By Rob Ficiur
This is being written on Day #7 of the Rio Olympics. No doubt much has happened by the time you read this. Here are some random thoughts, observations and questions about week #1.
1. Canada Celebrates a Gold Penny – In 2012 our country eliminated the use of the one cent coin. In Week #1 at Rio, Penny was the talk of Canadian Olympics. Sixteen-year-old Penny Olesksiak won four medals, including one gold. Penny became the youngest Canadian ever to win Olympic Gold. She is tied for the most swimming medals won by a Canadian. (Victor Davis won four medals total in 1984 and 1988.
At the half way point of the one hundred metre freestyle Penny was in seventh place. She already had silver and two bronze medals, so if she missed in the 100 metre, it would still be a great Olympic games for her. How did she go from seventh to first in 50 metres? She said she bit her lip and pushed herself. As a sixteen-year-old, Rio was supposed to be her warm up for the 2020 games. What will she do in four years?
Her brother, Jamie Oleksiak, a defenseman with the NHL’s Dallas Stars, tweeted the top message of the week. To a picture of a Canadian penny he tweeted “It looks like gold to me”. The NHL player is now known as Penny Oleksiak’s brother.
2. Rowing – For the first time in my memory I watched rowing. Last week I wrote about the book The Boys in the Boat (1936 Olympics). As I watched rowing I had much more awareness from the sport. In the women’s double rowing the Canadian women were known to employ the same strategy as the 1936 Boys in the Boat. They conserve their energy until the final 500 meters and then push on to victory. Canada was in fifth…fourth…third…second… could they do it? NO! They had to settle for silver. I was more excited about rowing than I thought I would ever be.
3. Women’s Rugby Seven – Canada earned a Bronze medal in this inaugural Olympic event. In a sport I know very little about, I only nodded. When they interviewed one of the Bronze medalists I saw the news sport through a different light. The team was crying in joy because of their success. Five years of dedication had led to this personal Olympic event. With so many events; so many sports it is easy to minimize the personal sacrifice and energy that goes into each of these games.
4. Volleyball memories – My wife and I watched the Canadian men lose to first ranked Brazil. While we knew none of the players at first, it took both of us only minutes to know who the best player on the court was. Too bad that bearded fellow played for Brazil. After Canada won the first set, we lost the next three to Brazil. Don’t miss your serves! I yelled at the TV (hoping this would help our players win.
To sports parents who are run ragged going here to there; the Olympic volleyball reminded us of the Junior High volleyball (where most serves seemed to miss) and High School volleyball where competition was fierce; and all volleyball where the seats were too hard. I can only imagine the thrill it was for parents, family and friends just to see their own playing at this level.
5. What color is your green water? More than any previous Olympics, Rio’s preparation for the games have questioned. When the water in some of the pools began to turn green earlier this week what did that mean? Was it poisonous? Did it give Canadians special medal winning powers? One report suggested that that officials had tried to heat up the pool too quickly and algae spread rapidly. If these games were in North America or Europe would the green water have got as much attention as it did in Rio?
Two days after the green water scare there was no news. Was the water still green? If they fixed it why were there no articles on it?
6. Where are the Canadian men? At the end of Day 7 Canada had won 12 total medals. Of these 12 medals 100% were won by women. In the first modern Olympics (1896 Athens) there were no women participants. Canada’s first female Olympians came to the 1928 games. In the 2012 London games the eighteen Canadian medals were evenly split between the men and women. Maybe the men don’t come to these Rio games until Week #2 (?).
7. For the first time Canada won at least one medal on each of the first seven days. On day three of the games it was newsworthy to point out that Canada had won medals in the first three days of the games for the first time ever. Seven days more than doubles the consecutive medals streak.
In Canada’s previous 25 summer Olympics Canada has averaged the following medal count 2 gold (got that already in Rio); 4 silver, 5 bronze (got that) for an average total of 11. Week #1 has been full of medal surprises. It is not of question of will the surprises continue – but where will the surprises be?