Alta states 

Olympic Legacies – What lies Beyond The Podium?


"PM Harper makin' the rounds. LT SpeedSkating & Curling, sittin w/ CDN Oly Medalists. If you like it then you better put a ring on it, Steve."

- Feb. 28 tweet from Olympic champion kayaker Adam Van Koeverden


Mr. Prime Minister:

Greetings. Hope you enjoyed the Games. It certainly looked like you had fun schmoozing with all those newly-minted Olympic heroes. If nothing else I'm sure it provided compelling photo opps for your next election campaign...

Speaking of the Games, I too want to jump on this new "We're number one" bandwagon. I really do. After all, everyone loves a winner. And the way Canadian athletes represented their country during these last two weeks transformed even the most cynical of us into flag-waving cheerleaders.

What a ride they gave us. Whether it was Maëlle Ricker finally putting the golden touch to a 12-year Olympic journey or a giggling Ashleigh McIvor displaying her new medal to the camera - whether it was an emotions-choked Jasey-Jay Anderson hugging his wife and kids or a Denny Morrison leaning tiredly on the shoulders of his victorious pals - the great Canuck medal adventure delivered far beyond expectations.

For me, however, the most dramatic Canadian performance came from a non-medal winning athlete. While most of the country was salivating at the thought of the upcoming gold-medal hockey game last Sunday, Devon Kershaw and his little band of under-funded cross-country skiers were preparing to challenge the world's best in what Northern Europeans call "The King's Race."

Arguably the most brutal and demanding of all Winter Games events, the 50km classic race is considered the ne plus ultra of the Nordic world. In Scandinavia, for example, the Olympic champion in this discipline is feted beyond belief. Most winners become instant millionaires.

For Canadians alas, the 50k is something of an after-thought. I mean, we haven't had a top-20 finisher in this Olympic event in over 70 years. Far better for all of us to focus on the hockey final - as you did - than harbour naïve hopes of cross-country greatness.

So what the heck was Kershaw thinking last Sunday? There he was, with only a dozen kilometres to go, still stalking the leaders. And he wasn't alone. Rossland's George Grey was just a few skiers back and charging. Two Canadians in the top 15. Could they do it? Could they actually defy the odds and cross the finish line among the top three?

It was so close. Kershaw didn't let up. He fought until the very end. Indeed, it was an incredibly heroic performance - after two hours of slogging across hill and dale in 99 per cent humidity he crossed the finish line less than two seconds behind the winner. Still, Kershaw was devastated. "To be that close to gold," he said choking back tears, "it's a very bitter pill to swallow..."


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