There’s a cluster in Western Canada, in southern Ontario, and more recently in Quebec—and we’re not talking pine trees. Top notch athletes hail from all over the country, but why do some places seem to produce more Olympians than others?
Dale Henwood is president and CEO at the Canadian Sport Institute in Calgary. He says there are some main factors that contribute to excellence in an athlete which can sometimes translate to regional excellence. Among them is support, personal drive and access, but also a level of discomfort.
He says in some cases, privilege can work against motivation.
“In a Canadian context, we have affluence, and that’s sometime more difficult to work with in sports,” says Henwood. “Here we’re comfortable. I’ve been to places around the globe with world class facilities and no athletes in them, and other places with not-so-great facilities, but they’re in full use.”
While athletes from smaller towns are often seen as underdogs, Henwood thinks they may actually have an advantage. Less competition for practice time on the ice and more access to a coach might help explain why many world class athletes and Olympians emerge from small towns.