I love sport.
I love everything about sport. The blood, the sweat, the tears, the adrenaline, the underdogs, the upsets, the competition, the everything.
And with the winter Olympics in full swing I am reminded daily of the way that sport can bring people together and the way that it can drive them apart.
As Canadians we have been aware of the term “Own the Podium” for the last year or more. It’s the name of the program that the Canadian Olympic Committee started to help propel Canadian athletes to the top of their sports. So far this program has been met with various receptions from Canadians. Some feel that it hasn’t worked because we aren’t currently atop the overall medal standings, and some see the improvement that we have made over past Olympiads. I love it.
As I write this blog Canada has 5 gold medals in these games. We have gold from athletes that we didn’t expect gold from, and we have unfortunate results from some athletes that were pegged to finish higher. And still, when I look and see that the Americans have 7 gold medals I am not worried. Certainly the competitor in me wants to pass them, to beat at least the Americans, the loud, boisterous, affluent neighbours to the south that they are. But at the same time I am reminded that the Americans have a population 10 times the size of ours to draw athletes from. And they do. Canada being able to go toe to toe with the States in gold medals is a fantastic achievement. I love it.
That population and talent pool example is the exact one that non-traditional hockey nations use when they face Canada. Playing against our boys becomes a De facto gold medal game for teams like Belarus and the Swiss. And that’s why you see the energy and effort from teams like the Swiss in the 3-2 shootout win from earlier in the tournament. I love it.
That notion should be something that we keep in mind when we look at speed skating, where Canadian athletes do quite well, but are more famous in the Netherlands for their accomplishments. Or in Biathlon which is the national sport in Germany, but a footnote in Canada during non-Olympic years. Having athletes in the top 10 in these events is a great showing, and in the case of speed skating Canada plays above our heads. I love it.
Coming up this week Canada has chances to win gold medals in Women’s Hockey, Men’s and Women’s Curling, Women’s Ski Cross, Women’s Figure Skating and others. Notice how I didn’t mention Men’s Hockey. That’s a whole other story of its own. I am glad that I have Thursday off so that I can watch the Canada vs. USA battle in Woman’s puck. I am confident in the chances of both Kevin Martin and Cheryl Bernard as they enter the play-off round of the Curling competition and my sentimentality kicks into high gear when I think of Joannie Rochette and the grief that she will be fighting through as she takes the ice in the Women’s Figure Skating programs starting tonight. I have never hoped that someone would win a gold medal the way that I am hoping for her this week. I love it.
With regards to the Men’s Hockey situation let me say this. Calm down Canada. These dudes are professionals, something that we don’t say about many other athletes at these games. They know how to deal with adversity and they know how to deal with pressure. And if they are truly the better team on the ice, and not just the more talented collection of players, they will come through and show that to the world in the next 6 days. It starts with Germany tonight, and then Russia tomorrow if the game goes well. And that showdown with Russia will be the biggest mid-week hockey game in a long, long time for Canadian fans and hockey fans the world over. It will be Sidney Crosby vs. Alexander Ovechkin with the winner going home, no medal, no parade, no national anthem, no glory, just a loss and disappointment. It is going to happen to someone, here’s hoping that it’s not Sidney. As a side note, if it does come down to Canada vs. Russia look out for Alex Ovechkin, this kid hates losing, and more than that, he hates losing to Sid. Determination and possibly domination will personified by Ovechkin himself. I love it.
This is also a big week for me because Spring Training has started in Arizona and Florida for Major League Baseball. Now, I won’t get into that too much because it’s a long season and I’m going to have lots to say during it. But it does excite me. It means that spring is coming whether a groundhog or a snow storm like it. It means that I am close to hot dogs and beer and lemonade and score books. It means that soon I’ll be able to be a little boy at the ball park all over again, even though I turned 28 on Sunday. I love it.
Other big sporting moments upcoming include the Olympic Closing Ceremonies; the NHL trade deadline; the NBA play-offs and my fantasy baseball draft. I love it.
All said and done, I love sport. Not just sports, but sport itself. It will bring a country and her people to their feet to sing the national anthem. It will turn skiers like Alexandre Biladeau into legends. It will make you smile, cheer and cry. And I love it.
It starts with Germany tonight, and then Russia tomorrow if the game goes well. And that showdown with Russia will be the biggest mid-week hockey game in a long, long time for Canadian fans and hockey fans the world over. It will be Sidney Crosby vs. Alexander Ovechkin with the winner going home, no medal, no parade, no national anthem, no glory, just a loss and disappointment. It is going to happen to someone, here’s hoping that it’s not Sidney. As a side note, if it does come down to Canada vs. Russia look out for Alex Ovechkin, this kid hates losing, and more than that, he hates losing to Sid. Determination and possibly domination will personified by Ovechkin himself. I love it.