Freestyle Skiing

Carly Agro - Wednesday Feb. 12, 2014 18:26

For the love of the Games

Win or lose, Olympians inspire the rest of us

Clockwise, from top left: Alex Bilodeau, Mikael Kingsbury, Kim Lamarre and Dara Howell collected medals Tuesday
Clockwise, from top left: Alex Bilodeau, Mikael Kingsbury, Kim Lamarre and Dara Howell collected medals Tuesday at the Sochi Olympics in Russia. (Getty Images)

I think I’ve had about a total of eight hours sleep and my adrenaline is still pumping. I’m dying to take a nap but my brain won’t let my eyes close until I put pen to paper about what the last 24 hours (that’s four medals, two gold, a silver and a bronze) have been like for me.

Let me confess: For Love of the Game is one of my all-time favourite films. I know sports fans are going to ridicule me for my appreciation of Kevin Costner and Kelly Preston but I can’t deny it. In case you haven’t seen the 1999 flick, Costner flashes back through his career as major league pitcher Billy Chapel of the Detroit Tigers. Long story short, he calls it a career after pitching a perfect game, going out on a massive high and on his terms.

Alexandre Bilodeau pulled a Billy Chapel in front of my very eyes last night. He was perfect — exactly when he needed to be and exactly when he wanted to be. When Bilodeau crossed that finish line in Rosa Khutor he did something no other man in Olympic history has been able to do: win back-to-back gold medals in freestyle skiing.

Like the rest of Canada, the 26-year old Montrealer had my undivided attention and respect when he won gold in Vancouver. What I admire the most about him now is how he wrote his own story, from beginning to end.

Bilodeau made no bones about Sochi being his last Olympics. I don’t think Canada would have minded if he decided not to try and defend his gold from Vancouver — the first for a Canadian on home soil in case you forgot.

Bilodeau owed Canada nothing — and now our nation owes him a debt of gratitude for giving us all another moment, another medal and another record-setting performance. Bilodeau got his Hollywood ending because he worked hard for it and reminded us that sometimes real life is like the movies.

I thought my storybook endings were over after watching gold-medal favourite Kaya Turski of Montreal crash for the second time a row in women’s ski slopestyle. I thought Canada’s incredible medal-hauling pace might take a dip.

I was wrong.

Dara Howell deserved her gold medal — she was the best skier of the day in qualifying and set the tone in her first run of the final. But it was her teammate, bronze medallist Kim Lamarre, whose message hit a home run for me: “I’m proof. I’m proof that if you really never give up, anything is possible.”

It wasn’t too long ago that two bouts of reconstructive knee surgery left Kim without a spot on the national team and forced her to fund her own dreams. Talk about hard work literally paying off.

I had a chance encounter with Mikael Kingsbury’s mom, Julie Thibodeau, in the washroom before the moguls final last night. She asked me if I had kids. When I said no, she waved her finger in my face and warned, “Well when you do, don’t put them in freestyle skiing!”

Understandably so, the mother of the now silver medalist was anxious and worried about what was next for her son. But I think I’m going to have a hard time following her advice.

If I do have kids, I’ll encourage them to watch the Olympics because if Olympians like Bilodeau and Lamarre continue to set the example they have, and shine in both victory and defeat as they have, that’s a message I would want my kids to hear loud and clear.

A colleague of mine received a tweet the other day, not long after Regina’s Mark McMorris won bronze in men’s slopestyle snowboarding. It was a perfect example of the magic of the Olympics. A father said his five-year-old son asked if he could try snowboarding after watching Mark.

Four days into these Olympics and I’m already in love, not with Kevin Costner but with the spirit of these Olympics, which I’ve seen up close and personal, with all of the athletes who are here to win or lose but always for the love of the Games.

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