LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. — On top of coaching the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns track and field team, Larry Steinke has been with the Canadian national team since 1998.
He recently returned home to Lethbridge after coaching the nation’s best shot put, hammer throw and javelin competitors at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“It’s an honour to represent your country and be at those games and you know, try to help athletes have the best experience there that they can,” said Steinke.
Steinke has now been on Canada’s Olympic coaching staff for five Olympic games with his first taste of the world stage coming 21 years ago in Sydney, Australia.
Since then, he’s been to the Games in Beijing, London, Rio de Janeiro and now Tokyo.
“The Olympics certainly are the pinnacle of our sport and to look back and see that I’m that old and I’ve been able to be at that many games is a little daunting,” said Steinke.
(Steinke with Jillian Weir in Tokyo)
“But it’s an honour to represent your country and be at those games and try to help athletes have the best experience there that they can.”
Despite dealing with a case of jet lag, Steinke said he’s glad to be back on home soil after what he described as an unforgettable experience.
With the pandemic lingering on, much of Japan remains in a state of emergency which meant empty stadiums at the games, strict rules for athletes and coaches, and daily COVID-19 testing.
“To be in a stadium that can seat pretty much 100,000 people and literally be able to hear people across the stadium talking clearly where as it would have been drowned out previously was strange,” said Steinke.
“It definitely made this a little bit surreal and I think that’s a little bit unfortunate for some of the athletes if that was their first experience, but for some people that was almost a positive. It was like they could have been competing in Claresholm.”
(The view from the hotel room)
A ROOM WITH A VIEW
With social interactions with other athletes and coaches limited to a bare minimum, Steinke said he spent a good portion of his time at his hotel soaking in the ocean view.
But for the athletes, it was disappointing not being able to celebrate Canadian victories as a group or to get the full Olympic treatment.
“As far as being immersed in the culture, having those kind of celebrations with teammates on other teams in Canada, those sorts of things were missed,”
“But,” he added, “the Japanese people did an amazing job of putting the Games on in a pandemic which is something nobody has ever had to do before and keep everyone safe. From that perspective it was amazing.”
Despite none of the Canadian throwing athletes reaching the podium, Steinke said he’s incredibly proud of the hard work the team put in training for the big stage which follows his motto.
“There is no failure but in ceasing to try.”