Olympics a treasure trove of life lessons
Saturday, Feb 22, 2014 06:00 am
I have a confession: sometimes I cry during the Olympics.
It’s not issues like finances, stray dogs or ice-dance judging that get to me, it’s the human moments – athletes triumphing in the face of stifling pressure or athletes trying to keep it together after having their dreams of medal glory slip through their grasp.
For me, some of the most poignant Canadian moments of the Sochi Games have come from the periphery of competition. Remember Canadian cross country ski coach Justin Wadsworth scrambling down three slopes to deliver a replacement ski to Russian skier Anton Gafarov who’d broken his ski?
And then there’s speed skater Gilmore Junio, who gave up his spot in the 1,000-metre final so his countryman Denny Morrison – a stronger medal contender – could compete. Morrison took the offering and delivered a silver. The first person he thanked was Junio.
Both these situations made me misty. Then came the women’s bobsledders.
As excited as I was to see Canadians Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse sail to gold with an inspired performance in their final run, I was just as moved by the words of their American rival Elana Meyers just moments after losing the gold by one tenth of a second.
“She drove like the champion she is, so I give all the credit in the world to her. She beat me,” Meyers said.
Here’s another confession: I used to yell at the TV anytime a Canadian athlete failed to perform up to my expectations. If a gold-medal contender didn’t win, I’d unleash an unseemly barrage of scorn. I don’t do that anymore because I’ve moved past the notion that winning is everything.
Only one competition during these Games prompted me to berate people on the screen. It came during the women’s semi-final hockey game against Switzerland. With the game well in hand against an obviously overmatched opponent, Canadian players twice took physical liberties with smaller Swiss players.
In the first instance, forward Gillian Apps -- who clocks in at six feet, 176 pounds – purposely steamrolled over 138-pound Swiss defenceman Laura Benz while Benz was in a vulnerable position. Then Canadian defenceman Tara Watchorn (5’10”, 167 pounds) crushed 132-pound Lara Stalder into the boards with a deliberate, perfectly-timed and highly-illegal body check.
Both these acts were so far outside the rules that they qualified as flagrant thuggery. I let the ladies have it from the comfort of my couch.
These particular micro-moments, and the entire Olympics, provide a reminder that achieving an excellent end result isn’t the only thing that matters. It’s also important to pursue excellence in our day-to-day conduct. To me, the athlete who best personifies this ideal is Humphries, the bobsleigh pilot, who said after capturing gold that her focus was on delivering her best performance and on having fun.
“Yes, it’s nice to win and that’s a big part of having fun, but walking away satisfied, that was going to be the most amount of fun that I could possibly have,” she said.
It’s not easy to live up to that ideal. But that’s what the Olympics are all about, showing us regular citizens what it is to be a winner and inspiring us to believe that we can do it too.
Cory Hare is the Gazette’s assistant editor.