Only seven of 50 people interviewed by Metro in Vancouver over the last two days were able to name five Canadian Winter Olympic athletes.
Valid responses included athletes who have already qualified as well as those contending to make Canada’s Olympic Team, which will be announced Jan. 29. The only catch is that responders were limited to naming only one athlete from the men’s ice hockey team.
“I am surprised,” said two-time Olympian Lindsay Alcock, who competed in skeleton in Torino and Sault Lake City. “But it’s a good time to get to know the athletes. By this time next month they are all going to be household names.”
The most-often named Winter Olympian was Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo.
Pittsburg Penguins centre Sidney Crosby and speedskater Jeremy Wotherspoon shared the runner-up spot with five mentions each.
Figure skater Patrick Chan took bronze with four people naming him. Thirteen respondents gave Metro their personal information then said they couldn’t name a single athlete.
Yupin Yang, an assistant professor of marketing with Simon Fraser University said the seemingly low knowledge of Canada’s Olympic representatives is a consequence of low media exposure.
“Most people can name hockey players because they are exposed to the hockey players daily,” Yang said. “However, athletes in other sports have very little coverage in our media such as TV, newspapers and Internet.”
Yang also suggested that Summer Olympic athletes are better known.
“(There’s) a greater national pride associated with the Summer Olympics because the Summer Olympics have a high participation from all the countries in the world,” she said.
But Canada’s Winter athletes can still become household names, by winning a medal on home soil or by participating in community events, Yang said.
“I think a good story about an athlete can help if the story generates public interest and becomes a topic of conversation,” she said.
With files from Kristen Thompson