A Letter to My Olympians

A letter to my Olympians,

Every four years the nations of the world send their best athletes to compete in the largest sports tournament ever conducted.  Billions of dollars draw in billions of viewers who will watch a few thousand people compete for a few hundred medals.  And yet we viewers remember less the sporting feats and more the people, the stories, and the emotions.

The Olympics, for the viewer, is simply entertainment.  It is the chance to learn new sports, fall for new heroes, and join together with other fans in cheering for sports we rarely watch through the rest of the year (let me say on the record that I shamelessly watch as much curling as I can get, Olympics or not!).  You, the athletes of the world, become “our” athletes, those we choose to cheer for and follow, those whose dreams we pray to be completed.  This Olympics, some of Canada’s athletes and those from other nations became “my” athletes, their emotions shared with me through television and new media like Twitter and Instagram.  I followed your journeys, I felt a small part of your victories and your defeats, and I experienced a strange form of detached pride across thousands of miles.  While I was one of millions cheering for you, I felt one with you and I thank you for that experience.

This Olympics I was struck by the non-athletic attributes of the Olympians, my Olympians.  While all athletes, victorious or not, are inspirational and amazing to watch, you stand out as “my” Olympians for your:

PerseveranceJan Hudec.  You have gone through so much!  And you did it with great style and great spirit.  Jan you are an inspiration – never again will I let my knees slow me down.

Ecstasy  Scott Moir and Patrick Chan.  One of the defining images of these games for me was your celebration at the Canadian Women’s gold medal hockey game.  Two athletes at the top of their own sports being so completely supportive of another team and enthralled by the spirit and excitement of the game was a pleasure to watch.  I did not know anyone could cheer that hard!

The best celebration of the Olympics!

DeterminationEve Muirhead and David Murdoch.  The beauty of curling is that we fall in love with more than one team.  Eve and David, you battled through adversity both during and before the games, you played under intense pressure, but you never gave up.  You showed me how much a victory means and how victorious a second and third place finish can be, and I’m sure you inspired more than a few Brits to take up the broom.  Of course you also did it with style – there’s nothing quite like the Scottish skips sliding down the ice, one hand casually in their pocket!  You did more than make your nation proud, you made the world proud in how you held yourselves and in what you represented.

Reuters photo of the wonderful GB skip. Do not be surprised if she becomes the best female curler ever (she’s only 23!!)

Family/FamilleThe Dufour-Lapointe sisters.  Merci pour votre démonstration de l’amour et de la famille.  Vous avez montrez la beauté de l’expérience partagée et de soutien pour la famille, peu importe les résultats.  Vous avez inspirez les filles de notre nation pour atteindre la grandeur dans le sport tout en étant compatissante et modeste.

RespectTeam Brad Jacobs.  In your final victory – a dominating game after an intense tournament – your team exemplified sportsmanship by congratulating the other team first before beginning your celebrations.  This, to me, is what it means to be a Canadian athlete and I stood proud with the rest of Canada in cheering for you because of this.  Thank you for respecting other athletes.

HumilityTeemu Selanne.  In the last game of your international career, when you could have pushed for a hat-trick, you skated to the bench to let another younger player enjoy the final seconds on ice.  In your sixth Olympics you could have let the spotlight shine on you, but you spent your game encouraging and helping others on your team.  You are the epitome of leader, by example and by words.

The end of the JOFA helmet era, but more significantly the end of the greatest Olympic hockey career ever. Thank you Teemu.

JoyJennifer Jones.  You had one of the most remarkable curling performances at any level, securing your name among the legends of your sport, but never did I see you without a smile on your face.  You showed how an athlete can leave their sport on the ice and enjoy the things life brings her way.  Thank you for your smile and for your never-failing joy.

GraceTessa and Scott.  “Simple elegance or refinement of movement.”  Thank you.

Thank you kids.

ConnectionE.J. Harnden.  One of the most amazing moments of these games for me as a viewer was when you tweeted me directly to discuss the Canadian women’s hockey team!  It was a small gesture, but it changed my experience of the games and made me feel connected.  While you could have simply tuned everyone out and enjoyed yourself in your new-found Olympic fame, you took the time to share with strangers back home.  Thank you for your kindness.

You usually looked more intense than this E.J. Thanks for sharing your Olympic experience with me!

You athletes did more than share your experiences and your sports, you also helped the world become a smaller place.  As E.J. demonstrated, Twitter can bring people together although they are thousands of miles apart.  You became the catalyst for new friendships, shared experiences among fans, and connections otherwise impossible.  Never forget the impact you have on others, even by just being there.

And so I add my voice to the millions of voices congratulating my athletes after a wonderful Olympic Games.  Most importantly you inspired me to be a better person, on and off the field of play.  You exemplify the best of the Olympic virtues not for your skill and success in sport, but for your humanity.

I am just a fan, an inspired one, but one of millions inspired by you.  However, should you ever find yourselves in Victoria, I’d be honoured to buy you a coffee or take you to dinner!

Safe travels home and best of luck in the future, friends.  On behalf of everyone,

Ben Fast

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7 responses to “A Letter to My Olympians

  1. Screams from the inner offices told everyone we were watching Ryan! Brad, Ryan, E J head to the gold.
    Canada’s best
    Congratulations

  2. Perfectly written and felt. I know/hope alot of people feel the same. I personally like the fact that you pointed out respect showed by Team Jacobs (our hometown boys) as they haven’t been defined in that way in alot of social media posts. I also can’t wait for 2016 and beyond as I share the same thoughts, feelings and emotions with you and if I happen to see EJ, Ryan, Brad or Ryan around town I will gladly buy them a coffee or a beer on yours and my behalf!

    • Hi Eve,

      Thanks! Yes, the fist-pumping seems to be an issue for some people, but they don’t have a problem with any other athletes celebrating!! I think it’s great, shows a passion that that sport needs to get more viewers. And thanks, let me know how the coffee/beer goes, wish I could join you if it happens!

      Ben

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