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Olympics2012Gold, guts and glory

Posted: Saturday, August 4, 2012 | 10:03 PM

Categories: Olympics2012

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Paula Findlay resumes the course after stopping with team doctor Steve Keeler during an agonizing triathlon competition for the Edmontonian. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press) Paula Findlay resumes the course after stopping with team doctor Steve Keeler during an agonizing triathlon competition for the Edmontonian. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

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For Canada, the spectrum of colours was complete. Gold, silver and bronze medals won on the busiest 24 hours of the Games, as well as some gutsy performances.
Day 8 got off to a gloomy start. A scenic but wet triathlon course and a Canadian hopeful who was hoping to erase a year of heartbreak.
 
But for Paula Findlay of Edmonton, who had won a test event on this track more than a year ago, things never materialized. She came out of the water after the 1.5 kilometre swim near the back of the pack.
 
In transition she forgot to don her helmet before getting on her bike. And for an athlete used to racing from the front, there was little inclination that she could make a charge from the rear.
It's because Findlay was racing injured. A serious hip problem which has plagued her for more than a year became the inevitable thorn in her side. Not so long ago the brightest, rising star of her sport, Findlay was this time relegated to being an also-ran.
 
Early in the final stage, the 10 kilometre foot race, the devastation welled up and it looked as if Findlay would abandon the effort. But she was comforted at the side of the road by the coaching staff. Meantime, her legendary teammate, the Canadian flag bearer and double Olympic medalist, Simon Whitfield watched on television.
 
Who knows what words were whispered.
 
But Findlay shed some tears then rejoined the race. She was lapped and finished dead last. Paula Findlay, thought to be one of the insiders to win gold not so long ago ended up crossing the line in 52nd place.
 
"I'm so sorry to everyone in Canada," she said afterwards. "But I knew that finishing was better than pulling out. I'm sadder than I've ever been. Thanks for the love. Life goes on."
 
Saying and doing things like that takes guts.
 
On the other end of the spectrum there was a golden hue to the Canadian day. It was engineered by 23 year-old Rosie MacLennan of King City, Ont. Her specialty is the trampoline and the sport has a history in Canada.
 
MacLennan's teammate Karen Cockburn had won medals at three consecutive Olympics - two silvers and one bronze - since the trampoline made its debut in Sydney in 2000.
 
Cockburn was surpassed by MacLennan in this competition but for awhile it looked as if they could both stand on the podium. A Chinese gymnast narrowly spoiled their plans - still MacLennan scored Canada's first golden strike at London 2012.
 
Cockburn was the first to embrace her and celebrate the victory. At the athlete's village Canadian athletes rejoiced. We ran into judokas, swimmers and track and field competitors who savoured the work of a gymnast they weren't likely to be very familiar with. They just knew she was a Canadian and that was more than good enough.
 
"To win an Olympic gold medal is crazy hard," said swimmer Julia Wilkinson. "It's a relief for all of us to win gold. We have a clear idea how hard she worked for this. We're not like the Americans who win so many gold that it becomes commonplace. This, we know, is very special."
 
That's the kind of emotion that gold can evoke.
 
It turned out to be a day when Canadian cycling women, Tara Whitten, Jasmin Glaesser and Gillian Carlton roared to a bronze medal in the team pursuit as the event made an Olympic debut. It was also a day when heptathlon star Jessica Zelinka of London, Ont., battled to a gritty 7th place finish in one of the Olympics most demanding disciplines.
 
Finally, it was a day when the man that was expected to deliver did just that.
 
Ryan Cochrane of Victoria won Canada's only swimming medal four years ago in Beijing, a bronze in the 1500 freestyle. In London, his teammates firmly believed he would produce another stellar result.
 
"We never worry about Ryan," Wilkinson said. "He's the hardest worker I know."
 
His coach Randy Bennett concurred.
 
"He puts in 80 to 90 kilometres a week every week of the year," Bennett figured. "He's a great racer. He lives to race."
 
Their faith in him was rewarded, Cochrane closed out the last day of swimming at the 30th Olympiad with a silver medal in his favourite event.
 
For Canada, the spectrum of colours was complete. Gold, silver and bronze medals won on the busiest 24 hours of the Games.
 
If that doesn't count as a glorious day at the Olympics then nothing else does.

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