A Vancouverite’s Take on the Olympics

- by Susan Lyons

I live in Vancouver, BC. What else could I possibly write about this week? The Olympics are everywhere. The streets are full of happy people from all over the world, there’s a buzz in the air, the Olympic torch lights our harbor, my TV has coverage on at least 5 channels, and the courier who just delivered a package said, “Go, Canada!”

 I’ve been getting up at 5:00 a.m. to try and get all my work done, so I won’t feel guilty (at least not too guilty) when I sit down to watch my favorite sport, figure skating. Have you been watching it?

 Figure skating is a microcosm of the entire Olympic experience, and I see a lot of parallels to being a writer, and to working toward any other kind of dream. Today I’m going to share a few Canadian figure skating stories.

 I have to start with Joannie Rochette. Silver medalist at the World Championship in 2009 and a strong medal contender here. On TV, I’ve watched her grow up on the ice, working extremely hard and always being professional and generous. I don’t know Joannie’s dream, but I bet from a very young age it’s been standing on the podium at the Olympics. Her parents were so proud, they flew in from Quebec on Saturday. And . . . On Saturday night her mother (only 55) suffered a massive heart attack and died. Can you even imagine what that must be like? Any of us who’ve lost a parent sure can. How do you carry on and function? Well, Joannie did, on Tuesday night. Skating for her mom, of course. She skated brilliantly and is now sitting in 3rd. The commentators were silent during her program – and later revealed it was because they were in tears. I think pretty much everyone who was watching was in tears. Not Joannie, though. She held those back until she finished. Her long program is tonight and I’ll be watching. In tears, no doubt.

 Now, from one kind of sob story to another, much happier one. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, also Canadian, are now the gold medalists in ice dance. They’re 20 and 22 years old and have been skating together, working toward this dream, since they were 7 and 9. For one team to be together that long is rare, and everyone who watches them skate sees the amazing connection between them. Of course they’ve faced injuries and other hardships, they’ve made the incredible sacrifices that so many athletes make, but they persisted through everything. They’re a shining example of how it’s supposed to work: hard work in pursuit of a dream should pay off.

 Of course it doesn’t always. Patrick Chan, Canada’s top male skater—all of 19 now—has also been skating a long time. Since he was 5. Last year he was hyped as a gold medal favorite, then he was injured early this season and couldn’t practice. He’s never returned to last year’s form, and he finished 5th. You have to think, 5th in the world is pretty darned good, but it has to be tough not living up to the heavy expectations laid on his shoulders. And yet, he’s only 19. He could have 2 more Olympic Games ahead of him. I’m already looking forward to seeing how he does in 2014. I’m betting on gold!

 And these are just the big names. There are all those other skaters, all the athletes from all the countries, who dreamed of one day making it to the Olympics, and here they are, in my city. Living that dream. It’s lovely to see.

 And it’s a lesson in what it often takes to realize a dream. Years of hard work, of sacrifice, of always being professional, of never losing track of the goal.

 How many people start out with a dream, but drop out along the way because the going gets tough? That’s not a bad thing – it’s just a shift in priorities, and maybe a desire to live a more balanced life. There’s no right or wrong here. But today, I want to celebrate the people who didn’t drop out: all the athletes now gracing my city with their skill, drive, and sportsmanship.

9 comments

  1. One of the things that has always fascinated me about the Olympics is that you get a range of human experience in a few short hours. From the heights of triumph to the depths of defeat, the celebration of births and the loss of death, injuries, comebacks, the good, bad and ugly, its all on display for the world to see.

    Every time they come around I swear I am not going to watch, and yet I get sucked in by a story, a life, a laugh or a tear. Yeah, I’m waxing poetical, but it is a fascinating study.

    Gia

  2. Gia, that’s exactly the way I feel. I suppose it’s the ultimate reality show. Which is weird, because normally I don’t like reality shows, I prefer something that’s been written by a good writer. LOL. But with the Olympics, I’m not sure even an excellent writer could do much to improve on the real experience.

  3. I have just moved back to the Vancouver area and what a party! Not only the Olympics on tv day and night but went downtown to experience the energy…. WOW but yes, now to sit at the keyboard (while watching the second round of Ladies skiing!)

    Joannie was amazing and then she fought so hard for composure that it tore me up and still does every time they show it again on screen.

  4. Yes, katt, isn’t it wonderful just walking the streets? I live downtown – a few blocks away from Olympic “zone” – and my place is as quiet as usual. But then I walk down Robson Street and wow, I’m in an international village.

    You and me both, watching the second round of ladies skating tonight, laptops on laps, fingers crossed for Joannie.

    I just think of how she must have been looking forward to this: coming to Vancouver with the Canadian Olympic team and all that fun camaraderie, then skating in her own country, with her parents in the audience, and maybe winning a medal. And now… Even if she does medal, she’ll always look back on these Olympics as the time her mom died and never got to see her skate. Yeah, it does tear you up, doesn’t it?

  5. She’ll be my inspiration for a while. Somehow a rejection letter won’t mean so much! Wow, just watched the women win the hockey GOLD… Fabulous!

  6. Perspective is an interesting thing, isn’t it? And yes, hurray for the women’s hockey team!

  7. And hurray for Joannie, who just won a bronze medal.

  8. i love to Figure Skate, and this has been my favorite sport ever since i was a kid.,;’

  9. i love to see women that is doing some figure skating , they are really beautiful and gracefull.’,,