From Mike Lushington
Restigouche Leads the Way - For Once
I happened to pick up a copy of the Moncton Times-Transcript one day last week and found a story on the dearth of athletes going to the current Canada Winter Games from the Miramichi. It pointed out that there were only three (as I remember) and it wondered why this was so. Among the reasons it set forth was that athletes in the Miramichi were too far away from the larger centres to benefit from the coaching and facilities that they offer, that the population base (and therefore the athletic pool) was small, and that Miramichers tended to focus on the so-called "traditional" sports - baseball and hockey. If any of those are valid arguments, how does one begin to explain the disproportionate representation of athletes from Restigouche County on the current Canada Winter Games Team - the one that will be leaving for White Horse tomorrow?
Just consider: In all, Team New Brunswick is sending 232 athletes to these games - 23 of them (exactly 10% of the total) from Restigouche. There will be 38 coaches - six of them from here - just under 16% - and 2 team managers - about 9% of the 23 from the province as a whole. I do not happen to know what percentage of the total population of New Brunswick lives in Restigouche County, but I do know that it is far from 10% of the total, but that is a fair, and modest, assessment of our contribution to this team. I don't think that I need mention that Restigouche is a lot further away from those larger centres (with their coaches and facilities) than is Miramichi.
Seven of those athletes come from Charlo, six from St. Quentin, six from Dalhousie, two from Balmoral, and one each from Dalhousie Junction and Kedgwick. For some reason, no Campbellton athlete made it (although one of the Team Managers comes from our largest population centre. Ten of them belong to one club - Les Aventuriers Cross Country Ski and Biathlon club in Charlo, and I presume that five more all belong to that formidable judo club in St. Quentin. That last statistic is, I think, the most remarkable of all. After all, one could argue that Les Aventuriers should produce good athletes - they have the facilities, the snow, and a tremendous volunteer support staff, but what possible explanation can be offered for the continued success of that judo program in St. Quentin? It certainly cannot be ascribed to proximity to any of the resources that one might normally consider important for such a sport.
When one looks at these numbers from different angles, several extremely interesting questions arise.
Why should Charlo or St. Quentin produce such disproportionate numbers of good athletes, while so many other communities of similar size and demographics do not? Why is it the smaller, rather than the larger, communities that dominate? What is it in one community that motivates people to volunteer year after year while others struggle to find anyone to do anything? (Just consider, at the risk of seeming preoccupied with Charlo, that that little community is about to host a major Nordic skiing event - the Canadian National Biathlon Championships - for the fifth or sixth consecutive year - and will do so again next year.)
Whatever the reasons may be, though, one thing should be clear right now. We are going to be very well represented at these Canada Winter Games, and we should be extremely proud of our young representatives. They reflect extremely well on us - I know that I am honoured to be associated with them.