The amateur sports world lost a true professional today. Randy Starkman, the Toronto Star veteran who covered a dozen Olympic games and countless international competitions, died today at age 51 after battling pneumonia and spending several days in intensive care at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. He leaves behind a wife, Mary, and daughter Ella.
Starkman apparently became sick after returning from covering the Canadian Olympic swimming trials in Montreal, and when Star writers took to Twitter to announce Starkman’s death on Monday afternoon, the reaction was one of sadness and surprise. Journalists, from Toronto, Canada and beyond; athletes, all across the Canadian sports landscape; and people, every day readers and fans who seemed to have no connection to either world, all wrote how much he and his work would be missed – and he will be. His tireless work, in a niche area of sports, to be sure, was unique and can’t be matched by any other news outlet in this country.
What struck me the most when I heard he was sick, and then heard about his passing, was what a gigantic, gaping crater his loss leaves in covering amateur sports in Canada. Three months away from the London games there is no way for the Star, or anyone really, to fill that space.
I had the privilege of meeting Starkman only once, in a class when I was in grad school at Centennial College in Toronto. As a fan and observer of the Olympics and amateur sports I had followed his work before that, and was really intrigued to hear him speak. Right now I can’t remember any of what he talked about – but it doesn’t matter. I remember him speaking honestly and earnestly about covering sports, as a bureau of one on a full time basis, that few others follow more than every four years when the Olympics brought them in to the spotlight. I remember the “passion for sport,” as Scott Russell, another pro in the amateur business, would say, that he showed in his work. I remember him being generous with his time to my classmates who did an interview with him. I remember him joining hosts on Sportsnet 590 The FAN over the years I’ve been here to advance the stories of athletes that, in all honestly, rarely get talked about, even on an all-sports station. I remember being inspired that my interest in “fringe” sports could really lead somewhere and be something that you could follow year-round and beyond the Olympic cycle.
So remember Randy Starkman by reading (just some of) his excellent work from over the years. Remember him as his colleagues at the Star did. Remember him with this touching tribute by kayaker Adam Vankoeverden that likely echoes what a lot of Canada’s amateur athletes would say about him. And remember him when you watch the London games and recognize the names of Canada’s athletes, because without the work of Randy Starkman, you probably wouldn’t know half of their stories.