A Moir Virtuous Win

From CTV News this morning:

“Ms. Priestner-Allinger [VANOC’s executive vice-president for sport and venue management] attributed some of the failure of Canada’s Olympians to take more advantage of VANOC’s early venue gift to athletes trying too hard to win gold, rather than settling for silver or bronze medals.

‘When you do that, you may push yourself a little too hard,” said the Olympic speed skating medalist. “It’s wonderful to have the crowd behind you, but the pressure you then put on yourself is then second to none. Going for [for gold] is an area where we don’t have a lot of experience.'”

Well, thank you, Ms. Priestner-Allinger, for that enlightening bit of commentary.

As the days of these Olympic Games push on, I am becoming more and more frustrated with the media coverage of this event and by the sudden realization by VANOC that maybe, just maybe, a little too much pressure was put on our athletes.  But, of course, it has to be the subject of a study post-Games before we can actually know whether or not this was the case.

“Going for gold is an area where we don’t have a lot of experience.”  That’s actually being used as an excuse here?  I’m pretty sure any competitive athlete entering the Olympics from any country isn’t hoping for a fourth-place finish.  Maybe Canadians haven’t won that many gold medals in the past, but it hasn’t been for lack of trying.  And “settling” for silver or bronze is the result of just falling short of that Olympic gold medal dream.  Just ask Elvis Stojko or Elizabeth Manley or any other silver- and bronze-medal athletes from Olympics past.  They didn’t enter the Games thinking, “Geez, won’t that silver medal sit nicely around my neck.”

The real difference here, Ms. Priestner-Allinger?  Canadian athletes have never been made to feel ashamed for winning silver and bronze.  Or fourth, or fifth.  Or 27th.

Let’s imagine a different ending to last night’s ice dance competition for a moment, if we dare.  Instead of a flawless, graceful performance, Virtue and Moir make one small mistake.  Maybe their twizzles aren’t quite in sync.  Or maybe they hold their lift for a millisecond too long.  Maybe one of them makes a tiny flub in their footwork sequence.  Either way, say it’s enough to put them in second just behind Davis and White from the United States.  Virtue and Moir – gold-medal favourites, media babies for the past three days, instant Canadian sweethearts after the compulsory dance (never mind the fact that no one pays attention to ice dance any other time) – are suddenly robbed of their gold medal.

Canada erupts.  Instantly one commentator turns to another and says, “What happened here?”  News reports of a “disappointing finish” fly up all over the country, along with Tessa and Scott’s fallen faces.  The pair are interviewed again and again, asking if the pressure got to them, if  they would do anything differently, if they will be back in four years for another go-round.  The couple, tired and a little disappointed, patiently answers, “No, it was just a mistake that could have happened at any time.  We tried our best.  We’ll be back in four years.”  They are added to the list of national disappointments like Mellisa Hollingsworth, Jeremy Wotherspoon, the Canadian Men’s hockey team, the Hamelin brothers and on and on and on.

This didn’t happen, of course.  Virtue and Moir skated beautifully, winning the second-highest score in ice dance history, and becoming the first Canadian – and the first North American – team to win a gold in ice dancing.  There was joy and tears and love.  They were congratulated and the nation breathed a sigh of relief from Newfoundland to Vancouver.  Despite having cameras in their face from the time they were warming up backstage to the time they went on the ice, they pulled through with apparent nerves of steel.  We can, and should, be proud of this young couple, aged just 20 and 22.  Not to mention they way they congratulated their training partners, Davis and White.  Both teams were ecstatic for each other.  That is the spirit of the Olympic Games, and it’s what we’re sadly lacking in the media coverage of the event.

But the media should really be proud of themselves.  Virtue and Moir are a rare example of athletes who haven’t been tortured by unrealistic expectations and inhumane levels of pressure.  When I heard about “Own the Podium,” I thought maybe VANOC meant a personal best for Canada.  Even wanting to win a gold medal on home ice is understandable.  It has brought a nation together, no doubt.  But, sorry to burst your bubble, Olympic Committee,  a piddly four years of funding and Olympic stadiums that shoot up out of no where are not enough to compete with the Americans’ decades of consistent funding, top-notch training and national support.  Expecting to literally own the podium is a fine way to ruin gold-medal chances and psychologically damage our athletes.  Let’s not forget the cameras in the faces and the incessant refrain, “So-and-so is Canada’s last chance for gold in this event.”

Media coverage of this event has turned us into a bunch of medal-hungry hounds.  CTV is taking this beautiful international event and reducing it to a medal count and a gratingly obnoxious theme song.

Joannie Rochette is set to begin her short program in women’s figure skating today.  As many of us know, her mother passed away a few days ago of a heart attack.  Sensibly, and smartly, I would say, she is refusing to speak with the media until after her event.  Good for her.  I can only imagine the barrage of horrific questions CTV would throw her way, perhaps the top among them, “What would your mother think of this?  Do you think she would be proud of you for continuing to skate?”

Think about all of this for a minute, and it’s enough to make you sick.  Let’s be thankful that Scott and Moir won gold, if for no other reason than we don’t have to watch them have their souls crushed even more by our lovely national network.

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Published in: on February 23, 2010 at 1:44 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great post Ashley!
    I totally agree with you. The media coverage has been interesting to say the least. Like I said in my post, after Virtue and Moir skated Rod Black made a point in saying that it wouldn’t matter who won at this point, both teams would be proud of what they had done and also be proud for each other.

    Don’t mean to be a brat/bitch/what have you, but Joannie’s mother died of a heart attack. (Don’t hate me!)

    It’ll be interesting to see what the commentators have to say tonight during the ladies short program. They’ve done well so far in not having the commercials say “Joannie Rochette, competes in honour of her mother” or what have you. It’s nice that they just say “Joannie Rochette, competes in front of a packed house.” I still have faith that Rod Black will have lots of comments about the situation.

    Great job!

  2. Thanks for the correction! I’d rather it be right!


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