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For 16 days this past summer you could turn on the TV almost 24 hours a day and watch remarkable athletes competing on sports’ biggest stage, the Olympic summer games. Many were skeptical of the London games. A struggling economy hosting the world in inclement weather under the scrutiny of media cynics? It started off on July 27th with an opening ceremonies that showcased everything amazing the Brits have to offer, capped off by James Bond and the Queen’s grand entrance. Great Britain then proceeded to win 65 medals, 29 of them gold! The weather held, the royals cheered and the games were a huge success. They brought us Michael Phelps’ historic swims, making him the most decorated Olympian ever, as well as Usain Bolt’s repeat wins in the 100- and 200-metre sprints, the fastest man ever. While the athletic achievements are amazing, it is always the raw human emotion of the Olympic games that bring forth the most memorable moments.
Canada may only have one gold medal from these games but some of their bronze medal wins showcased the true Olympic spirit. Canada may have lost a controversial semi final game against the US in women’s soccer, but not before Christine Sinclair tried to carry her team and country on her back by scoring a hat trick. She then pumped her team back up for a hard fought bronze medal match. The win gave Canada its first medal in a traditional team sport since 1936. Her ear-to-ear grin carrying the Canadian flag at the closing ceremonies was infectious.
Canada’s 4 x 100 metre relay team won the bronze medal with an amazing team effort and a blazing fast anchor leg by Justyn Warner. Minutes later they were disqualified due to Jared Connaughton stepping on the lane line. The rules of track and field are black and white, but one could easily argue he barely grazed the line and most definitely did not impede the runner in the other lane. Jared however took responsibility and apologized to his teammates and country. It was heartbreaking and yet inspiring, as he made no excuses. In my mind and many Canadians, that relay team was one of the three fastest relay teams in the world and no rule will change that.
After failing to qualify for the 2008 Bejing Olympics Mark De Jonge almost hung up his paddle, but the inclusion of the 200-metre sprint canoe race in 2012 had him back in the water winning a bronze. Emilie Heymans became the first female diver to win a medal in four straight Olympic games by winning bronze with teammate Jennifer Abel in the 3m synchronized diving event. Antoine Valois-Fortier came from relative obscurity to fight through a tough Judo draw and win Olympic bronze.
Many may view Canada’s 18 medals as a disappointment, but we should be proud of every Canadian performance. Triathletes Paula Findlay and Simon Whitfield definitely had Olympics to forget, but former world champion Findlay still finished, even if it meant coming in last. Former two-time Olympic medallist Whitfield crashed early on in the bike portion, taking down a Costa Rican athlete in the mix, rather than blame Whitfield, the Costa Rican athlete wrote a letter on Whitfield’s Facebook page, thanking him for years of inspiration and that he was honoured to have even been lined up at the start line together.
Every athlete, coach, parent and fan has a favourite heartfelt and inspirational moment from these games. The Olympic movement bridges gaps and brings together the world. Over 10,000 athletes from 204 nations participated, and the 2012 games marked the first time every sport and every country included female athletes.
By the time this article goes to print, my Olympic hangover will be a distant memory; I may even have stopped crying at my PVR’d montages. The legacy of the Olympic games, however, always lives on. These athletes will spend the next four years dedicating their lives to their sports so that we again can come together in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016. Now I just need to convince a certain friend to keep training and get qualifying for the national team…we did, after all, watch a 40-year-old win silver in the women's mountain bike race.