Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Rhona Martin Story

Jim Byers of the Toronto Star painted a pretty sad picture of the last couple of years of Rhona Martin's life; she was the skip of the gold-winning curling team at the 2002 Olympics, and has managed to be selected for the UK team for the upcoming Olympics in Turin. But it is clear her path has been pretty rough.

The article describes the high points in an interesting way:
She flew home to a heroine's welcome. She met with the Queen and got an MBE at Buckingham Palace. She taught Avril Lavigne the finer points of her sport. She was lauded by Prime Minister Tony Blair and at least one newspaper has referred to her as "The Girl Who Threw the Stone of Destiny."
Now there is an issue in that description that deserves greater scrutiny. What the heck is Avril Lavigne doing learning curling from a Scot? She comes from Napanee, medium-town Ontario, and it is clear there were places she could have learned to curl very well as a young person.

Perhaps the point is that curling was not cool for a young person in Napanee but might be for a rising performer visiting the UK.

But back to Rhona Martin.
Martin told the Scottish Daily Record that the last 12 months have "been the worst year of my life."

Martin said she and her husband of 15 years are no longer together.

"Our marriage has irretrievably broken down because of financial problems. The (Department of Social Security) pays part of my rent. (But) if it wasn't for funding from the Scottish Institute of Sport and SportScotland, I wouldn't be going to Turin."

Martin, 39, said she's struggling to hold things together for her son Andrew, 10, and daughter Jennifer, 13.

"I owe nothing, but I've no money either — and my kids need a future and a roof over their heads," she told the Daily Record.

"I want to go to another Olympics and win another curling competition. But when I come back from Turin it's going to be harder. Lottery support (from the government) stops when I step off the plane from Turin. For any mortgage, you need to have a steady income. I can't rely on appearance fees because that's not steady income."

"Salt Lake," Martin said recently, "definitely feels like a long time ago."
Well, I must say I admire her commitment to the sport. And it seems to me this makes most of the whining I read about sport funding in Canada look pretty churlish. The whole story seems quite inconsistent to me with the highly managerial approach that the UK has taken in building their Olympic curling teams for Turin.

Well, my guess is I may find myself cheering for Rhona Martin again next month.


At 1/13/2006 8:53 a.m., Blogger Amateur said...

Agreed! Although I often argue in favour of more funding for athletes, I hope that I keep it in its proper perspective. A few years ago there was an advertising campaign that compared some of Canada's Olympic athletes to homeless people -- "will paddle for food" and that kind of thing. Never mind that some of the athletes pictured still lived with their parents in middle-class neighbourhoods.

At 1/13/2006 6:43 p.m., Blogger Cool Hand said...

Rhona Martin & her team should have been well funded & have plenty of sponsorship $$. The sad thing is that curling is still a rich persons game. Rhona will have to decide Curling ? or Family & Work or be able to handle both.

At 1/13/2006 7:05 p.m., Blogger Alan Adamson said...

Hmmm. What do you mean "should have" - the British taxpayers should have funded her?
She and her team could have risked getting into the (undoubtedly inadequately lucrative) international circuit.
I don't know why she made her choices.
She will surely have to decide something soon but for now I hope her heart and brain points only at Turin (with some room for her kids).

At 1/15/2006 1:06 a.m., Blogger Amateur said...

That's an interesting statement that curling is a rich person's game. Most of the top Canadian curlers appear to be either middle-manager types or blue-collar workers in their real lives --- or at least that is my impression. What do you think, Alan?

At 1/15/2006 10:57 a.m., Blogger Alan Adamson said...

I am decidedly with you on this one, Amateur. Very few of any of the players I hear about come from anything but modest backgrounds (at least the teams in North America). For one thing, it is not, like golf or tennis (or polo!), say, a sport that has a lot of cachet in the upper classes; in fact, rather the opposite, as far as I have observed.
And while purses have improved over the decades (lately, I wonder?), what little I have heard about how even the major rinks fund their competition shows pretty modest style in travel and accomodation and such amenities.

At 1/17/2006 2:58 p.m., Blogger Amateur said...

I have not been to very many curling rinks, but it would be hard to imagine a less elitist atmosphere. Although I did once stay in a very fancy resort that has a four-sheet rink.


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