games," said Koughan. "But I don't think we lose anything, because as a country we celebrate sport, and we are part of that country."

And there is still a good chance an Islander will compete in Rio in September, just at the Paralympic Summer Games.   Amy Burk has confirmed to CBC that while the Canadian Goalball team hasn't been officially named,  she's likely to be on the roster for a third straight Paralympics.

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