10 things we learned in Vancouver

Yes, we're all exhausted and a tad past Olympic overdose, but here's a list of 10 things we've learned during the Vancouver Games.

Yes, we’re all exhausted and a tad past Olympic overdose, but here’s a list of 10 things we’ve learned during the Vancouver Games.

1. Three little words can cause such a ruckus.

Listening to the folks who call in to sports radio about a week into the Games, you’d have thought Own the Podium was the worst, most damaging three little words we’ve seen in this country since (fill in politically motivated shot at former government of your choice).

A week later, the same call-in show was filled with people glowing about the $117-million, five-year strategy to win the most medals in Vancouver.

The obvious difference was success —  nine medals in Week 1 became 25 heading into the final Sunday.

We can argue ad infinitum about the three words themselves —  perhaps there was a better phrase out there somewhere – but you can’t complain about the result. A great line going around on the final Saturday was that Canada didn’t own the whole podium, but it dominated the top step.

And isn’t that ultimately the point?

Yes, we know of one athlete, at least, who came crashing to Earth for a couple of days when she didn’t win a medal. That’s hard, certainly, but that, too, is athletics. And your money also buys the support that went to her afterwards.

This was Olympics No. 27 for your correspondent, and the first one where Canada unashamedly stated an intention to win. Think of the pride that was created. Sure did here, despite the old (correct) rule about not cheering in the press box.

By the way, the key is that money total — $117 million over five years. You want to feel that pride again, contact your local member of Parliament and tell him or her.

2. Winter athletes are the bravest of the brave.

In the winter, an athlete lies back on a tiny little sled and goes more than 100 km/h down a steep ice flume that can be deadly (as we learned before the Vancouver Games even began with the tragic accident of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili).

In the summer, many athletes go swimming.

In the winter, athletes hurl down an alpine slope of 70 degrees or so, carving through a tight turn, then another, then another, and fly over a ski jump the designer put in the middle of the run just to make things interesting.

In the summer, they throw a seven-kilogram shot put, screaming at the top of their voices. 

You get the point. (Boxers and equestrians are exempt from this list, by the way).

3. Our medallists are hot (even the curlers).

Let’s review.

Alex Bilodeau (babe). Maelle Ricker (babe). Christine Nesbitt (Cute as heck). Jon Montgomery (couldn’t be cuter, in that hairy Canuck sort of way). Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue (could be Barbie dolls). Jasey-Jay Anderson (chiselled hot). The women bobsleighers (hot, hot, babe, babe). Joannie Rochette (chaud). John Morris (hotter than a pistol). Kevin Martin (…).

4. This is the song that never ends …

Canada’s Ashleigh McIvor won the women’s skicross gold medal.

McIvor, who grew up in Whistler, has apparently had well over a dozen separated shoulders in her career, caused it seems by ripping the humerus (the long bone in your upper arm) away from the right shoulder joint in one of a thousand or so ski accidents, meaning each time she fell on it, out it would pop again.

So medics, or anyone standing around, would pop it back in (ow!), and she’d hurt it again and they’d pop it back in (ow!) and she’d hurt it again and they’d pop it back in (ow!), and she’d hurt it again and they’d pop it back in (ow!) and she’d hurt it again ….

You could put music to it and sing it as a round. Ashleigh McIvor is our hero.

5. Canadian fans are paranoid, insecure bandwagon jumpers who are wonderful anyway.

On the morning after Canada lost to the United States in men’s preliminary- round hockey, you would have thought the world had fallen in on the students at a local college. 

Every turn in the hall brought a new complaint of "Bench Chris Pronger," or "Embarrased. I’m embarrassed," or "We’re not even going to win a medal." This was a preliminary-round game, for gosh sakes.

Same thing whenever something didn’t go the way the media or the Own the Podium folks said it was supposed to go in any sport. Heard it on the subway and bus. Saw it on TV. In the grocery store.

Broken ankles from jumping off the bandwagon from coast to coast to coast.

But you know, in perfect Canadian fashion when that bandwagon came back around the block again carrying the true believers and ready for another ride, everyone jumped back on, waving flags, screaming at the top of our voices ....

Did I say "our?"

6. In the IOC's view, "winter" is more a state of mind.

Note to the Lords of the Rings: If you want snow at the Winter Games, award them to cities that tend to have, well, snow.

Tired of listening to complaints about the weather in Vancouver being "not wintry", a couple of CBCSports.ca folks sat down at a computer on Day 6 to check what was happening in Sochi, Russia, site of the next Winter Games in 2014.

It was 15 C, and raining. Looked a little harder at the temps in cities that have hosted the Winter Games going back to 1980 in Lake Placid. Everyone but one was over 0 C, many quite a bit past the mark.

The exception was Lillehammer, Norway (1994), where the thermometer was a crispy –15 C with high winds and blowing snow.

Much had been said about how this was the first Winter Games to be held in a big city. You know what? People tend to build big cities where it isn’t that cold.

Suggestions for 2018: Anchorage, Alaska; Björklidens Fjällänlaggningar, Sweden, or Stryn, Norway. The IOC poobahs will love it. Chill their champagne just by hanging the glass out a window for a minute or two.

7. Faster, higher, stronger doesn't have a place in figure skating any longer.

"Jon Stewart Mandela won the men’s free skate at the 2050 Winter Olympic Games here in Capetown, South Africa, today, performing the same classic routine that American Evan Lysacek used to take gold 40 years ago in Vancouver."

You think that’s crazy? If the International Skating Union doesn’t change its current judging rules that could happen.

Russian Evegeni Plushenko (Voldemort) may be a twerp sometimes, but he was right about how the sport is going, taking away any need to push the outside of the envelope in order to win a gold.

(Just for the record, Voldemort didn’t deserve to win and should have been third instead of second – he’s boring).

We surely don’t need to go back to the era where jumping fools would win gold no matter how bad their choreography and performance skills were, but surely we can put bonus marks in there for reaching for more than just the average.

Otherwise, we will never see the quintuple toe loop.

8. Want to make some money? Build a curling rink in midtown Manhattan.

Lisa Quan, a vice-president in a big American media watch company, had this to say about curling during the Olympics:

"It's kind of hypnotic watching curling, everything moves very slowly and everything's very quiet, so you're really focused on what's going on."

Hardly the type of experience you’d expect to grab viewers in this age of American Idol and people sitting on other people’s chests while punching them in the head.

Stories also spoke of Wall Street brokers glued to the curling coverage on NBC, and flocking to a silly display on fake ice in the middle of a local park.

Curling. Chess on ice. Shuffleboard with brooms.

"Thanks for watching the Super Bowl on NBC. Next … championship curling."

Gotta love it.

9. Moral victories are for losers — but fifth is pretty good in the downhill.

Is Canada’s Erik Guay, who finished fifth in both the men’s downhill and super giant slalom:

A:  A loser.

B: A moral victor.

C: A guy with lousy luck in a sport where .001 means everything.

Answer: C.

Guay missed two podium finishes by the blink of an eye but somehow, according to some fans and media, is representative of the disappointment for Canada on the alpine slopes?

Most of our chances to make podiums were helicoptered off the hills of Europe throughout the fall and early winter World Cup season as Canuck after Canuck (led by medal contenders Jon Kucera and Kelly Vanderbeek) went down with injuries that would keep them out of the Games. 

Secondly, there’s a reason alpine athletes don’t take the Games as quite so much of a be-all thing as other athletes — they know how hard it is to be on a podium any given race.

10. We will all take from these Games a memory that will stick for a long time.

Mine is Canadian Ivan Babikov, collapsing across the finish line fifth in the 30-kilometre cross-country ski race and then, after pulling himself together, getting up and saying how freakin’ disappointed he was. He wanted more, and that was wonderful to see.

He’s a new Canadian, emigrated from Russia. Welcome aboard, Ivan.

What’s your memory?