Will a new national head coach end Canada’s Olympic medal drought? Not so fast.
When David Defiagbon won an Olympic silver medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, no one was aware that it was the end of an era. Canada had immense success in previous years; 1992 saw Mark Leduc pick up four wins en route to a silver medal at light-welterweight, while Chris Johnson took bronze in the middleweight division. In 1988 it was Egerton Marcus who took home a silver medal in the middleweight division, while the famed Lennox Lewis took home gold.
But it’s been a 21-year, five-Olympic drought since then. In recent years, talents like Mandy Bujold and Arthur Biyarslanov have found some international success, both winning gold at the 2015 Pan American games, but both fell short on the grandest stage.
In hopes of rectifying this, Boxing Canada announced that they have signed Brazilian coach Carlos Soares Gomes de Barros to become the new national head coach of the Canadian national team in hopes of ending the Olympic boxing medal drought.
He comes with a plethora of experience, not limited to helping Brazilian fighter Robson Conceicao take home gold at the 2016 Olympic Games. In 33 years as a coach, he has led Brazilian fighters to four world championships and four Olympic medals.
The move comes just two-years after the U.S. national boxing team hired famed Irish coach Billy Walsh, who has had a clear and definitive impact on helping the U.S. return to form as an international amateur boxing powerhouse.
Canada is hoping de Barros can bring similar results for 2020.
Is that possible? Sure. Is it likely? Well, not quite.
That’s not meant at a slight on de Barros, he is a competent and qualified coach who will certainly have a lasting impact on the Canadian national team. But the current makeup of the team has not found international success and it’s hard to imagine the quality of athletes needed to compete on an international level entering the boxing ring in coming years.
This isn’t to mention that our top talents are looking to move on. Kim Clavel just turned professional and it’s believed that Biyarslanov won’t be far beyond. Bujold is likely to stay amateur but at age 30 and recently married, it’s unclear what her future could be in terms of competing internationally.
Other members like Joshua Frazer have spoken open and publicly about their disapproval with Boxing Canada, which he says is threatening to cut funding for any national team members who aren’t willing to move to Montreal in exchange for a small stipend. It’s not difficult to picture a world where Frazer turns his attention to the pro ranks before too long.
Without these members, both the men and women elite national teams look to be light on talent and veteran leadership.
The bright side is that both teams have a slew of young talent for de Barros to work with in preparation for 2020. Rodolfo Velasquez and Thoman Blumenfeld have both shown signs that they could be major talents on an international stage. Sara Haghighat-Joo showed a lot of promise at the recent Canadian national championships. The long-standing member of the group, Caroline Veyre, currently is ranked 17 in the world according to AIBA and currently sits as Canada’s best hope for 2020 success.
What will be important for this team to remember is to not base success on how the team fares in 2020. Three short years is simply not enough time to produce an Olympic champion. Rather, the program should be focused on qualifying fighters for world championships and put more definite focus on developing young athletes for 2024.
Patience will be the difference in whether de Barros can provide a winner and end the drought.