If you have been associated with the sport of swimming and live in Southern Ontario, or better yet Burlington or Oakville then you are likely familiar with the now decade long obsession Swim Ontario (SO) and Swimming Natation Canada (SNC) have had in regards to trying to wipe swim coach Cecil Russell off the face of the sport. A former Coaches Association of Canada President once shared at a NCCP course that amongst these associations well over $100,000 was spent in legal fees trying to eliminate Cecil Russell (and that sum dates back a a few years). In all that time Cecil Russell has eluded SO & SNC’s efforts, much to the frustration of these organizations.
So when Sinead Russell – Cecil’s oldest daughter – qualified for the 2012 London Summer Games, SO & SNC saw their opportunity to exact revenge for all the frustration that Cecil had caused them.
Prior to the London Games, SO & SNC passed a policy stating that any association with Sinead Russell would be seen as associating with Cecil Russell which would come with the penalty of immediate banishment from the sport of swimming.
Indeed, SO & SNC frustrated to no end that Cecil Russell could not be wiped from the sport, felt that exacting their revenge on a defenseless vulnerable female teenage athlete – Sinead – at the Olympic Games was the appropriate way to take out their anger, their rage, their fury.
What sort of low-lifes force an athlete to pay for what are seen as the misdeeds of the coach?
What sort of low-lifes force a child to pay for what are seen as the misdeeds of the parent?
The Board and the Executives of SO & SNC.
As mentioned in prior posts, the entire National Team was well aware of this policy yet took the risk of showing their support for Sinead through a carefully hidden message on the t-shirts that the athletes had printed for the Games.
Can you imagine what it felt like to be Sinead?
Can you imagine what Sinead’s experience at her one and only Olympic Games were like?
That Sinead retained her composure, her focus, her determination to fulfill her dream despite all that was happening around her is what led me to writing the post titled “An Untold Story of a Canadian Olympian” and I believe its a story that needs to be told because its a story of strength, profound strength, of great character and of the true meaning of the Olympics and the Olympic Spirit… something that everyone else around Sinead clearly forgot.
Sinead did nothing wrong.
Sinead like countless Canadian children grew up hoping to one day represent her country at the Olympics as an Olympian. She trained, she dedicated herself, she committed countless hours to becoming her best, and then she qualified to compete as a member of the National Team… and how is she rewarded by SO & SNC, by Canada… by being ostracized, isolated, shunned and nowhere else but at the culmination of her dream… at the Olympics.
If you are a parent, how would you like it if your child was held out to pay for what others saw as your misdeeds?
As for the low-lifes that are the swim coaches who were at the 2012 Games to support and assist all swimmers yet who all steered clear of Sinead due to the fear of repercussions from SO & SNC.. you are the largest group of spineless gutless low-lifes that the sport of swimming has likely ever seen. That not one of you had the decency to stand up and say that the mistreatment of Sinead was wrong… reveals the true lack of character amongst the lot of you.
Today, years later what has been done to right this wrong?
At least nothing so far. My hope is that Aquatics Canada and/or the Canadian Olympic Committee open an investigation into the actions of Swim Ontario and Swimming Natation Canada, their Boards and their Executive and to the actions (or lack of action) on the part of all swim coaches who attended the 2012 Games and to the inaction by both the Coaches Association of Ontario and the Coaches Association of Canada who both sat idle when coaches were expected to not only remain silent but enforce the mistreatment of Sinead. With the confirmation (as if it was needed at this point considering how widely known all of these events are) from SNC’s own Safe Sport Officer that these events did occur… its high time that Sinead Russell receives at the absolute least an apology for how she was treated.
Why do I care, why do I get out of this/aka what’s my agenda…
No athlete, no child should ever be deemed ‘expendable’ and used as an example to enforce an organizational agenda point. End of discussion.
Where there has been one case of mistreatment, the pattern is that its rarely isolated. In the cases of the Ohio State University doctor and USA Gymnastics team doctor… the number of athletes abused is in the hundreds. Why? Because officials and institutions did NOTHING in response to any allegations. Which begs the question: how many other athletes have been deemed ‘expendable’ and mistreated in order to further an agenda in the sport of swimming in Canada? This needs to be investigated.
Since these events took place in Sinead’s formative years and for other athletes in their formative years we can only imagine the impact it has on their well-being. With stories such as those of Derek de Jong surfacing how athletes have lived with PTSD type symptoms as a consequence of their mistreatment, discrimination and abuse, we need to start helping athletes who have been mistreated proactively instead of waiting and reacting (or in the case of all those who do nothing… hope that all is simply forgotten and swept under the carpet).
Finally, I know if I was ever in a position where I could not assist my own family, stand up for my own kids; I pray that someone would step in and help. With Cecil not in a position to argue and be heard by anyone in the sport of swimming, Sinead needs someone in her corner and between the inspiration she has been for my kids and then having my own kids mistreated by Swim Ontario (i.e. the delisting of their swim club which an SDRCC Arbitrator stated to be excessively harsh action on the part of Swim Ontario – which today would likely be considered mistreatment by the new Government of Canada policies for sport) causes me to step in and help.