By Doug Kennedy
What do you remember about the summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984?
I remember that Canada and the United States did not go to the Soviet Union in 1980 because of the Soviet military presence in Afghanistan. This meant many eastern bloc European countries did not come to the summer games in Los Angeles in 1984.
Canada won 44 medals that year and had a record amount of athletes participating. Alex Baumann set two world records, winning gold in both the 200 metre and 400 metre individual swimming medleys. The swimming team won 10 medals.
We have a local resident who participated in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Alan Thompson lives in Inverhuron. He was a canoe-kayak-sprint participant for Team Canada that year. He finished eleventh in Los Angeles in the canoe-kayak competition.
Thompson and his wife Janet are the owners of TI Design Inc., a successful company located in Oakville and Tiverton.They have two girls, Tanya and Natalie, and a two-year-old grandson.
He remembers the tough times being an Olympic athlete in the 1980s. The athletes were paid $400 a month. This made it tough when you had to spend so much time training.
His love of the sport started when he was on a trip with his parents to Credit River, when he saw a competition taking place. It was there he saw a few Olympians participating. With his sister and older brother leading the way, they were about to try this new sport. Thompson loves the physical aspect of the sport and loved being on the water.
After this, he started helping out with some Olympians who were getting ready for the national trials. After some training himself, he qualified for several continental championships in Canada, the United States and Mexico. As an 18-year-old, he qualified to race at the world junior championships in Tampere, Finland. It was there he found out how good the European teams were, as they were beat handily.
Some new-found eastern Bloc teams told them they took specials vitamins each morning. Those were illegal PEDs that they were taking.
After that, he enrolled at Sheridan College and began training for the Olympics. He was hoping to qualify for the four-man kayak team but they came second in Canada and only the top team went. So he decided to try to qualify for the 1000-metre single, which he was successful at doing.
Learning how to win, then fail, then rebound by making adjustments and refocusing to achieve successes that nobody thought possible, was his greatest achievement in making it to the Olympics. Thompson always felt that all the ups and downs he was exposed to while trying to reach the Olympics prepared him for anything that life could throw at you along the way.
After the Olympics, Thompson did a lot of coaching. His two daughters had success along the way, going to a world junior championships and also winning a Canada games medal. He also did some kayak coaching at a high level, where some young athletes moved on to the Olympics and national programs.
He currently plays some old-timer hockey in Tiverton, and he, and his wife Janet, have taken up curling at the Kincardine Club.
His advice to young athletes is you need a strong passion for the sport to succeed and you need to get the proper coaching.
I know how proud Canadians are when we watch the Olympics and cheer for all the Canadian athletes participating. It is nice to have a local Olympic connection living in our municipality. It makes it an even better story with Thompson giving back to others that want to learn about his sport.