Making Sense of Canada’s Olympic Results

Posted: August 8, 2012 in In Transition, Motivation
Tags: ,

They say that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’,  well, here’s two thousand worth for you right here regarding Canada’s recent triathlon team’s performance in the 2012 London Olympics:

Yeah, it was a frustrating turn out to say the least.  Am I disappointed?  Sure.  Who isn’t given the high expectations we had for our guys/gals going into the Games.  But am I angry or ashamed in any way?  No.  Never!  In fact, I may just be more inspired than ever.

First, Paula Findlay, who was once ranked No.1 in the world on the ITU circuit and who, I might add, has won twice on this same London course before, finished dead last after her body literally imploded in on itself after nearly 10 months of being absent from the sport thanks to lingering injuries (an issue I’m not even going to attempt to delve into as the very core of her unfortunate circumstance is beyond my scope to either grasp or address; lest it be said, she was shamefully ‘let down’ by those who were supposed to be responsible for developing and supporting her in the lead up to the race).  But, she gutted it out in the end and tearfully crossed the finish line nearly 12 minutes behind the leaders, of whom, she has all beaten before; apologies abound.  Anyone whose heart didn’t immediately go out to her as bawled her way to the finish is one cold son-of-a-bitch, let me tell you.  Then, in the same race, teammate Kathy Tremblay tragically crashed out on the bike and was lapped, therefore, forced to pull out.  Crap sticks!

Not a good day for the ladies.

Next out were the men.  Medal hopeful and Canadian flag-bearer Simon Whitfield, after exiting the water in 15th, an ideal position for him as per the strategy, wiped out in a freak accident leaving T1 after hitting a speed bump and losing control of his bike and ending up crowd surfing through the spectators; stitches, broken collarbone, multiple gashes, goose eggs and damaged pride as a result.  Double crap sticks!

Other team members Kyle Jones and Brent McMahon finished 25th  and 27th  respectfully.  Both will be medal contenders in the future, but it wasn’t exactly a medal worthy performance this time around.

Hopefully, I speak for the majority of Canadians, triathletes specifically, that while we may be shaking our heads in disbelief, we’re in no way criticizing the efforts our Olympians put forth.  They put the work in, showed up under mounting pressure and spotlight and did their absolute best under the circumstances.  The sport of triathlon is not often predictable to say the least; things happen.  It’s the very nature of the sport and in this case, things clearly did not go our way.  I am pleased however, that under the dire circumstances and, as in poor Paula’s instance, they demonstrated true grit and determination even in the face of adversity.  There is no apology necessary Paula.

So what did I glean get out of all this?

Bravery.  Paula, particularly, demonstrated this kind of bravery in its most basic and purest form.  How much bravery did Paula Findlay demonstrate when she hobbled across that finish line in last place knowing that an entire nation was expecting more?  Did she pull out?  Fuck no!  She picked herself up – albeit reluctantly – and hobbled to the finish.  That took bucket loads of guts to not throw in the towel when the shit hit the fan and I admire that quality immensely.  Too often I see other athletes pull out when the going gets tough, like all those pussies that pulled out of the Boston Marathon this year and instead accepted a ‘bye’ to next year’s race simply because the weather was not ‘favorable’.  In essence, they took the easy way out; Paula most certainly did not.  She was hurting and thoroughly humiliated but she persevered and did what she needed to do and those tears at the finish line tell the whole story.

The same can be said for Kathy Tremblay when she offered this statement following her being flagged out of the race after the bike crash:

Even if you crash, you get back on your bike and just f–ing go for it, you know?

Too right!  You go, girl!

Be it ever so humble.  Simon Whitfield bore the weight of an entire nation’s hopes and dreams for a three-peat performance at this year’s Olympics.   It was all in the headlines weeks prior to the games in a build-up that rivaled ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ by comparison.  Oh sure, my recent bro-mance’  with the guy is well documented already, but, think about:  he has literally sacrificed his past four years to training and conditioning for one last crack at the bat at the 2012 Olympic Games.  He knew it was a long shot, and went for it anyway.  You have to remember that Simon is now 37-years-old and a family man, and probably not considered to be in the same league physically as some of the athletes now competing in this year’s games.  He likely knew this fact when he continually equated his last ditch attempt at a medal performance as ‘throwing a haymaker’.  To prepare himself, he spent months away from his wife and kids and attempted to reinvent himself, yet again, for this one specific task ‘Operation: One Last Medal’;  and then it was all over.  Poof!  Just like that.

Yet there he was, moments after being stitched up in the medical tent, on the sidelines cheering on his peers and teammates.  And then he’s back afterwards in front of the television cameras again answering media questions before the shock of what’s even happened has sunk in; no excuses.  Here’s his perspective of it afterwards:

I said all along, if I had a shiny object or not I was going to be at the park with my family tomorrow, after I cheer on Adam van Koeverden as he chases down medal number four.

That’s a real ‘winner’ right there, folks.  Here’s a guy with his priorities in life set squarely in place.  In fact, the real tragedy didn’t sink in until he greeted his wife and kids in the stands later as he felt he had let his ‘team’ down.  That resonates for me.

Likewise, how about poor Kyle (who, until recently, was Simon’s training partner for the past 8 years) and Brent, both of who were completely overshadowed by the whole Paula and Simon media juggernaught?  Most people didn’t even know they were in the event at all, but did they bitch and complain?  No.  They just got down to business and gave it their all finishing only three minutes behind the leaders.  Nice going guys.

Dignity.  There are people you can look up to.  They’re just human beings at the end of the day just like everyone else; for good or bad.  They’re true champions; they’re heroes.  And, sometimes, heroes are the guys who come in last and they have nothing to feel ashamed of.  These are people with characteristics that I want to embody myself, if not for anyone else than for my seven-year-old step-daughter.  It’s not always necessarily the results of the battle that define greatness or breeds champions, but how they conduct themselves afterwards, particularly when things go wrong…terribly wrong.  It goes without saying that it’s ‘not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game’.  Well, these people played simply awesome in my opinion.

Going forward, these particular athletes need not hide from the public upon their return.  Hold your heads high!  Be proud of your efforts and the grace in which you conducted yourselves.  Also know that in another four (short) years, you’re going to be stronger, wiser, and more ready to raise sweet holy hell come those not-so-distant 2016 Olympic Games.

Look out world!

So come September when I make my own bid for greatness by throwing my own ‘haymaker’, I want to keep it all in this kind of proper perspective.  Just being there is a huge accomplishment in and of itself, despite how it might turn out in the end.  The end result is not really even relevant or the be all and end all of my ultimate success but, rather, how I perceive it at the end.  I have never swum 4k  in frigid water in 11’  swells.  I have never battled the wind for 180k  for 5-6  hours on a bike, or even run a full marathon before; much less on tired legs.  In essence, I don’t know how any of this is all going to go any more than I know the formula for cold water fusion.  But instead of focusing on my results like ‘time’, per se, I’m going to try and simply focus on doing my absolute very best and, if at all possible, enjoying myself while remembering what it took to be there and the long way I have come in the past four years.  If I manage to keep all that in it perspective – I’ll already be a winner.

  1. mom says:

    Very nicely written, Terry!

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