There was a time when Canadians athletes were just average, or in some elite games, just plain old mediocre. Last century, you could count only a handful who excelled in sports and competed in the Olympics. Those who won a gold medal were remembered for eternity, just for the simple reason that they had taken first place.
Take figure skating for example, Barbara Ann Scott, the only one person who spun at speeds that the cameras couldn’t record, won a gold medal and that was back in 1948. Then another person, Kathy Kreiner from Timmins, made gold in the downhill. She came down the ski hill first and no one could beat her time for the rest of the race.
Along came the Crazy Canucks (Dave Irwin, Dave Murray, Steve Podborski and Ken Read) competing in the downhill Alpine event which highlighted eye-blurring speeds and heart-stopping jumps at over 120 km per hour. Reckless as they were, they paved the way for more Canadians to win gold and to stand on the podium for this great country.
Over the last two decades, event after event fell to the Canadians. So much so that only countries with access to snow, rinks and mountains entered the grand competitions, save for one small bobsled team from Jamaica. That team went on to win the hearts of millions around the world and a Hollywood movie was even made about them.
One year, an even crazier Englishman actually flew through the skies in the ski-jumping event, making every jump a nerve-racking venue for the officials and the emergency crews, but those countries are exceptions. This year, a Somalian came in second to last in the downhill ski race, making his dream come true not to come in last place. That honour went to an Albanian.
This year, even though the Canucks came in third overall in the standings, it was the gold medals that made us feel proud to be Canadian. After watching many sports, it was the crowning overtime goal that catapulted this country to be more than just strong and free, it was the overwhelming self-esteem buildup that burst the tie and heartbreaking third period. As Sidney Crosby made the gold-earning score against our southern neighbours, another earthquake (at least an emotional one) was felt in every place with a TV set and measured 3-to-2 on the Richter scale. That goal was the shot felt across the entire Northern Hemisphere and I have to admit, I nearly cried when I saw the long faces on the losing team. But that feeling dissipated in a split second and I contributed to the aftershocks felt by those who replayed the goal over and over again. Damn, we’re good at hockey aren’t we.
Another emotional rock was Joannie Rochette, the fine figure skater from Quebec, who managed to get bronze just days after losing her mother. I, like many others watching her skate, wondered how she could get through the spins without tears flying and I felt a strong sense of admiration for her. She was a rock with a heart of gold.
Another downhill racer came up with gold and I watched him being amazed about his own achievement, as he explained that for a guy who just likes to ski and to be in the Olympics, the grin and incredible wow factor just shone through and affected many others.
Another event that the cameras recorded was the sheer number of celebrities and sports legends who attended and witnessed the events from most likely the expensive seats. The scalping for the last hockey game went as high as 15 grand each, so those rich dudes must have paid a lot just to hang around. Take the Prime Minister, who got a lot of air time just sitting beside the Great One; which makes me wonder if the whole prorogue stunt was pulled off just so he could watch the Olympics completely unfettered. Hmmmm… I wonder….