Posted by Editor on 07/24/06
The Downhill Nationals had a beautiful day and strong rides by newcomers to the sport marred during the awards presentation by a disgusting display of bad sportsmanship during the women's presentation.
Michelle Dumaresq won her third title here in Whistler, beating Danika Schroeter and the rest of the women's field. Schroeter is one of a number of women downhillers who have been vocal in their opposition to Dumaresq competing in the women's category, since she is a transexual (ie, formerly a man).
This is a difficult and controversial area of sports, with arguments on both sides of the issue as to whether athletes should be able to compete in their new gender. However, the IOC (International Olympic Committee), UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) and Canadian law (as well as the laws of other countries) have all come down on the side of letting these athletes compete.
Whether you agree with this decision or not is up to you, and if you talk to any journalist they will report your opinion on the matter (as I have done in the past). However, to stand up on the podium at the national championships, don a t-shirt with inappropriate writing on it and then have your supporters shout obscenties, jeers and catcalls shows a complete lack of respect for the title, the sport and your competitors. It is embarassing and shameful to anyone associated with the sport.
Some downhillers have complained for years that they are treated like second class citizens, especially by the CCA (Canadian Cycling Association) when it comes to funding for events like the world championships. Why would any sports body want to take the chance on letting athletes who act like this represent their country?
The CCA has been trying to increase sponsorship for all areas of the sport - we better hope that no potential sponsors saw this display. The awards took place on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of Whistler Village, with many non-cyclists and families looking on - what sort of impression do you think that this is going to leave?
Some downhillers like to revel in their so-called 'bad-ass' attitude. Well, I've got news for you - you come across as immature brats. This is our national championships. For most athletes, including top road pros, it is considered a high honour to be the national champion, because that person gets to wear their country's colours all season, and their teams immediately make up special jerseys to promote the fact that they have a national champion on their squad. If you watched any of the Tour de France you would have seen the national champions of probably a dozen countries in the peloton. It is a respected title ... except in some parts of the gravity community, it seems.
If anyone thinks that I am just anti-downhill, keep in mind that we are the only publication here from the cycling community to cover this event, and we have given it just as much coverage as the cross-country nationals last weekend. I have covered downhill from the early days of the Mammoth Kamikazi back in the 1980's (and rode the course), and have the utmost respect for the athletic abilities of downhillers, some of whom I have known for years.
No, this is about a faction of the community who seems to feel that they are entitled to demand equal rights to other sectors of the sport, but don't feel that they have an obligation to act in a mature and professional manner. The majority of downhill athletes are as professional as any other athlete - Greg Minnaar, Steve Peat, Fabien Barel, Anne-Caroline Chausson, Cedric Gracia, Missy Giove, John Tomac, Cindy Devine, ... I have interviewed, ridden with, had dinner with or discussed politics with most of the top downhillers of the past decade and a half, and all are a credit to the sport. National champions wear their nation's colours proudly, and all of them behave appropriately during awards ceremonies.
The CCA and the officials are reviewing the situation which occurred during the women's podium and there will definitely be fines, and probably sanctions, applied for the disrespect shown. I hope they are heavy ones, because we need to remove this element from the sport if we want to see it grow.
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