Donovan Bailey is Passing the Baton to a New Generation of Athletes

© Photo by getty images / JEFF HAYNES
By Raye Mocioiu

Once known as the world’s fastest man, Donovan Bailey is passing the baton to Canadians who want to make a difference.

Twenty-five years ago, the world watched as Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey made history, winning the 100M Gold medal and the Men’s 4 x 100M Relay Gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

An incredible moment for fans of Canadian sports and lovers of athletics everywhere; it was a moment that changed Bailey’s life. In remembrance of this historic achievement, Pass the Baton Canada is an annual celebration of virtual race events benefiting youth charities across the nation.

“Pass the Baton Canada is a call to action for all leaders, mentors, and coaches to pass their wisdom, courage, confidence and knowledge onto the next generation. Whether it is a grandmother passing on a recipe to her grandchild, a coach teaching an athlete, or a parent supporting their child – it is about passing the baton to strengthen the next generation,” Bailey shares.

The nationwide virtual event aims to raise funds for national youth charities and sports excellence programs. With social distancing and health safety in mind, this year’s events were COVID-friendly, allowing members of the same social bubble to form their own team and enjoy getting active.

Throughout the pandemic, 62% of children and youth in Canada have been less physically active outdoors. A year spent in isolation and lockdown, on top of everything else, has also had a negative impact on mental health, with over 50% of Canadians reporting higher stress levels and an overall decline in their mental state.

Pass the Baton Canada is a health initiative that benefits both physical and mental health.

Studies have shown that physical activity can enhance our well-being—even a short burst of exercise can increase mental energy and put us in a positive mood. The variety of Pass the Baton events are appropriate for racers of all ages and abilities and include a 25K, a 10K, a 5K, a 1K and a 4x100M for any four people social bubble to participate in by walking, strolling, wheeling, biking, skateboarding, and more.

© Photo by getty images / JEFF HAYNES
© Photo by getty images / JEFF HAYNES

This year’s Pass The Baton Canada included Olympians such as Adam van Koeverden, Jessica Phoenix, Andre de Grasse and more. Bailey shares that it was important to round up a team of athletes who understood and shared his vision. As in a relay race, having like-minded teammates makes achieving your goals so much more special.

“Future sports stars must understand focus, discipline, commitment, and always surround themselves with people who challenge them to be better,” he says.

Funds raised during this year’s Pass The Baton Canada went to youth charities in Canada, including Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada, and The Donovan Sports Excellence Scholarship in partnership with the Oakville Community Foundation.

As one of six children in his family, having an uplifting family dynamic was always a positive influence in Bailey’s life and one that he wants to ensure other children can access. The impact is impressive; 42% of youth said that their Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada mentor helped them feel less isolated during quarantine, and 69.6% said their mentor helped them feel less worried or anxious.

“It is incumbent on all of us, no matter what sector, to support the next generation,” says Bailey. “My goal is to ensure that young people are given the tools to be successful and productive members of society. I’ve been blessed with a global platform, and it is my responsibility to connect and inspire to pass on inspiration.”

In addition to the annual Pass The Baton Canada campaign, the Donovan Bailey Foundation hosts incredible community-building initiatives like building a school in Jamaica, and contributing to prostate cancer research and Alzheimer’s research—both of which have impacted Bailey’s family.

The foundation places a significant focus on bettering the lives of children, as Bailey believes that education should be a right for every child. Part of this year’s Pass The Baton Canada campaign included a collaboration with eBay Canada to launch an exciting auction of limited-edition sporting items and exclusive experiences, including memorabilia signed by Donovan and other Canadian athletes and one-on-one virtual coaching sessions. Donovan Bailey also took a trip to Mississauagas of the Credit First Nations in July to distribute race kits for youth athletes that were participating in the virtual events.

As part of the Donovan Bailey ‘Pass the Baton Canada’ Campaign, all proceeds of the eBay for Charity auction will directly benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Canada, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada, and the Donovan Bailey Sports Excellence Award.

Taking care of our health is vital and can be extremely fun and exciting! After lockdowns, it’s more important than ever that youth get outside and get active. It doesn’t matter how far or how fast you run; what matters is that you’re doing this as part of a global team. And if you’re not a runner? Donovan Bailey encourages you to take it slow.

“Post-lockdown, I encourage everyone to take it slow. Proper stretching is always priority number one.”

As long as you have ambition, he knows you’ll get there.

“Twenty-five years ago, double gold in Atlanta. What a moment in time that was! And 25 years later, we celebrate this for one reason, and not because it is about the past, but rather because it is about the PRESENT—and the FUTURE—our future. I look around and I see what Canada CAN be, and it starts with our youth. All youth. I have said on many occasions that everyone should do sports. It benefits not just the individual—one’s body and mind—but one’s soul. Pass the Baton Canada is a rally call to all Canadians to be active – to get involved while raising funds benefiting youth charities across the nation.” —Donovan Bailey

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