Our new Olympic heroes

For all of the cynicism, greed, cheats and big egos, the Olympics is still an event like none other.

I confess I spent most of the last two weeks as a coach potato, unable to turn away from even rhythmic gymnastics or race walking.

I love sports and it’s truly remarkable to watch the performances of the best in the world.

The Olympics make me shout for joy – you would not want to have been anywhere near our house which shook when Christine Sinclair scored her three goals – and cry in despair. To watch the Canadian men of the 4×100 relay with tears streaming down their cheeks after they were disqualified and had to give up their precious bronze medal made me well up.

I love when an underdog wins, such as Mexico beating powerhouse Brazil (and the host of the next Olympics) in men’s soccer.

And I cheer when good sportsmanship reigns. Italy’s Carlo Molfetta beat Anthony Obame of Gabon in over-80kg taekwondo and then hugged him tight, again and then again. Obame won Gabon’s first medal ever in getting silver but he really wanted gold. Molfetta eased his pain by letting him know he was a great opponent.

I rejoice that athletes who win still recognize greatness in those who lose. After winning his 400-metre semifinal, Grenada’s Kirani James embraced South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius – a double amputee who spent six years proving in a court that he belonged at the Olympics -and then asked to exchange name bibs. It was a beautiful moment.

And every Olympics gives us new heroes.

There’s Corunna’s Derek Drouin who won bronze in high jump and Richard Weinberger, who picked up bronze in a 10-K swim while Canadians slept. They came out of nowhere and won a medal while some of our highly touted athletes came up short. They were humble and proud and a little green perhaps (Weinberger stuck wearing his swimming gear for hours after he finished the race as he did interview after interview).

But my biggest hero from these games is Jared Connaughton. It was his fault the men’s relay team was DQd and he didn’t want to appeal, he didn’t look for excuses. Connaughton pointed at himself to someone in the stands to signal it was his mistake. And then he went on national TV and apologized to his teammates and to his country.

Even when his coach Glenroy Gilbert harshly (I thought) told CTV that athletes shouldn’t make these kind of mistakes, Connaughton had to sit there and listen. He never complained.

The PEI native has a heart bigger than his home province. Well done.

Who are your Olympic heroes?

 

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