Friday, February 7, 2014

Last Night I Olympic ideal

This post was started on Wednesday Feb 5th

I used to often blog about my dreams, because I love the dreams I have. I often dream about my favourite athletes and bands/artists, being at concerts or sports events. For me, what I've heard often works, that what you think about (or are passionate about) is what you dream about. 

I also love double dreaming when I dream that I wake up from a dream - and remember both. Those are the best!

Often times, I dream of things that end up happening which is entertaining (or freaky). I don't mean I dream of things I have control over and end up making happen. It would be easy to dream of going ice skating and lacing the skates up the next day. I mean that I dream of something that doesn't involve me and it later happens.

I have neglected my original blog since starting Olympic Hearts so haven't been writing about my dreams lately, but I woke up yesterday (Tuesday) having dreamed that a Canadian cross-country skier had medaled. I wish I had written it down because now the details fail me. It's not surprising with the Olympics occupying my mind that I would dream of the Olympics, and not necessarily worth blogging about.

Last night I dreamed that one of our alpine skiers crashed. I remember who it is, but don't want to say. What was remarkable though in my dream was that when this athlete entered the media room, everyone stood up and gave him/her a standing ovation.

We are so focused on winning medals now. I just heard the Canadian Olympic Committee President once again talking this morning on CBC about wanting Canada to win the most medals. I don't want to hear it anymore! Don't get me wrong, of course I want my favourite athletes to win medals but I fear that we'll forget those who don't medal. I would love some of my favourite athletes who will not medal get some recognition as well. They won't medal not because they aren't as talented as our Canadian medalists, but perhaps because their sport is more competitive around the world or is better supported in other countries.

I was so happy in my dream to see the effort of this alpine skier being rewarded even without a medal.

By the way, I'm sure many are thinking it's Erik Guay (he would deserve an ovation), but it's not so no crashing energy going his way please!

This was the end of my dream post. I wasn't sure whether to post it. Is it okay for me to not be okay with "owning the podium". If we don't own the podium, then all my favourites don't win medals. I think my problem isn't so much with owning the podium, but rather talking about owning the podium. The continual talk about being #1 is bringing everyone's expectations up and I worry that even if we aren't #1 overall, Canada will be disappointed.

For me, competing in an Olympic Games is still such an amazing feat! I am always so excited to see/hear who is representing Canada at the Games. Canadian trials are so exciting yet heart-breaking.

As I continued my thoughts on my dream, I saw this article shared on Twitter.
"Bruce Kidd: Focus on medals could be setback to Olympic, anti-doping movements". Click here to read the article.
How perfectly timed.

The article talks about the emphasis on winning from the 1980's that produced the performance-enhancing drugs that the Dubin Commission uncovered.

This was also the time when a Toronto Star journalist called Brian Orser a loser for winning a silver medal ("Orser Magnificent - but still a loser" was the headline). The article talked about who cares if he tried his best, he's still a loser. That prompted a letter to the editor from yours truly and many other Canadians. It's one thing to say that someone lost a competition but another altogether to call someone a loser.

I thought we had gotten away from that type of mentality, but the tearful admission by Melissa Hollingsworth feeling like she let the country down in 2010 when she finished off the podium in skeleton tells me we haven't. It shows that we are perhaps going back to the winning is everything mentality. Luckily Melissa got a lot of support from people and so did Jared Connaughton in 2012 when the 4x100m relay team was disqualified.

In the article, Bruce Kidd a 1964 Olympian says:
"Today the pursuit of the podium is as narrow as it was in the 1980's. Like Dubin a generation ago, I worry that it distorts the meaning of the Olympic Movement and amateur and Olympic sports." 
"I was always taught to believe that the overwhelming purpose of the Olympic Movement was to enhance education for global citizenship. Sport was considered the vehicle for that education, not the end in itself." 
"[In 2010], we should have focused our energies on welcoming the world in the context of the difficult issues of the day rather than preparing loudly to beat the pants off them."
I think Own the Podium is wonderful to get the country interested in the Olympics and to support the Olympic-level athletes.  If we don't win medals, the fans won't get as excited and perhaps want to go out and participate in sports. However, there is a fine line that I feel we are sometimes crossing over.

I'm not saying that athletes should want to "participate" in the Olympics. "We are not here to participate but to win" says the COC President. I don't want our athletes to participate but to compete. I feel that the emphasis on winning at the moment goes against the words of Pierre de Coubertin "The important thing in life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

There is a fine line however with doing everything we can to be ready to win and flaunting it in every press conference.  The first time I heard it I thought it was wonderful. Athletes are getting the support they need and are given a better chance to podium. I now cringe when I keep hearing it - it sounds un-Canadian to me.

When the COC President exclaims that Canada likes the new mentality of Own The Podium, I think, not all of us. I love the support Own The Podium gives the athletes, not the cockiness that is accompanying it. I think the Canadians who support our athletes like Hollingsworth and Connaughton also don't believe that the medal is the most important thing. Many Canadians recognized their effort and that they are human. Some days things go perfectly and yes we should celebrate that but on other days they don't and we should support that as well.

For years I would hear Canadians criticize American conceit, whereas I feel that we are becoming what we used to not like.

We're not the only country with great athletes, financial support and training facilities. In 2012, Olympic gold medallist Mark Tewksbury, as chef de mission, asked "Why Not Me?" It gave every athlete the belief that they could win. Someone has to win, why not me? In 2014, the message of "we're going to be #1" sounds more like we're the only ones who deserve to win.

Yes, athletes feel supported but do they also feel extra pressure that will make them feel like they need to apologize to the country if the result doesn't match the expectation?

On any given day, anything can happen. Some Canadians will win, some Canadians will podium, some Canadians will have personal bests while others will falter and not perform their best. That is sport!

I woke up from my dream hopeful that we won't forget those personal best performances that will not be on the podium. I was hopeful that those athletes who fought well but came up short of their goal would be recognized for the struggle and the journey. Being an Olympian is something special and every one of our 221 athletes named to Team Canada should be recognized for it.

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