Monday, August 13, 2012

London 2012 Olympics: Canadian Crying Games

The 2012 London Summer Olympics have come to a close and as countries reflect on their performances, how will Canadians remember these games? Our athletes lacked the "Midas touch", winning only one gold medal and placing 36th in the medal standings. I don't know about you, but I'll remember these games for all the weeping Canadian athletes did after disappointing performances. There's no crying in baseball, but apparently there is plenty of crying in Summer Olympics. This was the first Summer Olympics since the introduction of the Own The Podium program, offering government funding for athletes based on performance. Canada finished with the same total medals as Beijing, but far fewer gold and silver.

What will I remember about these Olympics many years from now? Here's a list of 10 things I'll remember about London 2012:

1) Bolt vs Phelps: The world was privileged enough to watch two of the greatest Olympic athletes of all-time go out with a bang. London fell in love with Usain Bolt. Our generation will debate for years who was the greater Olympian, Phelps or Bolt? Phelps has become the most decorated Olympian in terms of total medals, but Bolt is also in uncharted waters as the greatest sprinter of all-time. Bolt has won every single race he's ran at the Olympics, but since sprinters tend to have smaller career windows than swimmers (and fewer available medals), they can't be compared by the same metrics. It's a tough call, but great conversation for the golf course or water cooler.

2) Christine Sinclair is awesome: The soccer star has now vaulted herself into the conversation for who is the best Canadian female athlete in any sport. She's definitely top 3, arguably our very best. Her 3 goals against the United States in the semi-finals might be the single greatest individual athletic performance in Canadian Olympic history. Sadly for Christine, the rest of the Canadian team could not play to her level. She deserved to be Canada's flag bearer for the closing ceremonies, and kudos to those who chose her for that honor over the trampolinist. Sinclair is not about to fade into oblivion, with Canada hosting the women's World Cup of Soccer in 2015.

3) Cry me a river: Normally I would feel more sympathy watching an athlete sob in defeat, but it feels as though we have been saturated in tears and my compassion for weeping is experiencing diminishing marginal returns. Enough! Was Paula Findlay crying because she let down Canada, or because she might lose funding? Most of us didn't even know who she was until we saw her crying on television. We didn't place this pressure on her, she placed it on herself. It got to the point where Jered Connaughton was applauded as a National hero for not crying after he was disqualified in the 4x100 relay, taking all the attention away from Justyn Warner who ran a magnificent final leg. A horse rider was weeping like a toddler when they wouldn't let her run on a wounded animal, which was the moment my empathy dried up.

4) Controversial officiating: Canada got hosed on several occasions, in soccer, horse riding, boxing, track, to name a few, prompting investigations and appeals. This is the most upset I can ever remember feeling about refereeing, judging, and officiating in any Olympics. Rightly or wrongly, there was an overdose of controversy involving Canadian athletes. It does change things that the Canadian goalie was warned by the official earlier in the game that she was holding on to the ball longer than the rules permitted. Perhaps delay of game is rarely called, but a warning had been issued and the goalie continued holding on to the ball too long. That being said, I'm still furious.

5) Boo British culture: After watching a two week "celebration of British culture" I quickly came to one inescapable conclusion, I hate British culture. Mr Bean isn't funny. The Spice Girls still suck. It might have made Britons warm and fuzzy with feelings of nostalgia, doesn't mean I have to like it.

6) Spring runner: I'll remember watching Oscar "Blade Runner" Pistorius of South Africa run track with two legs amputated below the knee. Some openly questioned whether or not having two springs on his legs gave him an unfair advantage. In my opinion he's a great story, an inspiration to amputees and the disabled, and his participation should be encouraged in the future. Regardless of the mechanics of his prosthetic limbs, I still have to think that the calf muscle makes a significant contribution to human locomotion. Plus, it probably hurts like Hell to run in those things. Well done Oscar. I'd like to watch him run again some day.

7) "HELLO!? You play to win the game!": I will remember badminton teams deliberately trying to lose, with 3 teams tanking at the same time. The judge pleaded with them to stop, they continued to tank, and were tossed from the Olympics. This is not the first time a team or athlete has attempted to throw a match in the round robin to secure a preferred opponent in the elimination rounds, but possibly the first with two teams going head to head trying to lose. It was hilarious to watch. The best part of the story was the winless Canadian team advancing to the elimination rounds by virtue of multiple DQs, like a short track speed skating race.

I love Herm...

8) Jump around: There is only one Summer Olympic sport where Canada is walking away as the best in the world, f**king trampoline. Congrats to Rosie McLennan on her achievement, that 10 seconds of jumping producing a gold medal, but it is just a little bit embarrassing that this was the only event in which a Canadian was the best in the world. Again, well done Rosie, and forgive me if I'd like to see Canada win something other than jumping on a trampoline a few times. Canada dominates trampoline, and by the Own the Podium funding formula, this sport will not be without money anytime soon. How awesome would it be to get paid to jump up and down all day? Where do I sign up?

9) Relax, it's just a bronze: I have never seen this many athletes celebrating 2nd and 3rd place finishes like they just won the competition. Great athletes tend to have one thing in common, they hate losing and generally refrain from rejoicing anything but number one. Why is a person who finishes in 3rd place going bananas like they just won the lottery? Granted, I'm sure if you researched precisely how Canadian athlete compensation/funding is allocated, it would probably explain why some are celebrating third place like a hillbilly who just won a thousand dollars on a scratch ticket.

10) Flag bearer crashes: Former gold medalist in Triathlon Simon Whitfield got on his bike after a great swim and crashed after going over a speed bump. My first thought; why on earth is there a speed bump on an Olympic bike course? That makes no sense. The whole point of a speed bump is to slow people down, and the whole point of a race is to go as fast as possible. It was a nice career for Simon, too bad it had to end like this.

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