4 people who've inspired me at the Rio 2016 Olympics

As CBC Montreal's Sonali Karnick writes from Rio, there are people you meet at large sporting events every now and then that make you cry because they’re so brave, talented and selfless.

Moved by sacrifice, confidence and courage - and the unconditional support of athletes' families

Rebekah Tiler of Great Britain celebrates after a lift in the women's 69kg weightlifting competition at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Mike Groll/The Associated Press)

I have nothing to complain about.

As I write this, I am waiting to hear back from a Radio-Canada producer about my report in French. Yes, I am bilingual, but doing this is a huge challenge for me professionally. 

Considering the people I've met, this is just a tiny hurdle.

There are people you meet at these large sporting events every now and then that make you cry because they're so brave, talented and selfless.

These are just a few of them:

Marie-Ève Beauchemin-Nadeau

Weightlifter Marie-Eve Beauchemin-Nadeau tells Sonali Karnick she hasn't made up her mind about the next Olympics. (Sonali Karnick/CBC)

This Quebec athlete is also a medical doctor: She just finished her studies in October 2015. She took a year off to train, to compete in the women's 69-kilogram category in weightlifting in these Olympics.

Beauchemin-Nadeau finished ranked ninth overall but made it into the top group to contend for a medal. She was eighth in 2012.

When I spoke with her afterwards, she was devastated.

This was a major sacrifice for the doctor, and it didn't finish the way she wanted. 

When I asked her about her family's support, she broke down in tears and said they love and support her unconditionally — she couldn't ask for more from them. Her parents said she will be very hard on herself, and all they can do is tell her they love her no matter what. 

(OK, I'm calling Mom and Dad after this.)

No, Beauchemin-Nadeau is not on the podium, but before turning 30, she can say she's an Olympian, a doctor and a role model.

She hasn't made up her mind about the next Olympics.

Rebekah Tiler

Rebekah Tiler speaks with Sonali Karnick after finishing her first Olympics. (Sonali Karnick/CBC)

This British weightlifter is 17 years old. When the funding was cut from her federation, she had to find a sponsor. The only one who stepped up was a local butcher in Riddlesden, West Yorkshire. Tiler gets free meat and eggs to meet her protein needs.

She is confident, positive and has a very bright future in the sport, from what the experts told me at the event.

I asked her about the pressure she faces as a teenage girl to be something other than a weightlifter. She said she hears it and knows it's there.

Tiler says her parents and friends always supported her in her sport, so it's never really been something she's had to deal with. For those who haven't supported her dream, she's got a simple message: "I'm at the Olympics, and they're not."

Lynette Condon

Volunteer Lynette Condon talks about visiting Montreal for Expo 67. (Sonali Karnick/CBC)

Volunteer Lynette Condon is from Colorado Springs, Colo. She and her husband volunteer at sports events around the world, including the Pan Am Games last summer in Toronto. She said she does it to get more life experience and travel.

I met her at the golf course in Rio, and we started talking about Canada. The Pan Am Games wasn't her first trip north of the border. She was in Montreal for Expo 67!

 At that time, Condon was a college student. It was all the rage to go to Montreal for Expo so she found a host family (she couldn't afford to stay in a hotel) and used some of the French she learned in school.

To this day, when she can't think of a word in Spanish or Portuguese, she thinks of the word in French first. Condon hasn't been back to Montreal since but thinks it's about time she and her husband come for a visit.

Maeve Glass

If you've watched the sidelines of a Canadian women's soccer game, you've probably seen Maeve Glass. She's been with the team since 2006 and takes care of the players from head to toe — and sometimes from inside out. They would have a very difficult time functioning without her. 

Glass is known as "The Mama." She makes sure everyone gets to games and practices and that uniforms and boots (cleats) are in order. 

She doesn't get as much glory as the leading scorer or as much exposure as the head coach, but Glass makes everything happen for the team. She was in London when the team won bronze and in Beijing in 2008. You'll see her pacing during the semifinal against Germany on Tuesday.

Just know that there are more than boots and jerseys on her mind. She takes care of people and she does it with passion.

Halfway mark thoughts:

I still love Brazilian coffee! I am calculating how much of it I can bring back. Hours are starting to feel long, but I am still having fun. My Portuguese is not improving, but my use of translation apps is excellent and, yes, I will call my parents.

About the Author

Sonali Karnick

Sonali Karnick is the host of All in a Weekend. Listen to the show on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. across Quebec.