All over the world trials by fire are occurring with glory hanging in the balance. Past performance means little and there’s always disaster lurking to derail any Olympic dream. Just ask John Kucera, the reigning world downhill ski champion, who broke his leg in a crash at Lake Louise, thus ending his hopes of a gold medal.
Unpredictability part of the game
“It’s what we sign up for,” shrugged Francois Bourque, Kucera’s teammate who witnessed the fall. Bourque himself missed all of last season due to injury. In 2006 at the Torino Games he finished a narrow fourth in the giant slalom. This time he’s guaranteed nothing.
“It’s part of the game. It’s what we live with,” Bourque reckoned.
In curling the finest teams in the land are assembling in Edmonton to conduct a super tournament from which only two will emerge. The fact that Kevin Martin and Jennifer Jones have dominated the sport for the last four years is irrelevant. So is the Olympic silver medal Martin won in 2002. Becoming the Canadian representative in Vancouver will be the toughest task of all.
Even the greats face obstacles
At the World Cup of speed skating in Calgary, the powerhouse nations will dash in an Olympic preview. Canada has many stars in the mix. But in the men’s 500-metre sprints, the most successful racer of all-time, Jeremy Wotherspoon, hasn’t qualified. He’ll be hard pressed to make amends for his stumble at the start line in Salt Lake City and it will have to be at another distance.
In Europe, Canadian bobsleigh athletes like Heather Moyse of P.E.I. still don’t know if they’ve got a seat in the sled … this in spite of the fact that Moyse missed a podium spot in Torino as the brakeman for Helen Upperton by mere hundredths of a second.
Moyse told a community fundraiser in Charlottetown recently that as an aspiring team member she takes nothing for granted. “People call me an Olympian,” she explained. “I say I’m just like everyone else. I’m just somebody’s neighbour with a job to do.”
Indeed, for Moyse and all the others the most difficult mission may be making the Olympic cut in the first place.
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