Sunday, February 22, 1998
Canada fell short of potential
We done good. We done bad.
Canada won more medals than ever at these XVIII Olympic Winter Games. For the first time in history, Canada beat the United States, finishing fifth overall in the medal standings. And we have a host of new heroes and heroines including Catriona Le May Doan, the double medal-winner chosen to carry Canada's flag in the closing ceremonies.
"It's a proud moment, a proud thing to represent your team and your country," said Le May Doan, who won gold and bronze medals in long-track speed skating.
Canada won 15 medals. Six gold. Five silver. Four bronze.
And we blew it.We should have won more. Many more.
And we didn't win the medals that mattered most. Didn't win anything in hockey. When we go to Salt Lake City 2002, it'll be the 50th anniversary of the last time Canada won a hockey gold at the Olympics, the 50th anniversary of the Edmonton Mercurys.
Canada came into these Olympics looking for our first gold ever in men's figure skating. Still looking. Elvis Stojko was second, going for the medal which mattered second-most.
Jean-Luc Brassard found the opening ceremonies flag too heavy to carry and didn't medal in moguls. Our freestyle and aerial skiers crapped out. In general the Quebec athletes, who led Canada's previous record, the 13-medal haul in Lillehammer, came up short. Victor Kraatz and Shae-Lynn Bourne were hosed by the judges. Our men's curling team bragged that our 50th-place team could win an Olympic gold against their competition, then got bombed in the gold medal game. And one of our golds will forever be known as the marijuana medal.
They gave Canada a bunch of new sports like curling, snowboarding and women's hockey, so we should have won more medals. So, objectively, we didn't come close to Canada's potential at these Olympics. Sorry, but that's the truth of it.
But in the end, I can't write it that way. Overall, there were more great days at these Olympics for Canada than down days. It ended up down.
"It was pretty close to my personal medal prediction,'' said Brian Wakeland, the chef de mission. "One shy.''
That one, he said, was obvious. Hockey.
"What can you say about hockey? We saw some of the most fantastic hockey games ever played. I come to the COA from hockey, and Sweden-Canada might have been the best hockey game I've ever seen.''
Normally on the final day of the Olympics, Canada sits the chef and the official analysts down and go over the Olympics like a bunch of accountants. But this year they paraded in a selection of athletes to give the media their impressions of the games.
They passed out the report, detailing stuff most Canadians don't care about. Like 31 top-eight finishes. That 50 of the 130 Canadians representing the total of 154 Canadian athletes achieved top 16 results.
But in the end, the athletes probably put it best.
Like speed skater Isabelle Charest.
"These were great games for us regardless of our performances,'' she said. "Japan was very hospitable. We all are going home with great memories.
'`We are all very happy with what happened, no matter what happened.''
In fractured English, that said it best.
Therese Brisson, the 31-year-old women's hockey player, said that for many Canadian athletes the best part was just being here and being a Canadian.
"We all found that the maple leaf is really your passport to the world,'' she said. "When you walk around the Olympic city wearing the maple leaf, everybody is so happy to see you. It's a tribute to the people who came before us.''
Gold medal-winning bobsledder Pierre Lueders saluted the Canadians who didn't win anything.
"They handled themselves very well.''
And four-time Olympian Susan Auch saluted the Canadian NHL hockey players in particular.
"They were just amazing. None of us thought they'd blend in like they did.''
They're coming home empty-handed and to controversy, but they handled themselves with nothing but class.
While the American NHL players trashed the village and left here having embarrassed their sport, their league and their country, Canadian players stayed to march in the closing ceremonies.
'ONE PROUD CANADIAN'
"I'm one proud Canadian headed home to Newfoundland,'' said chef de mission Wakeland.
These Olympics would end with one truly Canadian - some might say, Newfoundland, scenario - however.
When they named the flag-bearer for the opening ceremonies, somebody forgot to bring a flag.
Yesterday when they named the flag bearer for the closing ceremonies, they gave Le May Doan the flag to take with her, but didn't bring her to the news conference held later.
For a while, they couldn't find her. She had taken her husband Bart to a train station.
The news conference went ahead as scheduled, but without Le May Doan.