Hands up if you never really paid all that much attention to Canadian women’s soccer prior to the London Olympics.
Guilty as charged.
Now, hands up if you thought Christine Sinclair’s hat trick against the dreaded U.S. in the semifinal was one of the most exhilarating moments of these Games.
Many people thought they were robbed of a berth in the gold-medal game by some questionable refereeing, but the performance put forth by Sinclair and Co. was unforgettable, unlike the Spice Girls reunion in the closing ceremonies. I haven’t been that pumped since Simon Whitfield threw down the gauntlet (for him, it was his race cap) and charged to triathlon silver at the 2008 Games in Beijing.
I have to admit, I came into these Games with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. After watching the British media slam the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver – they condemned it for everything from the Olympic torch fiasco to transit problems to poor weather conditions to the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, going so far as to dub them the ‘worst Games ever’ – I was hoping the London organizing committee underwent some of the same scrutiny.
They did, and it caused me to completely rethink my patriotic/childish vendetta as a result.
Aside from a public backlash over all of the empty seats at the Olympic venues, the other glaring issue at these Games was the officiating. And it was the athletes that suffered.
You can pick pretty much any Olympic combat sport (boxing, judo, fencing etc.) and chances are there was some dodgy officiating accompanying it. It is hard to forget South Korean fencer Shin Lam, who sat court side for more than an hour as her delegation protested a controversial decision in her women’s epee semifinal.
Or what about the Canadian men’s 4×100-metre relay team, who went from a bronze medal to falling off the podium, all because one team member put a foot on the line? I understand race officials have to review a race before making it final, but what a heart-wrenching experience it would be to go from doing a celebration lap draped in your nation’s flag to looking up and seeing the letters DQ on the score clock.
And, of course, there’s the aforementioned Canada-U.S. women’s soccer semifinal.
In some sports, the athletes left the refs with no choice but to take action. Badminton, anyone?
But for all of these shortcomings – which, if you consider there were more than 10,000 athletes competing in London, really aren’t that many – there were so many tremendous performances put forth by so many athletes.
It’s easy to point out the Michael Phelps and Usain Bolts of the London Games, but then there were the smaller miracles, like Oscar (Blade Runner) Pistorius, a South African sprinter with a double below-knee amputation who became a media sensation in London.
Thanks to ever-improving communications technology, viewers were able to set their PVRs to record, and soak in the complete Olympic experience through the joint coverage provided by CTV, TSN and SportsNet (and OLN if you happen to be a horse nut like my mother-in-law).
When I started researching for this column, I typed the words “Post Olympic” into the Google search bar, thinking I would unleash my inner sports junkie and offer some statistical analysis of Team Canada’s performance. However, the browser’s predictive function instead spat out the words “depression syndrome.”
When I first read that, I was baffled, thinking “I know the Olympics are a lot of fun and I’ll miss watching them, but isn’t it a little over the top to assign it a condition?”
Doh! They meant the athletes.
It has to be a pretty epic high to have not only competed at the Olympic Games, but also dedicated the previous four years to building yourself up for the 17-day event. I can understand why saying goodbye – whether you won a medal or missed out on a final, or whether these were your first Games or your last – would be difficult.