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:
Perseverance – Jan 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!
Determination – Eve 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.
Family/Famille – The 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.
Respect – Team 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.
Humility – Teemu 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.
Joy – Jennifer 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.
Grace – Tessa and Scott. “Simple elegance or refinement of movement.” Thank you.
Connection – E.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 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,