Alex Bauman: This is one 'Mongrel' who will be missed
In saying Alex Baumann's departure is a big blow for Canadian Olympic sport one year out from London, it's not that athlete performances are going to be compromised there.
Canada's top hopes, the best of the best, will make sure they're as ready as they can be, as will their dedicated coaches and support staff. In Anne Merklinger as OTP's director of summer sports, Baumann hired one of the most competent and passionate sports administrators out there. Former kayak great Caroline Brunet, legendary for her battles with amateur sports brass, loved Merklinger's professional approach.
It's just that Baumann's leaving creates a huge leadership void. You just don't replace a guy with his gravitas, integrity and commitment to excellence.
His decision to return to the land Down Under reflects those things. It was really the only move for a guy as decent as Baumann to make. His bout of prostate cancer eight months ago was a stark reminder that his wife Tracy and children Ashton and Tabitha are two days removed from their support system in Australia, where Tracy is from and all their relatives live.
Baumann has no living relatives in Canada – his Mom and Dad have passed away; his older brother Roman committed suicide in 1980.
You always have to admire someone who puts their family before their job.
There's never been any B.S. about Baumann. He has the classy demeanour of a statesman and is careful with his words, but will never try to tell you a bushel full of manure is a pot of gold like some sports bureaucrats do. He also rarely talks about himself. He seems to have so little ego for someone with his incredible sports resume.
But he was tough. He was able to fend off the COC and ambitious president Marcel Aubut in their attempt to bring the OTP in house. He felt strongly that OTP should be an independent entity, free from the political interference that being part of the COC would create.
One of the things that will be missed most of all about Baumann is the two-time Olympic champion's laugh.
It's deep, it's hearty, it comes often and it always reveals the same thing about Baumann – he doesn't take himself too seriously.
But he takes sports seriously. He takes winning seriously. He can't abide complacency.
Recently, when he read a feature about fiercely driven boxer Mary Spencer in the Star, Baumann remarked “It would be nice if we had more like her.”
“It's kind of what the Australians used to say, that you need to have that mongrel in you,” said Baumann. “The intensity, the non compromising attitude. The Australians say true athletes have that mongrel in them to be the best in the world and to not compromise.
“But also the other part of being that role model, which Mary is, and I have a lot of respect for her. That's the kind of attitude. And Victor (Davis) had it. When he set his mind to something, there was no stopping him. That's the kind of thing I'm looking for. I don't have a lot of time for complacency and things like that.
“We have to get away from this entitlement, that athletes are entitled to these things. You have to earn it. There's no subsitute for hard work and athletes need to understand that. The top athletes have that. People like Adam Van Koeverden. In any country, it's a small percentage of the population and you always want more.”
Baumann will be greatly missed around here, especially the mongrel part of him.