Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It's About The Journey

Last week, TSN2 showed a 30 minute program about the 4x100m relay at the London 2012 Olympics.  In a post in August, I explained why I didn't blog during or following the Olympics. You can read it here. I had a lot of thoughts, but once the Olympics were over, I thought it was too late.

Seeing the relay again last week, I was compelled to write my thoughts. It was one of the highlights of London 2012 for me.

I was so excited that Canada qualified for the final. Not to take anything away from the team, but with Canada having only one runner (Justyn Warner) competing in the 100m event, I didn't realize how great our team could be.  I remembered Jared Connaughton from the 2008 Olympics and had seen Gavin Smellie, Seyi Smith and Justyn compete at the Toronto International Track & Field Games in July. You can read the post about that here.

It's sometimes difficult in a 400m race to really know who's leading. You look at the staggers between the lanes to see if there's a runner making up a stagger, but it really only shows the difference between those lanes.

With Canada on the lane to the inside of the Jamaican team, it was difficult to gauge how well they were doing. Jamaica are so strong that they were pulling away from Canada on the back straight, but where was Canada overall?

As Jared Connaughton makes the final turn and passes the baton to Justyn Warner who finishes the turn, we realize that Canada are in about 5th. I was so excited and then Warner passes 4th and is running down the runner in 3rd.  I was jumping up and down watching his incredible run.

For those minutes when we thought they won the bronze, I was so excited. When the disqualification was announced, my heart went out to them and for days and weeks later.

I have often thought of this race since.  You wonder why it happened the way it did.  When I do, I am reminded of the quote: "everything happens for a reason, even if we don't understand the reason at the time".

I also find it ironic that if they had won the bronze medal, there probably wouldn't have been a 30 minute special about the race.  Sportsnet Magazine wouldn't have run a full page story on Connaughton (see November 5th issue).

But then, this is sports: "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat". This is what makes sports so compelling.

The reason we compete in sports and the reason that the Olympics are so special is that the winner is not determined until we compete. The Olympics are every four years.  Dozens of athletes want to win and believe they can medal in dozens of sports. Only three medals are won in each one.  This means heartbreak for hundreds of athletes.

At the Olympic Heroes parade this fall, I was speaking to a swimmer who downplayed his celebrity status. We were discussing whether he wanted to be on the float or walking beside.  I commented that on the float, both sides of the street could see him. If he walked, he should try to be visible on both sides so that if someone is in the crowd was wanting to see him, they would. He made a joke about who would be wanting to see him in particular because he came in 17th.

So much attention is given to medals at the Olympics, but to me (and countless others) it's more than the medals. Each person on Team Canada is an Olympian!! There are millions of people who dream or have dreamed of becoming an Olympian who never did or never will.

People who lined the streets of Toronto to cheer our Olympians' homecoming came to see our Olympic Team, not just our medallists.

Part of the Olympic experience is the journey that gets you there.  I recently thought we had messed up my son's course selection. It looked like he may not get his bilingual certificate at graduation (without some reshuffling of courses). My first thought was, imagining all those years of french courses and he doesn't get the certificate, but it didn't take me long to correct myself. It's not the certificate that's important, it's that he learned a second language. Which brought my thoughts to the Olympic experience.

Competing and training for an Olympic Games is a journey. It's pushing yourself and seeing how great you can be. It's the lessons learned along the way. Being an Olympian is a huge achievement. Performing your best at the Olympics is amazing. Winning a medal is rare and stupendous.

The 4x100m relay team from Canada crossed the finish line 3rd. The disqualification took away the bronze medal, but it doesn't take away the achievement or the journey.

No comments:

Post a Comment