Canadian Olympic firsts

Although we Canadians have collected a record (for us) number of medals this Olympic games, we have suffered a few heartbreaking and painful firsts.

  • the first time the women’s curling team did not qualify for the playoff round since the inception of curling as an Olympic sport.  I have to admit though, the South Korean women curlers were so impressive, cool calm and collected throughout their games.
  • the first time both the men’s and women’s team have missed the podium in traditional curling (although we did capture gold in mixed doubles)  Again, since the inception of curling as an Olympic sport.
  • the first time (in five years) our women’s hockey team had to settle for a silver medal although nothing to scoff at there. They were outplayed, although the officials could have been less biased in their calls.

These disappointing firsts are a result of many things in my mind.  Canada has always been respected for their curling and hockey prowess, but obviously other teams are catching up fast.  It does not help that curling teams from around the world come to Canada to compete against the best for practice on the world stage.  It also does not help that many of these teams are paying Canadian curlers to coach their teams.  As for the hockey, the USA and Canadian women’s teams have always been neck and neck, with all other teams lagging far behind.  After 4 consecutive gold medals for the Canadian women, it was time for the USA to win one.  No other team even comes close, but that may change too in the years to come.

The fact that the Canadian teams mentioned were the reigning and repeated gold medal holders in their respective sports puts an immense amount of pressure on them.  All other teams strive to knock them off the podium.  The German team celebrated like they had won the gold medal after beating team Canada in the semi-final.

The fact that no current NHL players are on the men’s Olympic hockey teams weighs in too.  In previous years Canadian and USA rosters were loaded with NHL players.  The NHL chose to not allow their players to participate in the Olympics this time after the IOC (International Olympic Committee) refused to pay the players’ (considerable) insurance premiums and travel costs.

Day 13 of the winter Olympics proved to be unlucky for Canadians in a few sports.   However, there were a few great firsts to cheer about other days.  Just as other countries are gaining respect in sports they were not historically known to medal for, Canada is too.  More medals in figure skating and speed skating made up for those lost in hockey and curling in our total medal count. Here are a few of those awesome firsts:

  • Canada has won the most medals in speed skating since its Olympic inception.
  • John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes won the first gold medal in mixed doubles curling
  • Sebastien Toutant won the first gold in the snowboarding “big air” thriller
  • first time Canada has won four medals in figure skating, two gold and two bronze
  • first time Canada has won 29 medals at a winter games, previous record was 26
  • first time Canada has won the third most medals in a winter games, (previous record was 4th) 9 behind Norway, one behind Germany (we were in second until the last night of competition when Germany won two medals in bobsled) and 6 ahead of the USA.

 

The time change (they are 14 hours ahead of us here in EST) was a bit annoying with these winter Olympic games held in PyeongChang, a first for South Korea.  Sometimes it was hard to tell what was old news and what was new.  Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed watching all the talented athletes.  Well, maybe not the curling  or hockey.

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Do curlers have to be physically fit?

In my youth, the only curlers I knew were the rags my mother used to put in my hair.   I was vaguely aware that my BFF’s brother was a curler, but I cannot say I was interested enough to find out anything about the sport.  In fact, I’m not sure it was much of a sport back then.

My husband was a great curler in his youth, representing his club in the provincial playdowns several times.  His teenaged years were consumed with curling.  His knowledge of and passion for the game, not to mention the numerous trophies that we have in our home, (those were the days when no one but the winner got a trophy) taught me all about the game.  Not just the logistics of the game, but how difficult it is (here in Canada) to be the best team in your club let alone your zone, province, or country.  That degree of difficulty has not changed.  It might be even tougher as there are so many good teams out there.

My two eldest sons started curling at the age of four.  They both curled locally for years,  coached by their father. The younger of the two was not as passionate about the sport as the elder who also went on to curl competitively including representing our area in the provincials.  Unfortunately, much to the chagrin of his dad, his curling days took a back seat to his goal of becoming a civil engineer.  Both sons learned a lot on the curling ice, including leadership, team play, and communication skills.  Both developed friendships that have lasted over the years.   In fact, my eldest son met his new wife within the first few years of his curling career.  They both still curl at the same RCC although she is currently taking a hiatus to give birth to their first child!

Gone are the days, however, where drinking beer (adults only of course) and munching on junk food after the game were the highlights of the sport, at least at the competitive level.   Today, teams and individuals are known for their fitness level, mental endurance, and strategically amazing shots.  Sorry Ed Werenich, but the days of the belly hanging over the belt as you crouch on the ice to throw your shot are long gone.

ed

 

Watching the mixed doubles category in the winter Olympics this week, it is obvious that these curlers definitely have to be physically fit athletes to compete at this level today.  With just two (traditional curling has four) curlers per team, they  are throwing a rock, then quickly jumping up to sweep it down the ice towards the house.  I broke out in a (nervous) sweat watching them, especially the gold medal game between Canada and Switzerland.  The pairing of Canada’s John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes were spectacular to watch as they brought home the gold.

curlers
CBC news: Canada’s John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes win Olympic gold in curling mixed doubles

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