I am such a sucker for the Olympics, even though I am not really a sports fan and rarely watch many of the events. The only Olympic Games I can remember watching most of in front of the TV were the 1998 Nagano Olympics, and with good reason: Christopher had been born just a couple of weeks before and I was spending hours each day nursing him, so what better place than in the big comfy chair in front of the TV?
Apart from that, I haven’t been a big Olympics-watcher, but I’m always aware when they’re on, following the fortunes of a few favourite athletes or teams. I’m a sucker for the Olympic imagery and the ideals even though the Olympics themselves rarely live up to those ideals, even though I know all about the controversy and the scandals. And I love to follow those human-interest stories that tug at your heart every Olympic season.
My first Olympic memories are of watching Nadia Comaneci, just a few years older than I was, earn those amazing scores in gymnastics in Montreal in 76 … the first time the Olympics were here in our very own country!! And then there were those 98 Olympics I watched from the comfort of my cozy nursing chair … and of course Turin 2006, when we teachers and our students alike got a half-day off school, mandated by the premier himself, to watch Brad Gushue and the boys take home the first gold medals ever won by Newfoundlanders in the Winter Olympics.
But I don’t think anything could ever beat this year’s 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. My kids are just the right age to be all caught up in Olympic fever at school — their school had both an opening and a closing assembly for the Olympics — and even though we still didn’t watch many events, we did keep up with the medal standings as the tally of golds for Canada just kept growing … and growing … and growing! And of course the one event we absolutely had to watch was that heart-stopping gold medal final in men’s hockey between Canada and the US. From the picture above you can get an idea of how involved Chris and Emma got in watching that game and cheering on their team — especially in those tense final seconds when the US tied up the score and forced the game into overtime. And if we didn’t have a Newfoundlander to cheer for on any of the Canadian teams this year, well, we can be glad that Sidney Crosby, who scored that final game-winning goal, is from right next door in Nova Scotia.
But as I said, it’s those human interest stories that really get me every time. This year there were few dry eyes in the country as Joannie Rochette went out to skate and win bronze just four days after her mother’s sudden death — and again when she carried our country’s flag at the closing ceremonies. You don’t have to be much of a sports fan to be inspired by a young woman who carries on in the face of that kind of heartbreak.
The young Olympian whose story inspired me the most personally, didn’t even go home with a medal. He was Chris Del Bosco, formerly a member of the U.S. ski team. Because his dad is Canadian, Chris was able to join the Canadian team after he’d been booted from the U.S. team as a teenager due to his ongoing issues with alcohol abuse and drugs. It took serious injury, a few days in jail, and a couple of stints at rehab before he was able to get clean and get back to skiing, and he just missed getting a medal in the skicross event — after wiping out when he was in third place due to a gutsy but failed attempt to grab the lead. I guess it’s because of the young people I work with, but any young man who’s able to fight back from an addiction and go on to pursue his dreams — whatever those dreams are — wins solid gold on my personal podium.
It’s stories like these that make me love the Olympics, no matter what controversy or scandals swirl around the Games themselves. So I guess you’ll find me cheering for Canadians in London in 2012!