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Pique'n'yer interest

How do you like us now?

Meet Doug. He's a 40-year-old logger who sleeps on a Chesterfield in the living room of his mother's one-storey bungalow.

Every morning he wakes up to a breakfast of bacon, hashbrowns and pancakes drenched in maple syrup from Ile d'Orleans, Quebec. A trophy head of a moose peers down at him from above the fireplace.

He puts on his ripped Levis, red plaid sport jacket and hunter's cap, then steps out into the bitter cold, his Kodiaks barely protecting his feet against the icy air. He gets in a rusty old Pontiac, maple leaves breaking beneath the wheels as he inches the car backwards. Before pulling out on to the street he stops, letting a car pass that's two blocks away. He waves politely as it drives out of sight.

Doug drives out on a desolate highway, surrounded on all sides by a mountainous, wintry landscape. Out atop a high peak the northern lights are glistening in the sky. He doesn't care... he sees it every day. He turns off the inane chatter of a CBC morning radio show and tunes to the first station playing Stompin' Tom Connors.

He turns right into a Tim Hortons, hoping to get a double-double, a cruller and win $10,000 through the "Roll up the Rim to Win" contest. He sees some logger buddies seated at a table.

"How's it goin' eh?" he asks them. "You watch that Leafs game last night? Jeezus Chraist! Those Maple Leafs aren't gonna win a Cup if they gotta Russian on the first line, eh?"

This is a rough composite of how the world saw Canadians before the Olympics: polite, humble, hockey-loving, hardworking Joes whose greatest pleasures are the carb-laden sweets they get at the donut shop in the early morning. They have hope for better futures, but for now they're content with what they have.

The 2010 Olympics has changed that. Herds of red nationalists and hockey players drinking Molson-brand champagne whilst wearing their gold medals suggest a new identity. As Shane Koyczan said, we are more... and I like it.

It's hard to pin down the traits that make up the Canadian identity. Our inability to define ourselves is our charm, some say. Kind of a cop-out, but I can't think of any better way to describe it.

How the world has seen us up to now is easier to define. We're a kind country, thanking bus drivers for getting us safely home even though they're paid thousands of dollars a year to do it. We sign ourselves up to well-meaning international agreements and get big pats on the back from European countries.

We played a huge role liberating Europe in two straight World Wars, but we don't challenge our more virile brother too vehemently when he takes full credit for victory. Humble and modest are words effectively applied to the Great White North by other countries.

I've seen a different Canada in 2010, an intensely proud one that deserves every minute it has in the spotlight.

Vancouver and Whistler have made great microcosms for the country. These are pretty little cities surrounded by sublime, mountainous terrain. They look great on TV. Their citizens are thrillseekers of the highest pedigree, growing up in the mountains and the trees, who've had skis and boards on their feet from the time they could walk.

Up to now you couldn't associate this directly with Canada, but coverage of the Olympics has helped make that happen.

And then there's the people who have helped sever the cord between the Canadian identity and Doug the logger.

There's people like Team Canada fans who've led patriotic conga lines down Robson Street in the lead-up to a bobsleigh run. There's people who razz right-wing commentators in the U.S. by holding up signs that say, "My feelings are hurt. My health care will fix them."

And then there's our athletes who've gleefully defied every stereotype that's been foisted upon us. Last Thursday the women's hockey team won gold and they celebrated like champs: medals around their necks, they chugged beers and champagne, and smoked cigars right there on the ice. Critics came down on them hard for being un-Canadian. As though winning and celebrating is against our national character.

More striking than anything is that we've found a new rivalry with Russia. The superpower has underperformed spectacularly at the Games and nowhere was that more pronounced than in the 7-3 thrashing our men's hockey team dealt them in the quarterfinals. The Russians went home disgraced and sport authorities there mulled setting up gallows for those responsible.

Our struggle with the United States has defined us up to now. Clearly, we've found bigger fish to fry.

The New Canada is red, white and proud all over. We have a pride in our country we're no longer afraid to show. Let this be a legacy we carry with us for a long time.