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The Canadian Track and Field Championships will be held this weekend in Windsor, Ontario.
Looking back, can you believe it’s been only 34 years since Canada hired full time professional coaches for Track and Field? Yes, shocking.
Here is a brief history of Gerard Mach into the Canadian coaching program. His legacy lives on as you’ll find today, both kids and elite athletes, doing “A skips”, “B skip”, and “butt kick” drills, otherwise known as Mach drills.
Flashback to 1968
Canada’s poor medal showing, or should I say, non-existence of medals (i.e. zero) at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics gave rise to demands for further action.
At the 1972 Munich Games, Pole vaulter Bruce Simpson’s fifth-place finish was the best by a Canadian track and field athlete at Munich.
At the same time, the Canadian Olympic Association (COA) and Sport Canada initiated “Game Plan,” a funding partnership of the federal and provincial governments and the national sports-governing bodies, with the objective of lifting Canada into the top 10 nations by the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
The “Game Plan” would fund competition tours (such as the first Canada-US dual track meet for women in 1972) and training camps such as the Toronto’s Fitness Institute and the National Athletic Training Camp, a converted “Canadair” hangar in Montreal.
Yes, I remember all my high school indoor meets (1976-1980) being held there, before it was moved to the basement of the indoor cycling track Olympic Veledrome (now used for a Biosphere!) The indoor 200m track at Laval University in St-Foy, Quebec was the first official IAAF size indoor track in Canada with a synthetic surface.. not wooden boards!
In 1973, the Canadian Track and Field Association (the CTFA, now called Athletics Canada) then organized its own “game plan” around a technical director, Lynn Davies, and 4 national coaches: Derek Boosey (jumps and multiple events), Jean-Paul Baert (throws), Paul Poce (distance running) and Gerard Mach (sprints, hurdles and relays). These 4 individuals became Canada’s first professional track and field coaches. As an athlete, Gerard’s personal bests was 10.6, 21.4, 47.4 for the 100m, 200m, 400m respectively and was Polish National Champion and National Record holder on several occasions.
In 1976, Gerard was appointed the Canadian National Head Coach. Of course, who can’t remember Greg Joy’s silver medal in the high jump? Greg beat Dwight Stones who wore the infamous “I Love French Canadians” sweatshirt, because he was getting booed in the qualifying round after he expressed his thoughts on the incomplete Olympic Stadium.
Until recently, Greg’s silver medal high jump was used in the CBC national anthem sign-off at the end of every daily broadcast.
In 1980, Gerard Mach self published “Sprints and Hurdles”. This manual is an all time classic and a “must have”. Since it is out of print, I will find the source where you can purchase.