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Updated: Tue, 04 Feb 2014 05:00:00 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Olympic coaches warn athletes' parents not to create distractions



Anne Fouillard and John Duckworth are headed to Sochi to watch their daughter, Alex Duckworth, compete in snowboarding. Blair Sanderson

Anne Fouillard and John Duckworth are headed to Sochi to watch their daughter, Alex Duckworth, compete in snowboarding. Blair Sanderson

Besides the stress of competition, there's another distracting element athletes have to contend with at the Olympics: their parents.  

At her home in Nova Scotia, Anne Fouillard had been organizing all the needed paperwork for travel to Sochi, where her daughter Alex Duckworth will be competing in the snowboarding half pipe event. Fouillard says visas were complicated to get and she and her husband, John Duckworth, have already spent about $10,000 on the impending trip. 

"It's taken about six months to get everything sorted out," she said. "Hotels were frightfully expensive, even the rooms that were the cheapest were $500 a night."

All of that planning and spending happened before her daughter even qualified for the Games. Fouillard says they tried to keep the trip a secret so as not to add to Duckworth's stress load, but she eventually found out.  

It's exactly these kinds of situations Olympic coaches want parents to avoid at the games. 

Ken Bagnell is president of the Canadian Sports Centre Atlantic, a partner organization of the Canadian Olympic Committee. He says there are many challenges for parents of Olympic athletes, including transportation restrictions, crowded venues and a lot of waiting around for that one day of competition. 

"There's not a lot to do," he said. "Where the venues are is a place which ... to my understanding is about 20 miles away from restaurants, shopping and all the rest of it. So there may be an element of boredom for those who aren't in the events who are watching their kids compete."

Bagnell said there's also the extra pressure that a parent's presence can bring to the competitors. 

"You know it's a wonderful time, but it's an amazingly tense time. And sometimes people don't know what impact they have if they're nervous or tense."

It's a message Fouillard has heard - she said they've been told to leave Duckworth alone so she can focus on her event.

"They've got the athletes pretty much cloistered in their own little world, so we're actually going with the idea that we might see her event but we're not expecting anything else."

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