Maxed out 

Chapter 2: Whistler’s history


Whew! The long, national nightmare is over. Canada finally wins gold at the Olympics at home. Way to go, Alex. We're number... we're number... okay, we won a gold medal at home. And while we haven't exactly owned the podium during the first three days of Olympic competition, if we squint a bit and look carefully, we can at least see it.

While it was fun to speculate on the depth of national angst into which we would have sunk had we hat tricked infamy and been once again unable to climb the top step, we've been spared that national embarrassment. To some extent, it's been replaced by commentators and commoners harping on about how the whole "Own the Podium" talk is downright un-Canadian. Far too arrogant and boastful, perhaps even American, such talk may, they claim, come back to haunt the athletes, relegating them to less-than-golden finishes.

Okay, maybe the comments by Wolfgang Staudinger, head coach of the Canadian luge team could have been construed as a bit unfeeling, maybe a step or two over the line marking the outside border of Canada's famous national reserve. Staudi, less than 24 hours after the horrifically tragic death of Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, commenting on the decision to move the men's start down to the ladies' tee, was grousing about how the Canadian team - having limited other countries to the minimum training time allowed under IOC rules - familiar and comfortable with the course, would lose its edge. Earth to Staudi: it's sport... as in sporting... as in sportsmanship. Or is it sportspersonship?

And though it's refreshing to hear Canadian athletes openly swaggering about winning chestsful of gold instead of claiming to be proud just to compete and do their best, many fear their bravado will jinx their ultimate chances. I'm not certain whether superstition lies at the core of this concern or whether those voicing it feel it's unseemly to spend so much money the nation could have spent on infrastructure, deficit-fighting or senatorial junkets, on the ballyhooed, chest-swelling pride we're supposed to feel from sea to sea to sea when our boys and girls prevail instead. Oh well, you can't please all the people all the time.

None of that really matters now. The weather gods have smiled, however briefly, the men's downhill was run, TV commentators found the courage to call Toilet Bowl and the Sewer by their rightful names and, alas, the day and the podium did not belong to the Canadian men. But hope springs eternal and I have more important things to do, namely share with all our welcomed guests the continuing history of Whistler.

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