He’s an Olympic champion, world champion, an Order of Canada member and now Bruny Surin can add Team Canada chef de mission for the Paris 2024 Olympics to his long list of accomplishments.
The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) made it official on Friday morning more than two years ahead of the Summer Games.
“I received a call from the COC board to tell me I was the chosen one for Paris and I was just jumping up and down,” Surin told CBC Sports. “Even as I’m talking to you now I am at a loss for words. I’m so excited. I’m so happy. And you know, since my retirement, I’ve always wanted to stay involved with athletes with the new generation to stay in the Olympic movement. This is a great gift.”
The 54-year-old, who lives in Montreal, is best known for his involvement in one of the country’s greatest sporting accomplishments.
Surin was part of Canada’s 4x100m relay team in 1996 that won gold at the Atlanta Olympics, handing the U.S. its first-ever loss in the event at a Games.
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Surin competed for Canada at four Olympics, beginning as a long-jumper in 1988 in Seoul before switching to sprinting. He was inducted into the Canada Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
An entrepreneur, athlete, coach, mentor and father, Surin said he’ll be able to lean on so many of his life experiences to help lead Canada in Paris as chef de mission, whose primary role is to serve as a spokesperson for athletes in the lead-up and during an Olympics.
“You know what, it’s not something that happened overnight. That’s something that I was thinking, I would say at least from the last two Olympics. I reached out and told the COC my intention to be involved in everything. Good things happen to those who wait,” Surin said.
His mantra ever since he was competing as an athlete has been “the me I see is the me I’ll be” – and Surin said he saw himself in the role of chef de mission for Team Canada.
“From years ago, I pictured myself in that role. And that is happening. You know, that’s why I said to people, you have to be patient, you have to always think positive, you have to do the work,” he said.
“I’m going to give it my all. This is something that I am going to take it very, very seriously.”
Surin was originally born in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti before moving with his family to Canada in 1975.
‘There is no shortcut’
He remembers what his mom shared with him when they first arrived in Quebec to begin their life in a new country.
“One of the first things my mom said was that here you have all the opportunity, you have all the opportunity,” Surin said. “Work hard, just persevere, and never cheat in life. There is no shortcut.
“So I started to have dreams, I sought a vision, started to dream to represent Canada. And now I’m gonna be the spokesperson for Team Canada.”
Surin gets emotional when he reflects on all he’s been able to accomplish while wearing the Maple Leaf in competition and the opportunities he’s been afforded in Canada — now getting ready to lead Canadian athletes into an Olympics.
“I’m living a dream. I am actually saying that I’m living a dream. This is crazy. Thank you, Canada. This is a big gift of life and I’m going to embrace it.”
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For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.