The best Winter Olympics ever? As a Canadian, I can hardly be seen as an impartial judge of that, but I think the world has seen first-hand the warmth, friendliness, fun, inclusion and patriotism that is this country.
The games began with not a bang, but rather stuttery whimper, with the tragic passing of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, then a mechanical failure in the opening ceremonies. Conditions at Cypress Mountain were abysmal to start the games and Whistler didn’t fare much better, with rain and fog postponing the alpine events.
The early going wasn’t great for Team Canada either. After a lot of pump-up with the “Own the Podium” program, which I still don’t like, it looked like we owned the podium, but were letting a whole lot of other people stand on it. There were uncomfortable upsets, and a medal eeked out here and there. Alexandre Bilodeau gave the country something to cheer about, saying his was but the first of many gold medals to come for Canada. At the same time, I felt terrible for Jenn Heil. The media descended on her silver as though she should be ashamed of it. Shame on the media instead.
Sure, setting out the goal of winning the most medals at the Winter Olympics on home soil was an aspiration, but was it unnecessary pressure? Melissa Hollingsworth’s emotional interview showed how much the athletes thought the country cared about medals above all else. Do we? She thought she let the country down. Were we all standing on her shoulders? That’s a heavy burden to bear. There are bound to be disappointments in the Olympics, if not for our country then for the ones we compete against. Not everyone can win, but everyone is giving it their all.
Nine or ten days into the Olympics and the skeptics came out to play in force. Was Own the Podium a complete, utter failure? Denny Morrison seemed to think so, telling the country that the program prevented him from training with his long-time training partner Shani Davis, who won gold in the 1000m long track event. All of a sudden, the goal wasn’t to win the Olympics, but rather try to make it to perhaps 20 medals. Let’s try not to embarrass ourselves in light of the hoopla surrounding medal count. The Americans joked about their “Rent the Podium” program.
It was probably around the time Jon Montgomery won the men’s skeleton gold that the country got pumped again. Jon is quite the character, a banner athlete for Canada certainly. His enthusiasm is electrifying and contagious. Perhaps it was just that for Team Canada. A few days later, Joannie Rochette puts up a fantastic perform in the face of grave emotional pain and lands a bronze medal. That was perhaps the most inspirational story of the games, garnering her a share of the Terry Fox award as well carrying Canada’s flag into the closing ceremony.
The rest is pretty much history – 5 gold medals in the last few days of competition brought Canada’s medal count to 26 and gold count to 14, the highest in Olympic history for any nation. Of course that record-breaking gold came courtesy of the men’s Team Canada hockey team, a game that I watched with the utmost excitement and gut-wrenching worry. When Crosby scored that overtime goal, I thought I was in a dazed dream. The streets were immediately filled with honking cars. It’s very unique to be in a country that can be united so strongly under a single hope. Perhaps this day will become a national holiday! 🙂 I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happy moment bring so many people together anywhere in the world. We love our hockey and our country.
Team Canada has made this nation more proud than it’s ever been. These Vancouver Winter Olympics will be remembered for a very, very long time for the excitement a country brought the world. We’ve never been ones to boast or belittle. But these Olympics have shown how strong our will is and how big our hearts are.
Thank you Vancouver for uniting this country under the maple leaf and giving the world a taste of what I’ve lived and loved for nearly 20 years.