The Olympics are 1 year away, but Canada’s Bruny Surin already ‘having a blast’ as chef de mission | CBC Sports

Years ago, co-Canadian 100-metre record holder Bruny Surin met a young Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Auger-Aliassime, now a pro tennis player, politely greeted the track legend: “Oh, Mr. Surin!”

“I said, please call me Bruny, stop the business and everything,” recalled Surin, who will serve as Canada’s chef de mission for the Paris Olympics, which begin in exactly one year.

“I told him, listen, I can see you have very good potential. You can be up there. And once you get there, you’re still in that environment — never forget where you come from. Always have your two feet on the ground. Don’t have a big head.”

As part of Surin’s role with Team Canada, he has begun communicating with potential Olympians to check on their progress and ask what he can do to help.

One such athlete was the 22-year-old Auger-Aliassime, who competed at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 but was eliminated in the first round.

Surin said Auger-Aliassime recalled their first meeting when they spoke about two months ago.

“And I congratulated him, because to me a great athlete does not only perform well, but the way he behaves himself. Very humble. To me, that’s what success is,” Surin told CBC Sports.

Surin competed in four consecutive Summer Olympics between 1988 and 2000, highlighted by a gold medal as part of the men’s 4×100 relay team at Atlanta 1996.

In 1999, Surin, who was born in Haiti but grew up in Montreal, matched Donovan Bailey’s mark of 9.84 seconds in the 100 to win silver at the world championships.

He said his main message for athletes is to have fun with the entire Olympic process.

“People want you to have a medal, but don’t put that extra pressure on yourself. Just go there. I always say to the athletes in every sport, never forget the fun factor. Yes, you go in there to perform and everything, [but] have fun — don’t ever lose that side.”

That joy evidently remains with Surin.

“All those relationships I’m creating, oh my God — you see as I’m talking to you, I’m sweaty. I’m so excited,” he said.

WATCH | Surin embracing role as chef de mission:

COC names Bruny Surin as chef de mission for Paris 2024

Atlanta 1996 gold medallist Bruny Surin joins CBC’s Devin Heroux to discuss his new role with Canada’s Olympic team.

As chef de mission, the 56-year-old Surin has expanded his sport horizons. He recently spent time with the boxing team and at a canoe/kayak tournament.

“The role is excellent. I’m with the athletes. I feel younger. I’m having a blast. And once I get to Paris, it’s going to be like, ‘OK, I remember I saw such and such athlete in practice or competition. So that’s what I’m creating now,” he said.

Surin even hopped in a canoe and attempted the sport himself — only to tip over after just a few paddle strokes.

“The water is deep and I’m not a good swimmer. The boat was going the other way. … And the guy was like, ‘Get the boat.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t care about the boat. I want to survive, man, I want to save myself,'” Surin joked.

Luckily, Surin will soon be back on familiar turf when he attends the Canadian track championships beginning Thursday in Langley, B.C. He’ll also be on site for the ensuing world championships, which take place in August in Budapest, Hungary.

He said he hoped to see as much of the pre-Olympic preparation and competition as possible.

And, like many Canadians, he’s interested to observe six-time Olympic medallist and reigning 200 champion Andre De Grasse back in action.

“People want to see Andre. Even myself, the first time I saw Andre, I was so amazed. I mean, he’s not so big and everything. I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ But psychologically he’s very strong. He represents us very well on the track and off the track,” Surin said.

Surin also mentioned middle-distance runner Moh Ahmed, who won 5,000m silver in Tokyo, and pole vaulter Alysha Newman as track-and-field athletes to watch over the next 365 days.

One thing Surin said he has not discussed with athletes is the status of Russians and Belarusians. International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach recently said a key to their inclusion in Paris would be how they interact with other athletes at international competitions.

“To me, as long as there’s invasion right now, as long as the war is there, to me, I’m not approving to have a Russians or Belarusians at the Games,” Surin said.

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