By Rob Ficiur
Week #1 of the Sochi Winter Olympics has been full of surprises for Canada. By the time this article is printed , Week #2 will nearly be over. Since anyone can read the results and since any updates will be four days old, here are some observations from Week #1 in Sochi.
1. Canada will be #1 in Medals!! ??
The day the Olympics began the Canadian Olympic Committee said their goal was for Canada to have the most medals of any country. At first I thought this was the traditionally “Rah rah” speech that coaches and officials give their team. When they added if it did not happen in Sochi it would happen one day, I gave the goal even less credibility. Yeah, if it doesn’t happen in 2014 maybe in 2018 or 2096.
In 2010 Canada was third in most medals with 26 our most ever. However that was still significantly behind the USA with 37 and Germany with 30. Remember also that Canada’s 26 medals was the most ever. As the host country money and energy had been given for 2010 that might not happen in 2014 and the future.
At this exact moment Canada is tied with the Netherlands for second with ten medals, two behind Norway. Ten medals in one week! Not until the 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway did Canada win ten medals in one year.
2. Why is Canada’s medal count so high (so far)?
a) Inflation is one reason. In the 1988 Calgary Olympics there were 57 countries, 1423 athletes participating in 46 events. Every year since the Calgary games, the number of countries, athletes and events has gone up gradually. In 2014 there will be 98 events, up twelve from Vancouver’s record setting total. In 2010 Canada won 26 medals in 86 events. If we win at that same ratio Canada will better its winter Olympic medal record with 30 medals. Canada medal count has gone up every year since the 1980 Lake Placid games (that is eight games in a row).
b) Canada is ranking higher. The 2006 Olympics was the first time Canada finished in the top three countries in medal totals. In 2010 won more gold medals (14) than any other country and was third in total medals. Canada’s rise in standings shows the country is rising in the standings. First place overall is possible.
3. Each Country is Unique – When Austrian Matthias Mayer won gold in downhill skiing, I thought nothing of it; another medal to another country. Mayer continued in a long Austrian tradition. In Winter Olympic history, Austria has won 201medals, 105 of them were in Alpine skiing. Probably some countries think Canada’s obsession with hockey is over rated.
4. Wow! Ouch! Wow! (That would hurt).
Some sports like downhill skiing, figure skating, and ski jumping I watch only at the Olympics. As I watched the moguls, I felt my back ache every time they intentionally ran into (and over) one of those bumpy hills on the track. Why can’t a new site get rid of those hills…oh that is part of the game (I get it now). When figure skaters jump and land (on their feet) I am impressed. When they throw their partner in the air and catch them (without falling) I am more impressed. They do some amazing things that I don’t see very often. (They are also in shape so that bumps and bruises don’t hurt them like they would me).
5. Gilmore Junio became Canada’s new Olympic hero without even competing in an event. Junio gave his spot in the 1000 metre speed skating to fellow Canadian Denny Morrison. Morrison, who failed to qualify because of falling in the Olympic trials, went on to win the Canada’s tenth medal (silver). Why would an athlete give up his spot to a teammate? Junio said it was a “No brainer,” since Morrison had been Canada’s top 1000 metre racing all year. Yes, but this is one race one time. Though this is Junio’s first Olympics, there is no guarantee how many times he will be back. Junio would have been praised for giving up his spot if Morrison had not medalled. Winning the silver, makes Gilmore Junio (someone I never heard of until today) the leading candidate for the closing games flag bearer – the honorary hero of the country. (He hopes to get his own medal in the 500 metre before that time).
6. Time Zone issues – I knew that the Olympics were taking place in Russia ten time zones away. However, it is taking me a week to become fluent in both time zones. By the time my day gets going, many of the events of the day are over. At night when I have watched some events, I suddenly remember “That person won this medal.” The 2018 games will be in North Korea, which looks to be 13 time zones away. Have to make sure I have my time zone calculator figured out when my favorite events take place in the next two weeks.