Battling at the Olympics.
Renfrew Amateur Wrestling Club fans were happy to see Canada’s medal successes in wrestling at the Olympics. The strong showings by Canadian wrestlers included a fourth-place finish by their friend and periodic training partner, Martine Dugrenier of the Montreal Wrestling Club. Dugrenier wrestles this quarter-final match against Karori Icho of Japan.
Canadian Olympic Committee/Mike Ridewood
It was Aug. 8 and Dai Bassett of Valley Heritage Radio was standing outside the Eganville arena talking about the “golden girl” and other golden moments.
He had already dubbed Melissa Bishop the golden girl in his song that he shared with 700 other happy souls prior to watching the Eganville Olympian’s race in the first round of the women’s 800 metres.
But he went another lap, calling the emotions of that race and the support from the Eganville area one the most stirring events he’s ever witnessed.
As an aside, he mentioned that his daughter, Emma, a university student, had a recent brush with Olympic gold. She was in Toronto before the Olympics when she met Canada’s future Olympic gold medallist and trampolinist Rose MacLennan, a friend of one of Emma’s friends.
MacLennan’s victory was the only official gold struck by Canadian athletes at the London Olympics, but there was no shortage of proud moments and distinctly, if you wish, golden moments with or without medals.
The Olympics are about excellence, but not only excellence, hence that qualifier when mentioning some of my personal highlights from the Games of the XXXth Olympiad.
There was a pile of thumbs-up, including a certain American swimmer, Michael Phelps, and Canadian judoka Antoine Valois-Fortier, who defeated the defending Olympic champion and other stars en route to capturing a totally unexpected bronze medal.
But many other moments also resonated. From a longer list, here are a few of mine:
• The astonishing support in the Ottawa Valley for local Olympic middle-distance runner Melissa Bishop, and her own professional grace despite her inability to advance into the semi-finals from the opening heats.
• The silver medal for the articulate, flat-water kayaker Adam van Koeverden of Oakville, Ont., after the recent front-page feature in Cottage Life. The magazine profiled the Olympic medallist’s discovery and purchase of a dilapidated, old cottage in Algonquin Park. Van Koeverden already had one gold, one silver and one bronze medal from previous Olympics, before reaching the podium again at the London Games. As he said after capturing his fourth Olympic medal, “I can find the silver lining in silver.”
• Simon Whitfield for coming to the rescue of injured, last-place Paula Findlay, whom some critics said shouldn’t have been there in the first place because of her lack of fitness. Also a big thumbs up for his selection as Canada’s flag bearer in the opening ceremonies.
• The Canadian women’s soccer team high-performance, never-say-die attitude against the U.S.A. and then France, en route to a sensationally dramatic bronze-medal triumph.
• The Canadian equestrian team’s fifth-place showing despite the questionable ruling to disqualify Tiffany Foster’s horse. The ruling left the Canadian team virtually shorthanded, with their three riders to other teams’ four riders in the Nations Cup jumping.
• Teenager Kerani James’ runaway track and field victory in the men’s 400 metres for Grenada’s first-ever Olympic medal. James also became the first non-American to break 44 seconds, en route to capturing Olympic gold in 43.94.
• Double-amputee Oscar ‘The Blade Runner’ Pistorius of South Africa. It remains highly contentious if this man of bone, muscle and steel has an advantage over rivals made of just bone and muscle. But he is a fantastic ambassador for athletes, disabled or not, for his attitude and well-spoken commentes about his involvement in sport.
• RONA’s advertising segments during the games, for its ingenuity and inclusion of so many different sports. A highlight was the TV ad that had a string of athletes (including a high jumper, archer and kayaker) transporting a screw driver – that’s right, a screwdriver – across the country. The last member of the ‘relay squad’ performed several flips before handing the screwdriver to a fellow worker, only to be asked if he had a hammer too.
• The strong performances by Canadian women who have been to Renfrew and/or still rub shoulders with young Renfrew-area wrestlers, like London Olympics fourth-place finisher Martine Dugrenier of Montreal. The Canadian Olympic wrestling stars were Tonya Verbeek and Caroly Huynh with silver and bronze medals respectively.
• The announcement that CBC has won the broadcasting rights for the next two Olympics. While the consortium’s coverage for the 2012 Olympic Games was decent, immediacy and insight was lacking in some sports. There was also a distinct lack of recognition of several sports, including shooting, archery and equestrian dressage. Whether that changes with CBC remains to be seen.
There were several disappointments, like the short-lived celebration of a Canadian track and field bronze medal in the men’s 4 x 100-metre relay, as the P.E.I. athlete on the third leg was disqualified for running on the line inside his lane. But disappointments are inevitable in the Olympics.,
There were few thumbs-down, but there were these:
• The bad officiating or rulings that tarnished Canadian athletes in equestrian, boxing and women’s soccer. Like Canadian Olympic team vet Dr. Sylvie Surprenant said, “In our opinion the horse (Victor) was fit to compete, as he showed no signs of lameness. ... While the FEI rules … were followed, we believe that there should be a review of this protocol.”
• Tiresome misspeaks by journalists about title defences. One radio reporter said Canadian men’s rowing crew failed to defend its Olympic eights title. Not so!
Defending a title means one shows up and competes, win, lose or draw; winning a second straight title means you successfully defend that title. The Canadians not only defended the title, by the virtual fact eight rowers and coxswain Brian Price competed in the final. but they rebounded in amazing fashion. After a disheartening showing in the heats, they rallied for one of the most stirring silver-medal performances of the Games … and another golden moment.