I recently received a copy of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games official commemorative book With Glowing Hearts / Des Plus Brillants Exploits. With 400 pages of photographs and commentary about the two host cities, the torch relay, the opening and closing ceremonies of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games as well as detailed accounts of every event, the book is a comprehensive summary of the biggest event ever held on Canadian soil.
Leafing through the pages I was struck by an aspect of the book that I find particularly appealing. There are of course, dramatic photographs of the athletes engaged in what we all watched them do. The events were where the drama unfolded and where dreams did or did not come true but as any athlete will tell you, the actual event amounts to such a tiny fraction of what an athlete goes through to reach that point. It’s also a tiny fraction of an athlete’s experience at an Olympics.
The perspective you have as an athlete is very different to that of the public. Athletes visit some nice places but when they travel, they don’t really see them, other than superficially. What they are familiar with is the airports, the highways, the hotel rooms, the training facilities and the competition venues. Often that’s it. It’s not nearly as glamorous as it might sound. They’re not seeing the sights, they’re seeing a very small corner of the world where they happen to be hosting an athletic event.
This was one of the aspects of With Glowing Hearts / Des Plus Brillant Exploits that I appreciated. It’s very intimate in the sense that it shows some of the nooks and crannies where athletes spend almost all of their time – the start house, the ski prep room, the dorms, the various forms of transportation they take, etc. We see the athletes in their competitive environment for the brief moment they compete but the reality is that they spend so much more time in many other places.
The other aspect of the book that, to me, really makes it worth the cost, is just the fact that it is an account of an incredible time in many of our lives. I was pleasantly reminded just how many tremendous performances there were day after day in Vancouver and Whistler in such a short period of time. It’s easy to forget some of those moments when they all happened in such quick succession. There were home team Canadian moments, there were World moments, there were moments that were all about superlative performance and taking it to the next level and there were moments that reminded us so quickly that we need to keep sport in perspective. There were times when we rejoiced in our team’s ability to outshine their opponents and there were times, as there always are. when we felt great joy through the triumph of athletes from other countries.
There were so many highlights in Vancouver/Whistler that it’s great to have this reference to relive them. Being from the sport of skeleton, something I will always remember is the race between Jon Montgomery and Martins Dukurs – one of the closest and most exciting I’ve ever seen from any sport (http://sportatitsbest.com/2010/02/20/jon-montgomery-vs-martins-dukars/). There was also Clara Hughes, Virtue and Moir , Alex Bilodeau, Lauren Woolstencroft and the mens relay team in short track speed skating.
The list goes on but as is often the case, the most inspiring athletes aren’t always the ones who win so much as the ones who face the greatest challenge because truly at the highest level, sport isn’t just about winning. When you think about the challenge, how can you not think about Joannie Rochette’s bronze medal performance in the women’s singles event in figure skating. I won’t soon forget the bravery she showed in her short program with tears in her eyes before she even began, just days after losing her mother. Incredible. Even with 14 gold medal performances to choose from, nobody would question Joannie Rochette’s selection as Canada’s flag bearer for the closing ceremonies.
Because of the challenge faced, they say the men’s gold medal hockey game will be remembered with more reverie than the gold medal final of 2002. Canada won in both cases but this time they did not dominate. It was a close hard-fought game that could easily have gone either way. The victory was sweeter having faced the greater challenge.
Even with 14 gold medal performances to choose from, nobody would question Joannie Rochette’s selection as Canada’s flag bearer for the closing ceremonies.
Sport is also about character and for me personally, something I will always remember was watching the class shown by Brian McKeever upon receiving the news that he would not be representing Canada in the 50 kilometer cross-country ski race at the Olympics (http://sportatitsbest.com/2010/03/04/21-brian-mckeever-not-racing-in-the-olympics/). It was an absolutely heartbreaking decision, but Brian talked about the strength of his team mates and the job he had to do only two weeks later at the Paralympic Games. A job he did to the tune of three gold medals in the cross-country skiing, visually impaired events.
There was so much that happened over those few weeks in February and March earlier this year, so many inspirational moments, so many incredible performances. The Winter Olympics and Paralympics, due to the very nature of the events, has always been about great triumphs and heartbreaking failures. The more likely the failure, the greater the triumph for those lucky enough to succeed. With Glowing Hearts / Des Plus Brillant Exploits has been and will continue to be a real source of enjoyment for me to relive some of those moments and in some cases learn about the events I didn’t have the chance to see as they happened.