Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's Four Days Late, But I Still Have Some Olympic Thoughts

Because it has been one of those weeks where it takes about four days to finally find my way to the blog so that I can spend a few minutes rambling.

This was the first year that I've been paid to watch the Olympics and then commence with ramblings and rantings.  The number one thing I learned was that if I'm going to land more jobs where I cover live events then I need to invest in a laptop.  I think I may have actually watched less Olympics this year than I did during Vancouver.  Now, the Vancouver Olympics contained a magic that London was never going to achieve, because it was in Canada and I got to witness this amazing show of patriotism that this country almost never exhibits. I was more drawn to the Vancouver Games, but I also think that a large part of my absence from the television had to do with the fact I had pay copy to do.  Now, if I managed my time better than I could have assured that my only work needed for two weeks would be Olympic coverage. A laptop would also have allowed me to catch major events live and immediately write the article rather than having to go upstairs and scour that name or time I missed while watching.  It was a lesson learned, but it was still cool getting paid to enjoy something I planned on taking up a large amount of my time anyway.  Thanks to BuddyTV for paying me to write for them.

According to Canadian sports experts these games were a disappointment for Canadian athletes.  We ended up tying our medal count with Beijing, and we only walked away with one gold medal.  We also had several favourites that ended up performing below expectations such as shot putter Dylan Armstrong or mountain biker Catharine Pendral.  Sure, we had high hopes on these athletes and they didn't met expectations, but that is sort of what sports are all about.  Sports are exciting to watch because upsets happen and unpredictable elements sneak in.  Sometimes it happens to the people we're cheering for.  I feel bad for the actual athletes that came in with that pressure and didn't match their own personal bests, but the fact is, they've done more athletically than this fat ass writer will ever do.  I'm just impressed I can walk my dog twice a day without getting winded. 

The whole argument that Canadian Olympians had a disappointing Olympics denies a lot of the amazing moments we did realize.  There was a lot of personal bests beat in these games.  Isn't that really what we should be proud of?  We aren't a sports powerhouse like the United States, and we never will be.  It isn't how our culture is wired, and more importantly, we're missing out on the large population.  Population wise we're a really small country, and that alone affects our chances of being a sports superpower.  Plus we just don't put the funding into the facilities to create those kinds of athletes.  But we have amazing athletes.  The Olympics proves we have amazing athletes.  The Games did give use some awesome Canadian moments.

Damian Warner came into the decathlon ranked 17th in the world, and had only been in the sport for 2 years.  He ended up in fifth place and achieved 6 personal bests.  This is an amazing and inspiring story, and a great victory.  Sure we had some favourites not reach expectations, but then we had someone like Warner go way beyond expectations and prove he is one of the world's best athletes in his sport (and a competition where you need to excel in several sports).

Warner isn't the only Canadian who surpassed expectations in the games.  Who really even paid attention to the fact that we have a women's soccer team besides hardcore soccer fans?  Now they're sports heroes and have an entire nation behind them.  Their bronze medal win was a classic Canadian sports moment, and there story will likely end up being one of the top ten sports moments of this decade.  And I'm pretty sure nobody thought they'd even be contending for a medal, yet they won one.  Most Canadians believe they should have been playing for the gold medal, so that is one amazing story. 

Derek Drouin won a bronze medal in his first major global competition.  This is remarkable.  He'd never felt the pressure of this level of competition before but still rose to the occasion to win a medal.  Another inspiring story and one every young Canadian should be proud of.  Dreams were realized at the Olympics.

I'm proud of our Canadian athletes.  I feel this was a great Olympics for us.  I can't remember all the personal bests that were achieved in these games, but I heard it touted often.  Sure, some personal bests weren't enough to get into the finals or come close to a medal, but it isn't always about that.  It is about performing at the highest level possible, and putting on the athletic show of your life -- many Canadian did exactly that.

Obviously, I admit I'm taking this tack, because I come from a country that doesn't haul in the medals.  I'm sure this blog would be different if I was American or British or Chinese.  But then again, it would be very different for more reasons that just my justification for Olympic performances. 

Speaking of great performances, I love Brian Williams.  For me, he is Olympic sportscasting.  He is the comforting face that greets you every day during the Olympics.  He brings humanity to the games and reminds you these athletes are people.  I enjoyed his touching interviews with the medal winners.  I enjoyed his final monologue before closing the CTV coverage.  I really hope he goes back to CBC, so we can have him cover the Sochi and Rio Games.  It just isn't the Olympics on TV without Brian Williams.

Of course, I don't need to worry about who is the sportscasters for the Olympics if a major billion dollar conglomerate pays for me to cover them on location.  Come on, you know you want me to be there.  You know you want to cover my tab.  I eat cheap. 

The Olympics isn't just about Canada though.  Apparently there were other countries competing too.  They had some amazing moments.  I covered many of them during my BuddyTV coverage.  If you want to read about the 'blind' archer or Independent runner or Muslim female athletes then you can scour the archives on this blog.  I have links to every article I wrote.  I think some of them are pretty good too.

I do have to admit that my last BuddyTV article contained two brainfarts.  I'm waiting for my editors to correct the errors.  I was apparently thinking about Rafael Nadal instead of Roger Federer, because I transported the tennis icon to a new home country.  I also made the rather monumental mistake of claiming Jessica Ennis won Great Britain's first track gold since 1908.  This couldn't possibly be more wrong.  I blame it on late night writing, and misreading several sources.  It is never fun when you make major errors like that, but I also know it will not be the last time.  Trust me.  I hope I am always humble enough to apologize and admit when I screw up.

London 2012 was a great Olympics.  It presented some wonderful stories.  We got to witness some marvelous athletes achieves fantastic feats.  It reminds me why I eagerly look forward to these games every 2 years.

Here are a few more moments that I loved that I had to leave out of my final BuddyTV article.

Jaime Yusept Espinal  wins the silver medal 84 kilo freestyle wrestling, which is Puerto Rico's first ever medal in wrestling.  He was a longshot for a medal, but he wrestled with such confidence and unleashed some of the most awesome throws and suplexes.  His matches were by far the most exciting in the Olympics and became an instant favourite for me.

Gabby Douglas became the first African American to win the individual female gymnastics all around in Olympic history.  I don't really like the whole "first African American" label, because I feel it downplays the athlete's achievements in some people's views.  But gymnastics has often been a sport dominated by those who are whiter than the milk I drink in the morning, and I think it also carries the stigma of being for a certain "social class."  I think her amazing showing can be seen as a breakthrough.  I hope it allows the sport to become more accessible.  Plus she just seems like a really likable girl, and I'm glad she won the medal.  These games really turned me into a big gymnastics fan.

I loved reading countless North American reporters write, "How is handball not more popular in North America?"  I barely know the rules of handball, and only caught clips of it on TV.  It is always great when North American media admits there may be something exciting and engaging that we're missing out on.  Hopefully, this means we will have better coverage of the sport in four years.

U.S. women’s 4 X 100 relay team crushed a 27 year old record with the time of 48.82.  I think it is fitting that such an achievement is done at a games where female athletes were given the spotlight.  Jessica Ennis becomes a national hero in Greta Britain, and Muslim athletes got to compete in several track events (and other events).  It was the year that female athletes were given a proper chance to shine, and they took full advantage of the opportunity.

Mo Farah is the Somali born athlete that became a British track hero.  He pulled out two gutsy gold medal victories with wins in the 10, 000 metre and the 5000 metre.  I remember thinking the 1,500 metre was grueling.

A true moment that showed the spirit of the Games was when both Alistair Brownlee and Javier Gomez completed the triathlon they collapsed to the ground.  They still found energy to shake hands and congratulate each other on an amazing performance.  This is what makes the Olympics so great.

And yes, I'm still missing many, many, many more great Olympic moments.

It was a great Olympics, and now I've got a few more days to try to recover from Olympics hangover.  I still flip on the TV in hopes that some event will be on, but I keep on getting greeted by a boyfriend confessing to his girlfriend he necked a llama or being told how awesome this lemon scented cleaner is at disintegrating bricks.  Oh well, back to the real world.

See ya in Russia in 2 years. 

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