Well another Olympic Games have come and gone and in order to help stave off some post-Olympic depression I thought I might reflect back and share my 3 major takeaways from the successful Games in Sochi, Russia. These are the things which I will be keeping in mind as I move towards the 2014 Commonwealth Games, 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto and of course the 2016 Rio Olympics.
1) Don’t Believe the Hype – The storyline was perfect, America’s former Cold War adversary looking like it was about to get a massive Ostrich egg dropped on its face in front of the World, so corrupt and inept that even with a $52 Billion dollar budget, one 8 times that of Vancouver, it was not going to be able to get facilities done on time or the accommodation ready. I for one lapped it up, voraciously scouring for the web for articles, blogs, pics, tweets (from the infamous @sochiproblems), and youtube videos
before holding my breath to see exactly how bad it was going to be – and if this wolf did find a room for the night. In the end things really went off without a hitch, people were safe, the athletes competed, medals were won, we won gold in hockey and outside of some Spring-like conditions and a malfunctioning ring the Titanic did not crash, and Sochi proved a success. In hindsight I should have known better since we dealt with nearly the exact same story line leading up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India, with rumours of unfinished buildings, dogs roaming the village, and major security concerns. On the whole there were some ridiculous scenarios and yes the buildings certainly weren’t up to Canadian building codes, but the athletes competed, the food was good, people were safe and I look back fondly on those Games. In my mind it adds character, as where else in the world would you literally have monkeys in uniform patrolling the village as pest and vermin control specialists, just amazing! Overall then, I think I’ve now finally learned my lesson and no matter what the story line or media hype is leading into future tournaments, I just need to focus on what I can control, work hard and show up ready to compete and represent my country.
2) Families and Support Network Matter – This really hit home with me as I watched the “NHL Revealed” documentary on CBC last night which featured a behind the scenes look at the Sochi Olympics, following our Canadian hockey stars from the NHL to Russia. They interviewed the WAG’s, parents and friends of our Canadian Hockey Olympians who had also made the long trip to Sochi to watch the boys compete. Besides Getzlaf’s constant banter and light-hearted jabs at teammates during practice, what really stuck out was how much these uber-rich Hockey players cared about the people who had supported them and help get them where they were. It was awesome to see Drew Doughty take the time to invite and fly out his billet family that put him up when he played in the ‘O’ for 3 years with the Guelph Storm. And then there was the interaction between Carey Price and his Dad at Canada House immediately after the Gold Medal Game… Price took his medal off and with tears in his eyes put the medal around his Dad’s neck before burying his face in his Dad’s shoulder to hide his emotion from the camera. His Dad was stifling back the tears about as much as I was watching this raw emotion from a father and son. The amount of sacrifice and DRIVING it would have taken for a kid from Anaheim Lake, BC to make it to that point is staggering and the emotion on their faces said it all. Seeing how much these NHL guys care is inspiring and offers me a reminder to reach out and appreciate the people who have helped me get to where I am today.
3) Medals Matter – The last point is a somewhat difficult one to make considering I play for a team ranked 16th in the World and without realistic Olympic Medal aspirations in the near future. However it became blatantly clear after watching these games and reading the news articles and quotes from our COC and OTP brass that personal and seasons bests are not enough and that Canada wants to stand on the podium. The Canadian Luge Team found itself in 4th place, just off the podium, in 3 of 4 events and now stands in a tenuous funding position, with Own The Podium CEO Anne Merklinger reminding them that “medals matter to Canadians.” I’m torn on this issue as first off I can definitely appreciate what Merklinger says when she highlights how you can’t “ever underestimate the power and impact of an Olympic or Paralympic Medal” but at the same time there’s a certain ruthlessness to putting a federations funding on the chopping block after missing medals by only 1 one hundredths of a second, which is what happened to Walker and Smith in the Doubles Luge. On the whole however, and as a National Team athlete pushing myself to perform at the highest level and qualify for the Rio Olympics I like the direction our rhetoric has shifted, as we are no longer the apologetic pushovers on the international stage and the only country to host multiple Olympic Games without winning a Gold Medal (prior to Vancouver) and that our National Athletes across the board push themselves for podium finishes with grit, hard work and determination. This inspires me…