You don’t have to be a professional athlete to enjoy a career in sports; just ask Colin Whitmee.
The Antigonish native is the manager of sports services with the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC).
“It is something that I am certainly passionate about,” Whitmee said of both sports and his work.
“It is a great environment to work in – you are working with people who are pretty passionate about sport – everyday – so that keeps me very much engaged.”
After graduating with an arts degree in political science from Mount Allison University, Whitmee studied sport business management at Algonquin College in Ottawa.
Before moving to the COC in 2014, he worked with the Bahamas Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Scotland, along with Commonwealth Games Canada.
“It is oversight of the Canadian Olympic team selection and registration process, so that’s working with each national sport federation on their team selection policies and all the planning and execution for accreditation and sport entries processes for every Games,” Whitmee said, in outlining his duties.
He not only works on summer and winter Olympics, but also Youth Olympic Games and Pan American Games.
“That’s, sort of, in a nutshell, what I am working on,” Whitmee added.
His career with COC has provided him with countless opportunities, including furthering his studies.
Whitmee recently travelled to Lausanne, Switzerland – home of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – to receive his Executive Master’s Degree in Sport Organizations Management.
“Every year, they put on this program – there is one representative per country,” Whitmee said, noting there were 37 people in his class.
He added the participants are from other national Olympic committees, along with national and international sport federations.
“You work on different modules,” Whitmee explained, noting participants gathered on four occasions during the one-year program.
“And, in between, you are working on a thesis project with an assigned tutor,” he added.
While in Lausanne, Whitmee and his colleagues made public presentations and defended their theses.
He noted he felt “quite fortunate” to have IOC president Thomas Bach present his diploma.
“It was a phenomenal experience, especially when you have 37 different cultures – all in the same room – that are passionate about sport,” Whitmee said.
“I think, to me that was my biggest take away from it – beyond even the academic side of it – that opportunity to be with people from all corners of the planet, who all work in sport.
“It was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he added.
Whitmee noted his experience would not have been possible without the support of the COC.
“They supported me through that – and it was very much appreciated,” he said.
“It meant time away from the office for me to have that opportunity; so, again, I am really grateful.”
Whitmee provided a thumbnail sketch of his thesis – The Analytic Approach to Olympic Team Performance Projections.
“Within the COC, another part of my role is tracking Canadian athletes’ results – qualification for the Games and, in turn, working with other organizations – like Own the Podium Canada – to work on our performance projections; where do we stand going into a Games and how do we perform at the Games?” he said.
“It was really looking at how we use data and analytics, as a national Olympic committee, to more effectively and objectively identify those performance projections.
“We do a lot of our resource allocation and funding based on potential for performance at the Olympic Games. So, really, just how do we do a better job of objectifying that analysis of who is a medal potential athlete,” Whitmee added.
When asked about memorable moments, he started with his work with the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
“It was the largest Canadian delegation for any multi-sport Games in history, so it was quite an accomplishment to manage that team,” Whitmee said, noting there were 715 athletes on Team Canada.
He described the excitement with having a Games, “at home,” as “pretty unique.”
“The opportunity to experience that while I was in my role was pretty phenomenal,” Whitmee added.
He also talked about some “pretty amazing” performances by Canadians at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
“Generally speaking, my role is pretty full-on, pretty long days, but in the second half of the Games – week two, when most of the arrivals have taken place – I did get a chance to watch some sports,” Whitmee added.
He said he “got to witness some medal moments,” including golden performances by Penny Oleksiak (swimming) and Erica Wiebe (wrestling).
“They were amazing experiences,” Whitmee added.
“It is not why I am in it, but to have that opportunity to sneak away from the village – where we are really busy working with the delegation – to see some sport; those were some highlights, for sure.”
As for his career in sport, Whitmee described it as “long-term.”
“Exactly where that leads me remains to be seen, but I am quite content and happy with where I am at, right now, with the Canadian Olympic Committee,” he said.
“I think we are going in a really good direction, as an organization, and just seeing the performance of our athletes – it is quite an exciting time.”
The COC is in the “final stages” of preparation for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, China.
Whitmee will make a visit, in December, before returning in mid-January for a six-week stay that takes him through the Games.
“I am looking forward to it, it will be my first Winter Games’ experience,” he said.
Whitmee added there is “never any shortage of Games,” noting work is underway on the Buenos Aries Youth Olympics in 2018 and the Pan American Games in Lima in 2019.
“Then, before you know it, we will be back at Summer Games in Tokyo,” Whitmee said.
“There is no time to rest – there are always Games that we are preparing for.”