Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Heart, Integrity, Respect, and Team at the Olympics

Sunday morning was a great day for Canadian Athletes as the Olympic Games came to a close. As I went about getting ready for my day, I found myself strangely transfixed by the Marathon. Then, as the screen split into two and CBC began broadcasting the closing press conference of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), I found the words of the President of the COC, Tricia Smith, almost as engaging. Smith has been a strong spokesperson for sport in Canada and her words from Rio were effusive and inspiring. She had praise for the many podium appearances of Canadian athletes and noted how successful Team Canada had been; but her praise was not just for those who won medals. Her speech made note of the many athletes who had shown great determination and integrity. She highlighted athletes such as Evan Dunfee, the Racewalker who came in tenth in the 20 km Walk and fourth in the 50 km Walk. Dunfee showed great respect for his fellow-athletes as, in one case, he encouraged the French Racewalker who struggled to complete the race. Then, in an act of sportsmanship, Dunfee did not challenge the 50 km Walk results after the Japanese athlete, Hirooki Arai, bumped Dunfee.  Officials considered disqualifying the Japanese Bronze Medalist. Later, Dunfee and Arai happily posed for a photo together.

Meanwhile, Eric Gillis, in a race dominated by Kenyan and Ethiopian Athletes, came in tenth in the grueling Olympic Marathon. Top ten showings in international competitions are one measurement of an athlete’s success and are rightly considered a mark of excellence. This was an amazing success for a Canadian marathoner, and coupled with an American Bronze medal in this sport, bodes well for western marathoners in a sport that has largely been about the competition between African athletes.

As the Marathon reached the 42 km mark, Tricia Smith also spoke of the values that have led to a successful Olympics for the Canadian team. She spelled it out in four points that would make a preacher proud.

Heart – as a synonym for determination, Canadian Olympic athletes show great “heart” in both training for, and competing in, the games.

Integrity – Evan Dunfee spoke of his team-mates and other international race-walkers with whom he trains who choose to compete clean in a sport that is sometimes marred by doping. He challenges the entire Olympic community with his commitment to integrity.

Respect – Canadian athletes made us proud with their respect for world-class athletes from around the world. They cheered for each other and cheered for the best qualities of athletes from other countries. They behaved themselves in Rio and made us all proud.

Team – Smith also gave a strong affirmation to teamwork as she noted the strength that is apparent as one person rises to the challenge when another is having an off day. She emphasised that sport is about being a team in every sense of the word.

Both the athletic competitions and Smith’s words give Canadians a sense of pride as we seek to be a country where great results and great humility are celebrated. Smith continues to show her commitment to the ideals of sport which she addressed on the day she was chosen as the President of the Canadian Olympic Committee. Her words on that day are a bookend to her words on August 21, 2016.

“I feel enormously privileged and grateful that our sport community has entrusted me today with the leadership of the COC. It’s an honour I accept with pride and gratitude at a time when the eyes of the country are upon us. Based on my platform, this endorsement sends a clear message that our members embrace the values of sport and expect integrity. I will be a champion for creating a safe and inclusive environment for our employees and all those involved in the Olympic Movement in this country. I will be a tireless advocate for unity, inclusiveness and collaboration with our many partners. We now enter an Olympic year with great excitement and anticipation. We must be at our best. We will do everything in our power to ensure we create an optimal environment for Rio 2016, so our athletes and coaches can be the very best they can be.” – Tricia Smith, President of the Canadian Olympic Committee (November 22, 2015)

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