The mission of the Own the Podium organization is clear: “To lead the development of Canadian sports to achieve sustainable podium performances at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
To help Canadian athletes win medals, in simpler terms.
Heading into the London Summer Games, Own the Podium has set two bold goals for Canada:
- place in the top 12 nations in medal count at the Olympic Games
- place in the top 8 in the medal count at the Paralympic Games
And while Own the Podium might seem like it’s only concerned about high-performance athletes competing on the world stage, Anne Merklinger has called for Canada “to adopt a bold, brash effort towards the improved physical fitness of our children” (as quoted by Sports Ottawa).
Merklinger is the CEO of Own the Podium and made that statement at the “Where Sporting Excellence and Community Meet” conference in March.
In an interview with Active for Life, Merklinger said that in order for Canada to be a leader in high performance sport, Canadians need to ensure that there’s an increased focus on physical literacy and the basic fundamental skills that our children acquire at an early age.
“If we don’t have any physically literate young children,” she said, “we don’t have a population of young girls and boys that can ultimately be Olympic and Paralympic champions.”
As it stands now, only 9 percent of boys and 4 percent of girls are getting enough physical activity to meet recommended health guidelines. It’s a worrying trend. Children who develop physical literacy are more active in life, and those who choose to become elite athletes have a greater potential for success.
“It starts at the community level,” said Merklinger. Programs must focus on improving the physical literacy of children and she said the education system plays in important role in improving the physical literacy of young Canadians.
“Many countries around the world have more extensive physical education programs entrenched in schools,” she said. If Canada doesn’t do the same, “we have the potential to fall farther and farther behind.”
For perhaps the first time, there is an acknowledgment that elite sport and recreational sport participation originate from the same source.
By teaching all children the fundamental movement skills to make them physically literate, not only do we equip them to be healthy and successful, but we give them the tools they will need should they forge a career in sport.
In a word, everybody wins.
Here’s how you can get involved.