We as a nation wrestle with such issues of whether it makes sense to financially support our Olympians, whether it’s really important to win Olympic medals, but every time the Games roll around it’s reinforced that there is a great value in all of this.
And, yes, the medals are important, but in the end it’s the mettle that counts. And Canadian athletes have that in spades.
As 1984 Olympic canoeing gold medalist Larry Cain pointed out in an email, “The shame of it all is that the amazing performances like Dylan Armstrong's, Mike Brown's and the other 4th and 5th place finishes go unappreciated by far too many.”
It’s true. Just imagine how any of us would feel to be the fourth or fifth best in the world at something. It’s a perspective that’s important to have.
(Photo at right: Coxswain Brian Price rides on rowing eights captain Kyle Hamilton's shoulders ... The athletes deserve a gold medal for having the guts to wear those godawful pants. The uniforms were abysmal. The COC and HBC better get their act together for 2010.)
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree: Spent more time talking to the parents of Olympians during the leadup to these Game than ever before. What great people. The pushy, overbearing hockey parent is one stereotype of a sporting parent. The Olympic parent, for the most part, seems to break that mould.
Thanks for sharing your stories: Chuck Hayden (swimmer Brent Hayden), Lien Chao (shooter Avianna Chao), Beata Bokrossy (kayaker Adam van Koeverden), Madeleine Turcot-Hall (canoiest Thomas Hall), Rob Sweetland (triathlete Kirsten Sweetland), Mary Reed (runner Gary Reed), and Elaine Christopher (runner Tyler Christopher). My apologies to anyone I’ve left off the list.
A Keen Observer: Canadian speed skater Kristina Groves was among a large group of Winter Olympians who were keeping a close eye on Beijing. She was one of several we checked in with who provided her observations on the Summer Games …
“I was so impressed by the Canadian team,” Groves wrote in an e-mail. “All of those who fared well or perhaps not, were so honest, well-spoken, genuine and driven. I think Kyle Shewfelt's interview with Ron Maclean on CBC was really wonderful - you could really sense how much he'd grown through his experience and I think his comments about how this experience contrasted with his win in Athens were very insightful.
“I was inspired by Eric Lamaze; learning more about his life story, where he came from and what he was able to accomplish, and how he was motivated to win for Canada was really great. He faced a lot of adversity in his career and was up against a tough crowd within his sport and persevered in the end.
“It was really interesting to watch as an informed spectator. Having been there and experienced it myself, I found myself reliving certain experiences I've had that others were going through there and it was a good reminder of all the lessons I've learned over the years.
“I think for many Canadians watching Adam van Koeverden go through what he did was pretty amazing. You could almost feel what he was feeling as he was so honest with the media and also at a complete loss. I found myself thinking that he will grow from this and be better for it next time around.
“One thing I was reminded of was that no matter who predicted what, or how many wins an athlete had prior, or how much was expected, the unexpected always prevailed, and always will, which is what makes the Olympic Games so captivating.
“It's a good reminder leading in to 2010, to remember that relying on expectations and previous results can be poisonous unless you deal with everything the right way, which can be different for everyone. Keeping a level head, and knowing that no matter how good you may have been before the Games, nothing counts anymore except this one chance, one match or one day, and this is why we always see favourites falter and unknowns skyrocket - the Games are a different beast altogether.
“Of course it was great to see the obvious happen as well, like the rowing men's eights win when they were expected to and pull through under pretty heavy pressure.”
Groves is certainly one to watching heading to 2010.
And That’s A Wrap … from Beijing. It’s been quite a ride. Stay tuned for the road to Vancouver/Whistler.