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Keep the faith
Aug 14, 2008

I admit it, I’ve become an Olympic Games junkie. After work, my eyes are glued to the television, anticipating some super human feat of height, speed or strength. 

It didn’t bother  me that for the opening ceremonies some Communist politburo members had a “cuter” kid — actually, an official said, “The child on camera should have a flawless image” — lip-sync the words to Ode to the Motherland, originally recorded by a less photogenic seven-year-old girl with crooked teeth; or that some firework displays had been computer enhanced during the broadcast. 

The Chinese had just learned a lesson or two from the American music industry machine and Hollywood. Good for them.

The only real problem with becoming an Olympics junky in 2008 is the time difference between Beijing and Winnipeg, as all the live events are televised in the late evening and the wee hours of the morning. 

In mid-week, I eagerly  awaited what the CBC-TV announcers claimed to be Canada’s best bet for an Olympic medal.

“Canada’s best chance for a medal in the Olympic Pool is Brent Hayden, who tied for gold in the 100-metre freestyle of last year’s world aquatic championship,” proclaimed one of a cadre of announcers.

I’m hooked. 

This is it, I thought, finally, there’s going to be a medal won by a Canadian. It doesn’t have to be a gold, I’d settle for a silver or a bronze. 

“Go get ’em Brent!” I shout to Canada’s Olympic hopeful, imagining he can hear me, although he’s  thousands of kilometres and several time zones away.

When it finally comes to the moment of Hayden’s semi-final, I’m all set to celebrate ...

What, he didn’t advance to the final? I’m in disbelief. What went wrong?

No matter, the same announcer says Canada has another shot for a medal in the men’s 4x200-metre freestyle relay. The announcer assured me that Hayden, who is a key member of the relay team, will refocus and give it his “all” for this event. With Hayden in the line-up, Colin Russell, Brian Jones and Andrew Hurd are sure to bring home a medal, I’m told.

My confidence had been enhanced by newspaper columnists who informed me the 4x200-metre freestyle relay was Canada’s best chance to end its medal drought in the pool.

The gold is out of reach, since superstar swimmer Michael Phelps is on the powerful American relay team.

Halfway through the race, I’m on my feet. There’s Hayden. He’s narrowed the gap on the second-place Russian swimmer. This is it!

But wait, the Canadian swimmers following Hayden are giving up ground. The race is over. The Americans won in world-record time and Phelps has his fifth gold medal.

I find solace in the fact that the Canadian baseball team, which includes Stubby Clapp, the hero of the Canadian win over the U.S. during the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, was thumping the Chinese. I had been intently watching the game when the CBC suddenly switched over to beach volleyball. 

What! 

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the skill of the players, but the women in question were from a nation other than Canada. The Canadian men may have been thumping China, but they were still Canadians, and as far as I knew CBC was a Canadian television network funded by Canadian taxpayers.

After hours of disappointment, it was comforting to me that Canadians could show they excelled at something.

The Canadian men’s baseball team does have a chance to win a medal — the women’s softball team has already advanced another step toward a medal and will play the U.S. in the next round — so I was amazed that our national broadcaster felt no one would be interested in observing their play on the field to judge how their fielding, pitching and hitting would shape up for future games. 

Still, there was another medal chance later in the broadcast, I was again assured by an announcer.

Blurry-eyed from lack of sleep, I vowed to witness Canada’s medal moment. I forced myself to stay awake as the clock struck two in the morning. Or was it three? No matter, I thought, it would be  worth  the sacrifice. Keeping in mind the endless hours of training our athletes undertook to just get to Beijing, I knew I definitely owed them my allegiance.

With the confidence expressed by the announcer, I believed all my earlier disappointment would be erased by Canadian divers soon sporting shiny medals hanging from their necks.  

Three rounds into the men’s three-metre synchronized diving event, Alexandre Despatie and Arturo Miranda were solidly in third place. As expected, the Chinese were running away with the competition, displaying extraordinary skill after propelling themselves in unison off the diving board.

The Canadian duo took to the board for their fourth dive. They tumbled through the air. Oops, I sensed something was wrong. Their dive didn’t quite look right. The CBC colour commentator assured me the judges don’t have the advantage of slow-motion replays so they might have missed the flaws. I’m not convinced. 

Unfortunately, my suspicions that the colour commentator was off the mark were confirmed. The scores come up and the Canadians have posted the second-lowest score of the round. They fall into fifth place where they remain after the completion of their sixth and final dive.

It’s after 3 a.m. I’m tired. I have to work in the morning.

Was it worth it?

You bet! 

By putting everything into perspective, I know that I can continue watching Canadians perform during the Beijing Olympics. Canadian athletes are trying their best against the best in the world. They are improving and will continue to improve throughout the competition and this bodes well for future Olympics.

Chris Rudge, chief executive officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee, is now urging Canadians frustrated by the lack of medals to calm down and relax, according to a CBC report.

There’s no doubt, Canadians will win medals as the Olympic Games progress, so I’ll take his advice and relax. 

In the meantime, what I’ve learned is  not to so readily accept the medal predictions of the so-called experts. From now on, I’ll  turn  down the volume on the TV set and just concentrate on the on-screen performances of Canadian athletes — medals or no medals.