Be Olympic

Published: February 7, 2018


Once in a while I get pulled down the long, dark, lonely hole that is known as the hyperlink. Time wasters disguised as human interest photo journalism, the electronic version of a supermarket celebrity gossip magazine. I can be on a mission to find the schedule for the winter carnival that I know I saw someone posted earlier and I have to force myself to ignore “The Bachelor cast – then and now”.

This week I couldn’t ignore “See How 33 World-Class Olympians Have Held Up”. It’s Olympic season right…this could easily be considered research? We all know Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, but do you know that Mark Spitz won nine gold and 11 medals overall in the 1960s-1970s before Phelps or that Carl Lewis’ indoor long jump record has stood since 1984.

What is it about the Olympics that make us take a closer look at the less known athletes and turn on CBC or Sportsnet 24/7 to keep up on the day’s action? To me I think it’s the history of the games themselves, which are the epitome of historic. 

A quick lesson if you will so indulge – The Ancient Olympic Games were religious and athletic festivals featuring combat sports such as wrestling and chariot racing held from around the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD, garnering their name from the sanctuary of Zeus. Folklore turns to fact around the 17th century as the term “Olympic” starts to be used to describe athletic events. It would take until 1896 to formalize the first Olympic games involving 14 nations and 43 events and more than 240 athletes gathered in Athens for the first games. The second Olympics was held in Paris and are notable for no other reason than the fact that the event featured the first woman to take part in the games.

Looking for a way to showcase snow and ice sports the International Olympic Committee set about creating a winter counterpart, after including figure skating in the 1908 and 1920 and hockey in the 1920 summer games. Considered the younger sibling to the main event, the Winter Olympics is consistently smaller than those held in summer. For example Sochi, Russia saw 88 nations, 2,800 + athletes and 98 events. 204 nations typically take part in the Summer games with over 10,000 competitors.

This time around Canada is sending its largest-ever contingent – a team of 225 athletes and 87 coaches including Balmertown’s Eric Radford and it has been great to see all the hometown pride that is showing up on windows, in our businesses and at our schools. So few get to be Olympians and who knows how long it will be until we have another locally grown athlete that will bring international recognition to our neck of the woods. Radford has done a lot in the last decade for the sport of figure skating, gay athletes, and small-town dreamers.

This is Radford’s second (and he says last as a competitor) visit to the Olympics and he was asked recently what it meant to him to be Olympic and I think his answer is worth repeating:

To me it’s about courage. It’s about grace and excellence in the face of judgment. We’re all judged by others, from the time we’re young: for how we look, how we talk, what we do. Our success is determined by how we decide to respond to it. We can let it bring us down — or we can find the courage to believe in ourselves and to follow our dreams. (CBC – Olympic.ca)

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