Rio 2016: Olympic athletes follow in their parents’ footsteps

Canada's Alex Baumann celebrates a gold medal win in the men's swimming event at the 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles. (CP PHOTO/ COC/) Alex Baumann du Canada célèbre après avoir remporté une médaille d'or en natation aux Jeux olympiques de Los Angeles de 1984. (Photo PC/AOC).

The pride of being an Olympian is no match to being the parent of one, said several former athletes whose children will represent Canada at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

“I’m tremendously proud of him,” said Alex Baumann, a two-time Olympic champion whose son Ashton will compete in swimming beginning next week.

“Ashton is quite determined,” said Baumann. “He’s a perfectionist and he works extremely hard.”

Despite living full-time in New Zealand where he leads that nation’s Olympic programming, Baumann says he and his son remain in near constant contact, including up to an hour before Ashton’s Olympic qualifying race.

“We’re always talking about swimming,” said Baumann. “I try to encourage him and give him advice when I can, but in the end he needs to do it for himself.”

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A legend in Canadian swimming, Baumann won two gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, setting a world record in both events. Baumann’s victories were the first for a Canadian swimmer at the Olympics in more than 70 years, since George Hodgson won two gold medals at the 1912 Stockholm Games.

Although the pressure to succeed is palpable, Baumann says both his children, including daughter Tabatha who narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Rio Games, came to swimming on their own terms.

“We never pushed them into swimming,” said Baumann, whose wife, Tracy Taggart, was a member of Australia’s national swim team. “They did have to choose a sport, and living in Australia that ended up being swimming, but they were both encouraged to pursue whatever they liked.”

While Baumann’s primary role in Rio will be that of an administrator, he said he definitely won’t miss the opportunity to watch his son compete.

“I’ll be there at his event cheering,” said Baumann. “We don’t have any New Zealand athletes in his race – so that’s fortunate.

Baumann not alone

Baumann is not the only former Olympian with children set to compete in Rio this summer. In total, 13 of Canada’s 314 athletes selected for the Rio Games have at least one parent who previously represented Canada at the Olympics. This list includes athletes like Amy Millar, whose father Ian Millar competed in 10 (yes, 10!) Olympics in equestrian, as well as Mark Oldershaw in sprint canoeing, whose father, grandfather and wife also competed at the Olympics.

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Doug Yeats, a five-time Olympian in wrestling, competed at his first Olympics in Montreal in 1976. He retired following the 1992 Barcelona Games at the age of 34. His daughter Dory, born the year after his retirement, will represent Canada in the 69 kg weight-class in Rio.

Despite Yeats’ lengthy Olympic career, he admits to feeling anxious when Dorothy competes.

“It’s much more nerve-wracking watching your kids compete than it is doing it yourself,” said Yeats. “As an athlete you have some control over the outcome, but as a coach or a parent it’s completely out of your hands.”

Yeats said watching his children compete in the sport he loves is the ultimate tribute and recognition of his life’s accomplishments. Though he likely won’t be in Rio to watch his daughter compete – he himself begged his parents not to attend the Olympics to avoid distractions – Yeats said he’ll be proud no matter what she accomplishes, but adds that he believes she has as good a chance as any at winning a medal.

“She’s pretty much beat everyone she’s going to be competing against,” said Yeats. “As long as she’s confident in herself and her ability to attack at 100 per cent I’m sure she’ll be great.”

Here’s a list of all the Canadian athletes in Rio this summer whose parents represented Canada at the Olympics.

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  • Ashton Baumann (Swimming, father Alex)
  • Émilie and Hugues Fournel (Canoe/Kayak Sprint, father Jean)
  • Kennedy Goss (Swimming, father Sandy)
  • Nick Hoag (Volleyball, father Glenn)
  • Lynda Kiejko (Shooting, father Bill Hare)
  • Kai Langerfeld (Rowing, father York)
  • Amy Millar (Equestrian – Jumping, father Ian)
  • Mark Oldershaw (Canoe/Kayak Sprint, father Scott)
  • Sergio Pessoa (Judo, father Sergio)
  • Micha Powell (Athletics, mother Rosey Edeh, father Mike Powell)
  • Ben Saxton (Beach Volleyball, father Don)
  • Dory Yeats (Wrestling, father Doug)


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