Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Monday, March 1, 2010

Own the Podium

I am in serious Olympics withdrawal today. For the past 17 days, I have been glued to the television, loud and proud to be Canadian. I have prayed for people I don't know, such as the family of the Georgian luger, and Joannie Rochette. I have laughed at the antics of Jon Montgomery. I have cried in joy with Frederic Bilodeau, in shocked grief with Joannie Rochette and in shared disappointment with Melissa Hollingsworth, Patrick Chan, Manuel Osborne-Paradis, and a host of other athletes who didn't make the podium and felt like they let Canada down.

Canada's "Own the Podium" program has been roundly criticized. Canada set very ambitious goals for Vancouver 2010. We were supposed to dominate the games, leaving no doubt that Canada was THE winter sports nation. Millions of dollars were spent on training and helping athletes to focus on training, rather than earning the money to allow them to train. When we didn't hit the contrived medal projections the program was branded a failure.

A failure? Are you kidding me? We won more gold medals than any other nation. We won more medals than we've ever done before. We made breakthroughs in sports like ski jumping and cross country skiing.

Why do athletes "lose the gold" instead of "win the silver?" Why is a personal best not good enough? Why did our 4 men bobsleigh team have to "settle for bronze" in a sport when hundreds of seconds determine the end result? They won a bronze medal. They WON a bronze medal.

The world just witnessed some of the best sporting moments ever to happen. How much courage did it take the Georgian team to march into the stadium after the horrific crash that killed one of a team that wasn't big to begin with? How much mental strength did the cross country skier with 5 broken ribs need to finish the race and win Bronze? I can't begin to imagine how Joannie Rochette skated, although I can understand it a bit because I've had to sing at the funerals of close friends and family members and you do it because you have to and then fall apart later. How much focus did it take Patrick Chan to go out and skate his long program, knowing that his dream of Olympic medal had ended in a split second on a jump?

Am I proud and happy that Canada won more golds than any one else? Hell yes. Am I proud that it is suddenly cool to break into O Canada? Hell yes. Did I wear my red mitts everywhere for two weeks? Hell yes. Did I go watch the torch go through, taking my 5 year old daughter to something she won't remember? Hell yes (and nearly got beaned by a protester waving a 2 x4 in the process). Did I wear my team Canada hockey sweater and yell like a banshee at the television yesterday when Sidney Crosby got 'er done in overtime? Hell yes. Am I proud that my daughter wants to be "an Olympian" some day, sport to be named later. Hell yes. And do I think that 4th place, 2nd place, 5th place, 12th place is great if it's a personal best? Hell yes.

Canada needs to build on this national pride, but in a positive way. We don't need to be in-your-face patriotic, but I don't think we need to take a back seat to anyone anymore either. We also need to continue to provide  funds for our athletes so that they can focus on achieving a personal best without having to juggle three jobs to do it. We have always been proud to be Canadian; we were waiting for the right time to let that pride show. And like the genie in the bottle, now that it's out there, we need to be careful what we wish for.

The International Olympic Committee needs to get over themselves and accept that girls can play too. Our Canadian women kicked butt and took medals. Women should be able to compete in ski jumping. And just exactly how are the women's hockey teams supposed to improve to the level of Canada and the USA if they are not given opportunities to play in Europe, and have a goal of Olympic medal to work towards? Answer me that, Monsieur Rogue. And so what if the Canadian Women's Hockey team celebrated with beer and stogies? Jon Montgomery chugged beer in Whistler and ended up on Oprah. Women's hockey players chugged beer and had to apologize.What for? What did they do wrong except celebrate a well-earned victory? Oh, were they not ladylike enough? Whatever.  If the men's hockey team had done the same thing it would have been no big deal. (although since all the media were at the closing ceremonies, they might of and no one knew) Double standards are so last century...

Our children need to know that their best is good enough. Our children need to know that they can do anything they set their minds to, regardless of gender. If they do their best, fairly, honestly and with dignity then that should be good enough. Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts and preparation, life sucks. That's not such a bad lesson to learn. It's not what life throws at you, but how you deal with it that proves the measure of the person. Owning the podium is good. Doing it with class, dignity and personal accomplishment is better. The only thing worse than a sore loser is a poor winner.

I am Canadian and my heart is still a-glowing.