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Olympics2012Twist of fate brings Canada a bronze medal

Posted: Tuesday, August 7, 2012 | 11:12 PM

Categories: Olympics2012

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Canadian high jumper Derek Drouin surprised everyone and performed when it counted the most Tuesday, earning a bronze medal despite falling short of his personal best height. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press) Canadian high jumper Derek Drouin surprised everyone and performed when it counted the most Tuesday, earning a bronze medal despite falling short of his personal best height. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

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The doubters were beginning to surface, with no Canadian medals for two days running. Suddenly, at the end of Tuesday evening, high jumper Derek Drouin gave Canadian fans a reason to allow their hopes to soar ever so slightly.

In unsettled weather, the drought for the Canadian Olympic Team continued.

There hadn't been any Maple Leaf medals for two days running and after an encouraging start to the XXX Olympiad, the doubters were surfacing.

Suddenly, at the end of the evening, there was a little ray of sunshine. A high jumper gave Canadian fans a reason to allow their hopes to soar ever so slightly. 

Derek Drouin is 22 years old, and was born in Sarnia, Ont. He's been an NCAA champion and on the biggest stage of all he made it to the bronze medal position at the Olympic Stadium in London.

Drouin shared the honour with an athlete from Qatar and another from Great Britain and he jumped well below his personal best height, but that didn't matter in the slightest. He surprised everyone and he performed when it counted the most.

By winning Canada's first Olympic medal in high jump since Greg Joy's iconic silver at the 1976 Montreal Games, Derek Droiun saved what looked to be another miserable day.

The day had started with flag bearer Simon Whitfield and a gut-wrenching outcome in the men's triathlon. The Olympic gold and silver medallist found himself in what he called "ideal" position after the swimming portion of the race.

Disaster

Then Whitfield experienced disaster.

He hit a speed bump just out of the transition area, lost control of his bike and crashed. Whitfield was injured beyond immediate repair and was forced to abandon the race.

"I never thought the end of the script would be written this way," he shrugged afterwards. Limping noticeably because of several stitches to his foot, he graciously came outside the fence to be interviewed about his ordeal and what may have been the ignominious end of his Olympic career.

"That's sport," Whitfield smiled. "I love everything about it and it has been a blessed experience. I prepared myself fully and I lived up to the ideal. But that's racing. Tomorrow I'll be cheering on [Canadian paddler] Adam van Koeverden and [soccer player] Christine Sinclair and all the rest. I love the team aspect of this.  We aren't just a collection of individuals.  We're a Canadian team."

But make no mistake. What happened to Simon Whitfield was tough for the team to take.

Later on, diver Alexandre Despatie was bringing his fourth Olympic appearance to a close by competing in the final of the 3-metre springboard. His road to get here hadn't been easy.

Despatie had cracked his head on the board while training in Madrid just seven weeks before the London Games. He sustained a brutal gash to his scalp and a minor concussion while performing a dive he'd executed thousands of times.  More importantly, he lost preparation time while recovering from his injuries and struggled with the psychological damage that the incident inflicted on him.

Despatie had twice won silver medals in this event and prior to the final we met with his mother Christiane as she made her way to the Aquatics Centre.

Time to take risks

"He's got to take some risks now," she said. "Because without risks we know there are never any results."

But there was something deeper to our conversation. Here was a young man's mother who was immensely proud of her son regardless of the outcome. Perhaps it was because fate had nearly robbed him of the chance to be here.

"We're so happy that he's in the final, honestly, because we thought we would stay in Montreal first of all because when he hit his head we thought he would just not do the Olympics," Christiane explained.  "We're not asking for a medal, we're just asking for his best. We're not asking for anything but we know he will give us his best for sure."

In the end, the best Alexandre Despatie could manage on the final day of his fourth Olympics was an 11th-place finish in a field of 12 divers. The wonder of it all was that he was here in the first place.

That's the fickle nature of sport.

You can prognosticate all you want and past history surely can lead you to calculate the odds of a certain athlete succeeding or failing.  And then things happen suddenly and out of the blue.

There can always be an injury ... a crash ... or someone from out in left field can jump into the picture.

The Olympics, more often than not, are subject to a twist of fate.

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