Okay, Canada, who carries the flag in the closing ceremony?
Adam Van Koeverden, he of the single silver medal but who had hoped for double gold, carried it into the giant Bird’s Nest Stadium way back when. He’s likely out.
Canadian wrestler Carol Huynh might have been the most inspirational athlete we had, and she’s one of only three gold medals Canada picked up. But she apparently went home a few days ago, which would rule her out.
The men’s eights won a gold, but eight guys carrying a flag might be a little weird. Eric Lamaze? Probably not. Simon Whitfield? Certainly a great race for silver. But he’s a guy the last time we heard, and the Canadian Olympic Committee likes to move things around, sex-wise.
Emilie Heymans. Huynh was superb but we didn’t know much about her coming into the Games. Heymans we knew as the slightly fragile diver who never quite got where she wanted to go in individual events. She had a couple of synchronized diving medals to her credit, which is more than 38 million other Canadians can say. But she somehow seemed a bit of an underachiever, often coming up with less than her best when her best was required. Not this time. She was in second place in the late-going and tip-toed to the end of the 10 meter platform for her final dive. She collected her thoughts, gave a deep breath and then nailed one of the best Olympic dives any Canadian has ever tried.
The Quebec resident (yet another feather in her cap for PC Olympic types) was magic. For a moment, she was gold. But then a Chinese diver a decade younger and far tinier grabbed the moment for herself and drilled diving perfection, tumbling and rolling and swirling and somersaulting through the air and landing with a splash so small it was almost unnoticeable. You could’ve dropped a quarter from the platform and it would’ve made a bigger wave than the one Ruolin Chen created. She earned marks of 100 plus and grabbed top spot on the podium. Give credit to her. But give huge marks to Heymans, who came up with perhaps the best dive of her life exactly when she needed it and won as shiny a silver medal as the Olympics has ever seen.
Her final event was Thursday, and if she’s still in Beijing she deserves it.
Give her the flag, Canada.
Before yours truly visited Beijing, Vancouver 2010 chief John Furlong was relating a story about one of his arrivals prior to the start of the Summer Olympics.
“I’m really ashamed of it,” he said. “I came with Cathy Priestner-Allinger from our office and there was nobody to greet us the way they usually do. We wandered all around the airport, and it’s like Heathrow 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 plus 30 per cent. We were exhausted and we were lost. We kept looking for the Olympics desk but nobody was speaking English. So this young guy, maybe 25, he’s kind of looking at us. And suddenly he’s talking to Cathy in excellent English.”
The chap offered the Canadians a ride. Priestner-Allinger was eager. Furlong was leery.
“He said he’d give us a ride. I said, ‘Cathy, we don’t know this guy.’ But she’s tired and I say ‘okay.’ It turns our he’s got a car and it’s parked outside. I’ve given in. So he says, ‘Oh, my car is down here,’ and we go down around some corner. I’m quite nervous but we get to the car and we start talking about the torch relay and the Olympics. This guy’s very humble, a very nice guy, and we tell him we’re involved in the 2010 Olympics and he turns around to us in the back seat and says, ‘It’s a very great privilege for me to take you in the city. When you come to the Olympic Games, if I can do anything for you or if my company can do anything, you must tell me. Anything at all.’
“We finally get to our hotel and I’m feeling ashamed and embarrassed. He hands me his card and says he’d consider it a great honour to help us the next time we come. So I check in and the next day I’m at a meeting and I come back and there’s a small gift in my room and a letter from this guy reconfirming our conversation.
“I said to myself, ‘John, how could you not have seen this.’ And then I said to myself, ‘Boy, we need two million of these guys.’ I mean, this guy saw this moment when we were lost and he made us feel like a million bucks. And I’m going to tell this story a million times. My God, I felt terrible. But it was a really good example of what we want people to do in Vancouver.
I was in Beijing for four days that trip, and it was my most profound memory of those four days. There was no close second.”
They’ve got a small library in the Main Press Centre that’ available for journalists who need to do research. Some of the items make sense; Newsweek, the China Daily, the Book of the Olympics.
But how do they end up with “The Social History of Indian Football,” and “Complete Cheerleading,” “China’s Tibet,” and, most curiously, “The Philadelphia Phillies Encylopedia.”
Cuz you never know when an Olympics reporter is gonna have to look up Mitch Williams’ bio.
Adam van Koeverden doesn’t owe Canada a thing. On the other hand, he owes The Star five yuan.
The Mississauga kayaker, who won a silver medal in the K1 Saturday, stood around talking to several members of the Canadian media about an hour after his race. When an official directed him toward doping control for the standard medalist test, van Koeverden said, “I need something other than water to drink’’ and headed through the closest door, which happened to lead into the media lounge, and to a cooler full of bottled pop.
He grabbed a drink, whereupon he was halted by Chinese officials who pointed to a sign that showed bottles cost five yuan (about 80 cents Cdn). Athletes seldom go into races carrying change and as they tried to make him put it back, a Star reporter handed over the coins.
They released their grip on him and off he went to testing.