Wednesday, February 24, 2010

O Canada...

The Vancouver Games have been a bit of a disaster, from the hydraulic issues that marred the Opening Ceremonies to the lack of snow on Cypress Mountain (until yesterday) and falling short of its boast to "own the podium" on home soil.

But these Olympics have produced its fair share of inspirational stories. As I've said before, the Games tend to bring front and center unique athletes who have compelling backstories. Host nation Canada is not devoid of such people.

Figure skate Joannie Rochette has been the center of world sporting events for the past few days. Tragically, she lost her mother to a heart attack just two days ago. Her efforts last night are the stuff of legend. Rochette took the ice and, to the delight and vociferous (and occasionally tearful) support of the entire crowd, skated the program of her life. She simply flew across the ice. The story on Yahoo! brought me to tears and it doesn't even include video of her performance. You can see it on NBC's online coverage of the Olympics here. FYI - I had to turn my sound all the way up to hear the commentators.

Rochette clearly poured her heart and soul into her performance. The other athletes at the Games also give everything they have for their event, though most do it with a much lighter heart. Canadian Jon Montgomery picked up the gold medal in what I consider the most terrifying sport on Earth - skeleton. I think lugers are just this side of crazy, but to speed down an icy chute on a thin piece of metal headfirst? That's just insane. As Yahoo!'s article points out, sports stars come ready-made these days. They are full of logoed clothing, sound bytes and publicists/managers/assistants/agents/coaches. Montgomery seems to break the mold, and not just because he drank a fan's beer on the way to the interview stage.

The Olympics seem to be a time still of unlikely heroes, despite the preponderance of prepackaged stars. Cross country skier Brian McKeever is one of those heroes. He will compete in the 50-kilometer cross country race on the last day of the Olympics and then stick around Vancouver to compete next month in the Paralympics.

McKeever is legally blind.

The Philadelphia Daily News has a short article detailing McKeever's bout with Stargardt's Disease and how he has continued to compete regardless of the degenerative effect it has had on his vision. Near the bottom of the Daily News story, McKeever outlines what he thinks is the beauty of the Olympic Games. What I think is that he fits that ideal to a tee.

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