D’Oh Canada! Lessons From the Vancouver Olympics

Sadly, it’s time to extinguish the Olympic flame as the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics draw to a close.  If you’re like me, you watched the closing ceremonies with a heavy heart and said goodbye to our favorite athletes, some we would see again in four years, some who would never compete in another Olympics.  Here’s a look back on just some of the lessons learned from this winter Olympiad:

Technical difficulties make everything more interesting: first the Olympic torch was botched at the Opening Ceremonies, then there was no snow, then there was too much  snow, then the ice rink for speed skating was too torn up to skate on; it seemed like everything was going wrong with all the technical difficulties causing delays for many of the competitions.  But there was a silver lining – the lack of snow on the alpine skiing course allowed the battered Lindsay Vonn time to rest and repair her recently bruised shin. Then there was the tragic death of Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili; the 21-year-old expressed his fear of the Whistler sliding track before his tragic accident, one many think could have easily been avoided.  His death served as a lesson to Olympics architects and designers to not leave hazards like exposed steel beams around the fastest sliding track in the world, where even expert lugers found themselves falling.  Kumaritashvili was honored in the opening ceremonies with standing ovations as his countrymen marched.  It was a chilling, but uplifting scene, to see thousands of people stand up to honor a fallen athlete and his country.

Don’t Mess with Canada: Canada didn’t top the medal count like they planned, but they did pick up more gold medals than any country, including the United States.   They conquered curling, snowboarding, speed skating (long track and short track), women’s ice hockey, freestyle skiing, ice dancing, skeleton , women’s bobsled and most importantly, men’s hockey (against the United States, no less). U.S. snowboarder Nate Holland joked that Canada could own the podium; America would just “rent it for the month.” While plenty of others poked fun at Canada’s multi-million dollar “Own the Podium” program, which intended to place Canada in the top of the overall medal standings, they did technically own the most important part of the podium: the gold-medal stand. The achievement is even more remarkable, especially since Canada has never won a gold medal at a home Olympics before these games.

South Koreans are amazing! Eight medals in short track, five in long track speed skating, and of course Kim Yu-Na’s gold medal in women’s figure skating proved that South Koreans are a serious force to be reckoned with on the ice.  They’ve been a short-track, speed skating powerhouse for years, developing intensive training programs for skaters in the country – but they excelled in long track as well.  Kim Yu-Na’s gold medal was won with the highest scores ever posted in a ladies figure skating program, EVER.  She skated to the refreshingly different “James Bond” theme with sass, style and technical brilliance, showing she truly is the “Queen,” as she is called in her home country, where she is a rock star, her face plastered all over South Korean advertisements and billboards.  She can probably breathe a sigh of relief now that she has won gold; she had over $8 million in endorsements riding on her Olympic performance.  Now she can roll in the dough with her gold medal and bask in her fame in peace.

The strength of the human spirit can overcome any obstacle: Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette showed admirable strength & devotion when she competed in the ladies short program only days after her beloved mother suddenly died.  Most people would have crippled under the incredible emotional duress and sadness of losing a parent, but Rochette remarkably competed and won a bronze medal.  Cool and composed all throughout, she produced a program that put her in contention for a medal amongst some of the best figure skaters ever seen at the Olympics.  As stoic as she was during her routine, once the music had stopped the tears came, in what must have been an emotional blend of pride, joy, loss and sadness.  Her bronze medal was not only a resounding victory for Canada, but a triumph for athletes and Olympians everywhere.

It was an exciting two weeks of athleticism and spirit in Vancouver, and for now, we’ll have to say goodbye to the Winter Olympics, but I’ll be waiting eagerly till 2014 in Russia!