Legendary Toronto Star reporter Randy Starkman, whose generous spirit during a lengthy strike at the paper helped many of his co-workers endure the dispute, will be the first journalist inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame.
“He was so fond of the people he was covering in amateur sports,” said his wife, Mary Hynes, host of CBC Radio’s Tapestry. “An accomplished athlete makes it look so easy, and it was important to him to make readers understand what’s involved.”
Starkman covered 12 Olympic Games during his 30-year career, turning down opportunities to cover professional teams to focus on amateur sports. He was loved by the athletes and their families for his ability to tell the human side of their efforts, and the complexities of their sports.
“He humanized us to the Canadian public,” Olympian Clara Hughes, who remains a close friend of Hynes and daughter Ella, told the Toronto Star.
Starkman was covering an amateur swim event in Montreal in 2012 when he fell ill, and died days later in a Toronto hospital at age 51.
At the London Olympics that summer, the Canadian Olympic Committee held a breakfast in his honour, and “Flat Randy” dolls made by his sister were taken around to events at the Games by fellow journalists and athletes, since no one there could imagine the Games without him.
Seven years later, Hynes – who met her husband covering amateur sports more than 30 years ago – said she still receives photos of Flat Randy at amateur events, and notes from athletes about their memories of him. At Starkman’s encouragement, many athletes also became fans of her show.
During a lengthy strike at the Toronto Star 1992, Starkman would prepare breakfast on the picket line, propping his mother’s grill on the tailgate of his Jeep to cook bacon and eggs or serving up bagels, cream cheese and lox.
“That was his self-appointed role, to keep spirits up,” Hynes said. “It was unexpected and such an affectionate way for him to show support.”
Former Star columnist Joey Slinger once wrote in the paper that Starkman was a “prince among colleagues, a diamond among craftspersons” whose morning efforts helped many cope with the stresses of the picket line.
Starkman won two National Newspaper Awards, one for reporting that Ben Johnson has tested positive again for ban substances and another for his pioneering work on concussions in hockey, and authored or co-authored three books.
The Canadian Olympic Committee also announced the Randy Starkman Award recognizing a Canadian national team athlete who has used their sporting excellence to benefit the community, with $5,000 going to the athlete and $5,000 to a charity of their choice.