Watching the Olympic Games currently being held in Vancouver got me thinking about dreams, goals and glory. Some of these Olympians started their dreams well before they hit a double digit birthday and all of them have worked at their sport with a focus unlike no other. Besides all of the training and preparation that they do for their particular sport, many of them are pursuing university degrees. They are achievers. They know their goals and understand the commitment it takes to get to the podium.
Watching Alexandre Bilodeau win the gold medal and Jennifer Heil win the silver medal in moguls and Kristina Groves win the bronze medal in the 3000 metre speed skating was exciting and thought provoking. For the moguls, all of the work preparing for this moment is over after 23, 24 or 27 seconds (the time varies as men are faster racers than the women). Achieving your dreams is measured in seconds. Winning a medal depends on seconds. Furthermore, the skill, nerve and sheer guts to hurtle down the mogul hill, take two jumps, fly through the air and come down properly on your skis and continue down to the finish line requires one to be a dare devil and have stead fast nerves. I realize that the athletes doing these events didn't start off being able to do these difficult courses and it is years of culmination - you start off when young competing at novice events and over the course of years build up to tackling the advance courses. The athletes competing at the Olympics are the best in their specialty. In many ways this is no different than successful individuals who run corporations, head up government departments or operate their own businesses. They learned their skills and business step by step over the course of years. But success in sports is measured by degrees of difficulty and seconds and that is very different to the world that you and I operate in.
What is evident is the abuse and tears your body takes to be an athlete. For those of you that run, play tennis, squash or curl, your knees tend to feel the effects. Multiply that to the sports such as skiing and speed skating and it is clearly evident that your surgeon may be your next best friend. One of the Canadian mogul skiers has had a number of surgeries done on his knees by his father who is a surgeon in Quebec City.
It was clear watching these competitors the role that their teammates and family plays in achieving success. For their teammates, even though they compete against each other, you could see the bond and supportive gestures made at the moguls and speed skating events while waiting for the particular individual results. Starting prior to the Olympics there has been a lot of media on the family support and sacrifice made to support these athletics. It is clear that every successful athlete has had emotional and financial support from his or her family. I offer a few examples. While flying home from a holiday in California I happened to sit beside Jay Morrison, a World Cup speed skater. For several reasons including surgery last summer, he didn't make the cut for the Olympics. His younger brother Denny is competing at the Olympics. I knew of some of the speed skaters from home so the ice was broken and we chatted for about two hours. One topic that was discussed was his parents' commitment to the training, support and travelling to speed skating events when the two boys were at the junior level. The dreams that these boys had in their youth while living in a smaller northern B.C. community were made into reality by their parents. The second example is the win by Bilodeau. In television clips prior to this competition and following his gold medal, he expressively talked about the support his family has given him and the inspiration that his disabled older brother has provided. "Can't" is not in this gold winner's vocabulary. Brian Williams interviewed the Bilodeau family Sunday night on CTV at its Olympic broadcasting site and his family was with Alexandre - his parents, brother and sister. I haven't seen too many post medal interviews with the while family present and being interviewed. The funny part of this interview was one of the other sports commentators (a former football player) brought out a bottle of champagne and glasses to toast this event. It was quite humorous as this was live and not a taped event.
A closing comment needs to be made about glory. Glory has a price and Nodar Kumaritashvili, the luger from Georgia who was killed during a training run, died in the pursuit of glory. There is risk with all of these Olympic events, even curling as you can fall backwards, hit your head on the ice and badly injure yourself. It is important to understand the glory and the risks and fulfilling your dreams as you only go around once.