When my dad competed at the 1975 Pan American Games in Mexico City and won a silver medal for Canada in high jump, the world tuned in. It was, after all, basically one of three chances for people to follow amateur sports.
The 1970s was a time before every sport had its own World Championships—the first World Track and Field Championships didn’t happen until 1983—so the big three events for Canadian athletes were the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Pan American Games. All three events were great for showcasing amateur sports. And people actually watched.
Today, while our world has become more and more connected and interdependent since the 1970s, the world of sports has oddly become more and more fragmented and isolationist. Each sport does its own thing now; each sport has its own World Cup circuit and World Championships, not to mention new sports host their own world events, like the CrossFit Games and the X-Games. So while track and field and gymnastics fans might still follow their athletes at the Pan Am Games, generally speaking the rest of the world barely knows the event is going on in Toronto right now.
I put the question to the test at my gym. In a group of fitness conscious adults, nobody in the group of 30 athletes has watched a single second of the Pan American Games this past week. It’s kind of sad when nobody is watching someone like gymnast Ellie Black make Canadian gymnastics history.
Black’s Canadian team was second behind the reigning Olympic champions — the USA — and she went on the win the all-around competition and earn a bronze on the vault. She competes in both the beam and floor finals today, and has a legitimate chance to medal in both.
Here’s where history is made. Canadians don’t win the all-around. Period. Looking back to 1987, the American women have dominated the Games. An American woman has won the all-around at every single Pan Am Games since 1991. Many years, like in 1987 and 1991, the Americans have swept the all-around, winning all three medals. (The rule has since changed that limits each country to two athletes in the all-around, preventing medal sweeps by any one country).
As far as I can see, Black is the only Canadian who has ever won the Pan American Games (at least since 1979). Not only that, her score on Monday of 58.150 would have placed her fourth at last year’s World Championships. This girl is world-class; she truly has a shot to place higher at the Olympic Games next summer than any Canadian woman in history.
Tune in today and watch Black attack the beam and the floor in her attempt to win two more Pan American medals. And while you’re at it, watch the track and field. Our very own Canadian sprinter — Andre De Grasse —currently has the fastest 100 m sprint time of 2015. He competes in the 100 m heats on July 21st.