Thursday, February 18, 2010

On Being An Olympic Underachiever

Tonight while I was watching the men's skating I distinctly remember watching these type of events as a kid and thinking "What's the big idea, I could totally do that" (I was really good at spinning around and not getting dizzy). Remember when you were little and you thought "I wonder when I'm going to get MY gold medal?" Not a matter of "if," but "when." Turns out I wasn't the only one. The longer I watch the Canadian coverage of the Olympics, the more former classmates I see in the standings. I went to elementary school with 3 Olympians. How funny is that? We all survived french immersion together. I'm starting to feel like a real Olympic underachiever. And there's the French Immersion/Quebec factor again. Have you noticed how many Canadian Olympians are francophone? I'm sensing a relationship between complicated grammar and athletic prowess. But that brings me to the question - what's my problem? Why aren't I an Olympian. I'll mull this one over and get back to you on that.

But let's talk about my current favorite Olympian - Maelle Ricker. I got goose bumps when I watched Maelle Ricker receive her gold medal for the women's snowboarding cross for Canada. This was a very fun moment because Maelle and I went to elementary and high school school together, though I didn't get to know her until grade 11 when we played on the basketball team together. Maelle has got to be the nicest, hardest working person ever. This kind of success could not have been given to a more deserving person. I'm so proud of her. When the competition started I was just casually telling people "I know her!" which slowly built up to an emphatic "I totally know her!" which preceded an enthusiastic "We were like TOTALLY FRIENDS!" and finally a slightly hysterical, "She was practically in my wedding!"

She was never in my wedding. But our last interaction was so typical of Maelle. We ran into each other at 7-11 in the winter of 1996 (am I old?) and she said "Hey - come up to Whistler I'll teach you how to snowboard" and I was like, "Thanks, but I'm just so super busy." Isn't that the lamest story ever? I assure you that she would never remember this. She is just so nice that she would just offer things like this - time, skills, etc. to an old friend and leave a lasting impression on an Olympic underachiever like me. I love it when good people are rewarded for their success - like all is well in the Olympic world.

I guess I'll just have to keep figuring out what Olympic sport is mine (my thighs would indicate speed skating, but my buoyancy leans more toward ski jumping. Decisions, decisions).

*I'll post some pictures when I return home from this magical Olympic land.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dear Quebec, Thanks for Everything

So I'm back in my hometown, Vancouver, BC, Canada, to attend the Olympics. This is a city of beauty, fun and it's my home town. I love it. If you've never been, you have to come. During the most normal times you won't regret the visit. However, throw in the Winter Olympics and it's like we've all died and gone to heaven (this heaven is red and white and smells faintly of wool socks). We're all practically dipped in fairy dust, it's so magical. I'm so glad and lucky to be here.

Currently there is a TV campaign promoting each of the Canadian provinces and Quebec's commercial ends with the tag-line "Quebec, Providing Emotions Since 1634." This made me laugh out loud when I saw it. Because any Canadian will tell you that this statement could not be more true. As you may or may not know, the Quebecois are constantly wanting to ditch the rest of Canada and after a while this happy little Canadian has started to take it personally. Like the rest of Canada is an ice cream parlor, and Quebec is just wandering around the place with one of those itty-bitty-teeny-tiny spoons contemplating whether the chocolate is chocolaty enough or whether the pralines are praliney (?) while rolling a swollen pecan in their mouth.

I have a unique perspective on the Quebecois since attending elementary school in the French Immersion Program, mostly run by Quebecois and the odd mild-mannered Albertan. You have never seen anything like the fire in the eyes of a French Immersion teacher discussing the glories of the early Canadian explorers (who were French), or the intricacies of verb conjugation in "plus-que-parfait" (the french verb tense directly translated to "even-more-than-perfect") or the beauties of Winter Carnival (celebrated only in Quebec). The only thing to rival their love for all things Quebecois is their love for obnoxiously loud MC Hammer pants and aerobics. These teachers were jumpy and could make a student burst into tears with the least provocation. They weren't mean necessarily, but definitely ran on pure passion, which you could see in their eyes (a teeny-tiny bit of Crazy Eye - from all the emotions). It was an interesting educational experience for sure. So you can see how the tag-line that brags of bringing "emotions" seems pretty funny to me.

Truth is: though I have felt jilted, I love that Quebec continues to be a Canadian province. I love that I've had the opportunity to learn french and visit such a beautiful place. I love that I can spot a French Canadian from a mile away (it's the Crazy Eye) and can then go and speak to said Crazy-Eye. I hope this is always the case and that Quebec never secedes. It's part of who we, as Canadians, all are.

These thoughts were rolling around in my head as I watched the first Canadian to ever win a gold medal on Canadian soil on Monday on television. It was a happy and exciting moment and the excitement extended into the Victory Ceremony the next day, which I was able to attend. I stood on my feet, with a sold-out crowd, singing "Oh Canada" at the highest decibel I could muster (and let's face it, if volume and lung capacity were an Olympic event, I would CLEAN HOUSE) and watched this young man hold up his gold medal to his country-people, beaming at his accomplishment. I just was absolutely brimming with patriotism and couldn't help but tear up. It was beautiful and something I will always remember. A moment when I thought "I am Canadian and I love that I am Canadian." As I'm sure you know by now, this Canadian Olympian is Alexandre Bilodeau, from the glorious province of Quebec.

So, thanks Quebec for providing all the emotions. I really owe you one.