Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Olympic Spirit

Originally posted on My Life Is Like A Song on February 27, 2010

The 2010 Winter Olympics are the most successful games for Canada. We have won 13 gold medals and 25 medals overall with one day to go.

This is quite an accomplishment. It is the most gold medals by a host country (winter or summer) and matches the most gold medals by a country at a Winter Olympic Games.

So why can't the media (and some Canadians) wait for the end of the Games before criticizing. Since the beginning of the Games, there has been criticism about our performance. There has been criticism about the Own The Podium program.

I remember in 2008 at the Beijing Games, the media did the same thing. I wrote a blog post about it here. The post was entitled "Is Winning Everything?". The part of it that I want to highlight for this post is :
We are only 5 days into the Games. We have never started out strongly. Every Olympics, this is how the discussion goes. How poorly we are doing. I'm not saying that we are definitely going to do better this time around. What I am saying is that at day 5 in the past, we haven't necessarily been doing much better.

Curtis Myden was the first male athlete to win a medal in 1996 (I remember because my husband and I were struggling to name our unborn we joked that we would choose the name of the first gold medallist (which we changed to medallist when he won)). So not sure if there was a female medallist before him. He won a bronze on July 25th. The opening ceremonies were on the 19th. According to my calculations, that is on day 6. In 1996, we ended up winning 22 medals. Second only to our result at the boycotted 1984 games.

So I say, relax people!!! Wait until the games are over, then give your critical evaluations if we don't perform up to par.
So again, this year, there has been criticism in the first week about how badly we were performing. How some of our favourites weren't measuring up. If people weren't criticizing our lack of performance, they were criticizing "Own The Podium" as being un-Canadian. Even if our goal of winning the most medals wasn't realistic, one of my favourite quotes is..."aim for the moon, even if you don't reach it, you might end up among the stars".

And look where we ended up. We won more gold medals than any other country and for the record, the IOC determine the "winning' country as the one with the most gold medals.

I still agree with my previous post about whether winning is everything. The situation I was writing about then is the opposite of what is happening on Sunday. At the last Olympics, the media (and some Canadians) were arguing that we shouldn't spend money sending athletes to the Olympics who were not going to medal. I argued that point.

Now the media (and some Canadians) are arguing that the cross-country coach should let Brian McKeever race in the 50k race even if he is the 5th best in our country. They are saying that one of our top 4 should step aside even if they feel good enough to race, in order to let him race because he is disabled and it would send a "good" message.

I don't think that winning is everything, but I do believe that at an event like the Olympics, we should field the best that we have. If the best we have is a bronze medal, a 10th place, a 40th or 100th place, that's the best we can do.

I would have LOVED for that to include Brian McKeever. I was so excited when I heard that he would be competing at the Olympics and the Paralympics. But I thought he was in the top 4 for his event. I didn't understand that he had qualified as our 5th team member (and perhaps I am wrong about that, but I did read that he was our alternate).

Every sporting team have their alternates for a case of injury, illness or lack of performance. Should our hockey coach put Theoren Fleury in for the gold medal game because he hasn't played yet? No, he should put what he thinks is our best goalie. If Brian McKeever is a better skier than one of the other 4, he should race because he deserves it, not because he has a disability so we should show the world what "nice" people we are.

My kids asked why we only had three speed skaters on the top of the podium for the Men's Speed Skating Pursuit when the other teams had four. I explained that our fourth skater didn't participate in the races. I don't know the exact reason, but I would think that our fourth skater did not give us our best chance at advancing, and our top three felt strong enough to skate in every race.

Some people are comparing the Brian McKeever situation to the "Snow Leopard", the skier from Ghana who competed in the slalom race today. I loved this story. Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong was born in Scotland but grew up in Ghana. He learned to ski in the last decade in Britain (at an indoor artificial hill). I read about him before the Opening Ceremonies and took a photo of him entering the stadium as the flagbearer.

What I say is that Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong is the best skier from Ghana. Brian is not the best skier we's a completely different situation.

The Olympics is not all about winning to me. There will only be one winner and three medalists. Every country should try to field their best team, and every athlete should try their's the Olympics not a popularity contest. That is what the Olympic spirit means to me.

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