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The Olympics is full of Heroes and Villains – Part 2

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

It may seem harsh to have talked about villains when you consider what is involved in simply making it to the Olympics, but no-one can dispute that there are many heroes at the games.

Petra MajdicIt would be easy to single out the medal winners alone, and there have been plenty of worthy performances, however it makes more sense to highlight some of those that achieved more than just a podium place.

While Petra Majdic isn’t exactly a household name, and the fact she did get a Bronze for her efforts goes against my previous comments, I can’t think of anyone more deserving to start with. This Slovenian cross-country skier took a pretty nasty spill prior to her race, falling almost 10 feet onto some rocks – but despite obvious pain she went ahead and competed. After the race, she finally discovered just how bad her injuries were, broken ribs and a collapsed lung! Anyone who has broken a rib can attest to the pain, and in a sprint race you can imagine how a collapsed lung might impact performance. To even compete was heroic, and to come away with a medal was simply amazing! She even had to be helped on to the podium just to receive her medal.

Physical pain is obviously difficult to overcome, but I can’t imagine the pain Joannie Rochette is feeling, having to deal with the unexpected death of her mother yesterday morning. Rochette has vowed to compete in memory of her mother, and while just performing is enough, I hope that her performance lives up to her expectations. One can only remember the despair of Dan Jansen, attempting to win a medal just hours after the death of his sister. Ironically that occurred at the Calgary Olympics.

I don’t want to play the patriotism card here, but you really have to be in Canada to realise just how much pressure is being placed on our athletes. While some have stepped up and reveled in the limelight (Jon Montgomery was made for this!), many more have bowed to the intense pressure and have not performed to their own very high standards. Manny Osborn-Paradis was being touted as the man who would bring Canada our first gold on home soil, skiing on his home mountain. The Hamelin brothers were expected to both be on the podium, and our team in general was being touted as having a chance to lead the medal table. Things have not gone to plan for our athletes, but to see Melissa Hollingsworth tearfully announce that she had “let her country down” was heart-breaking. All these athletes are heroes, and to see the way they have brought us together as a country is wonderful. None of them have let us down.

Don’t miss Part 1 of this blog – the Villains!
 

Update: Joannie Rochette skated last night, and scored a personal best in memory of her Mother. Truly inspiring under unimaginable pressure, and one of the greatest Olympic performances ever. She is currently in 3rd place ahead of the free skate.

Joannie Rochette

The Olympics is full of Heroes and Villains

February 21, 2010 1 comment

Any sporting event throws up it’s share of heroes and villains, but an event like the Olympics seems to provide an endless supply of them. I’ll start with a few of the villains.

Some athletes came in as villains, while others have gained the moniker through their actions, inaction, or words. Freestyle skier Jason Begg-Smith is an easy target, and deservedly so. He essentially abandoned Canada for Australia so he could continue with his pseudo-legitimate internet adware business. Even his adopted country dubbed him the “spam king”, and there have been many allegations of much more malicious uses for the software he fronts. All the millions he has earned didn’t put a smile on his face at the medal ceremony. It’s hard to ignore the irony of him abandoning his country for money, then losing to a Canadian at the Olympics.

Some do feel he is unjustly vilified, but I can’t agree.

Evgeni Plushenko, however, created plenty of controversy before, during, and after his silver medal winning performance in mens figure skating. Within minutes of landing his trade-mark quad jump, the former gold medal winner put out the sound bite of the games to date, essentially stating that if his competitors weren’t landing quads, they weren’t real men! He has continued to say that, and he has some pretty influential people on his side. Canadian skating hero Elvis Stojko agrees with him, but has not stated it as colourfully! I won’t get into the debate about whether skating skill versus jumping skill is what separated the men from the women, as Plushenko puts it, but he certainly has not endeared himself to many, and is not exactly living up to those Olympic ideals.

Finally, in a sport that looks like roller derby on ice, the Korean short-track skating team has actually managed to upset people with their tactics and absolute disregard for their fellow competitors. As well as bumping, shoving, and grabbing like women at a shoe sale, the Koreans have also been accused of working together to impede opponents, which is apparently illegal in the sport – Formula 1 auto racing should take note. How bad do you have to behave to be singled out in a sport where someone like Bonnie Blair is revered? She virtually used WWE tactics to get her medals, and was proud of it!

I’ve deliberately avoided the pro athletes, it’s not their fault, is a big grey area, and a slippery slope. The IOC themselves would also make too easy a target. Any other villains worthy of mention?

Part 2 will cover the heroes – and was much harder to narrow down.

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More Olympic Musings – We all become experts, don’t we!

February 18, 2010 Leave a comment

The 2010 Winter Olympics have certainly had their problems, what with the weather, ice conditions, snow conditions, and the usual griping, debatable judging decisions, and of course the odd accusation of cheating – doping I’ve heard of, but magnets on your sled in skeleton?

All that aside, I’m still loving the whole thing. I much prefer the more obscure events, the ones you don’t see every week on TV anyway. Luge, Skeleton, Biathlon, Freestyle skiing, it’s all fantastic to watch. One thing I notice every Olympics is that we all seem to become experts at events we only see every four years. During the brilliant Gold Medal freestyle run by Alexandre Bilodeau we were sitting around dissing various athletes as they came down those moguls … “his knees are all over the place … he’s not sliding from mogul to mogul” etc. etc. ┬áThis from one person who can’t ski, and three who consider a mogul anything that is not dead flat! The same happened with speed skating. One bottle of wine later and we were critiquing the finer points of skating technique. Well, I was, the wife was discussing the finer points of the male skater’s skin-tight costumes … were the Japanese men really wearing thongs? It would explain a lot of Japanese game shows and web sites!

Kidding aside, it’s hard not to feel amazingly proud and patriotic watching these athletes compete. I simply cannot imagine training for four years and ending up losing a medal by a few HUNDREDTHS of a second, like Kristina Groves did today. The Olympics is about so much more than medals though.┬áThe effort these athletes put forward is beyond inspiring. More than that, to see the absolute joy of athletes who simply perform to their best, or beat their personal best but don’t come close the podium, is wonderful.

The Winter Olympics Are Here – What did you think of the opening ceremonies?

February 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Being Canadian it’s a must that you do an Olympic themed blog, and the opening day of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver certainly provided plenty of things to comment on.

Firstly, the terrible accident that claimed the life of a Georgian slider has really cast a pall over the opening of the Olympics. We really forget just how dangerous many of these events are.

The opening ceremonies are normally something I overlook, but being in my home country, I wasn’t going to miss them. I wasn’t disappointed. Even for someone like myself, who was born elsewhere, and moved to Canada in my teens, It was impossible not to feel a real sense of pride and surge of patriotism.

I was tweeting during the opening ceremonies, and was surprised to see a lot of negativity at certain points … especially regarding lip-synching. Who cares. I was moved by our National Anthem, and care little if it was live – how could it be in that arena.

The athletes are always the big draw, and it is amazing to see countries at their first Olympics, or having just one athlete. That is the true spirit of the Olympics. I have to admit, though, I was disappointed to see several countries with pro hockey players as flag-bearers. I don’t think the pros should be here, and especially not taking such a role. The amateurs are what this is all about. The reception for the Georgian team was especially poignant, and of course, the Canadian athletes coming in was a real thrill.

The light show was phenomenal, especially the whales, fall leaves, breaking ice, and prairies. The polar bear was also amazing, with the sensitivity and acknowledgement of the local native communities reflecting very well on Canada. The music was also a highlight for me, and while KD Lang’s “Hallelujah” was stunning, the fiddling was a real showstopper. I won’t comment on Nelly Furtado’s dress as it might take the blog from a G to a PG rating, but in the words of a famous Canadian – Schwing! Not sure about the shoes though.

One of the most gratifying moments for me was seeing Terry Fox’s Mother helping carry the Olympic flag. Then to see Rick Hansen carrying the torch in – these are after all the Olympics & Paralympics.

After KD, things sort of went downhill though. Speeches are always tough to fit in to a big event like this, and were made tougher with the acknowledgement of the luge accident. I was really confused with the Patti LaBelle impersonator too, and why she was screeching a poem? It would have been fun to see KD Lang wearing that dress!

Then we had the most awkward pause in Olympic history, while the hydraulics were being tweaked, and eventually abandoned, for the lighting of the flame. You have to feel sorry for the poor Canadian who didn’t get to light the torch.

Finally, seeing Gretzky carry a torch in the back of a car for 15 minutes, in torrential rain … thrilling. In fact, he had to carry three torches, as they don’t stay lit that long. Despite a bit of a damp squib of an ending, overall the ceremonies far exceeded my expectations, and I really enjoyed them. Let’s hope the games themselves are as interesting… and with Canadians everywhere craving our first gold on home soil, I’m sure they will be.

I’d be interested to hear how non-Canadians felt about the opening ceremonies, and your thoughts on the Olympics in general.