The majority of this post was written on Tuesday night, from about 11:30 onwards. I was wide awake and extremely restless. Which doesn’t really seem like blog-worthy news; realistically, a third of Vancouver was also probably awake. But, since Wilf and I live like an old married couple, being awake past 10 p.m. on a weekday (hell, any day) is, actually, quite a rarity. And it all started at about 8:12 p.m. when I had a coffee post-dinner. I didn’t think 200mL of drip-brewed house blend would have an effect. Should have known better. Should have trusted gut instinct and life experience. But, I suppose the reprieve from sleep gave me time to reflect. And, ultimately, share that reflection with others.
I warned Wilf that I can get a bit emotional during the Olympics. Happy tears, sad tears: both are par for the course every two years, for about two weeks. I realised quickly that he hadn’t taken this warning seriously when, about a week before the Games started, we were talking about some of our favourite Olympics memories and I burst into tears when we pulled up the clip of Eric “The Eel” Moussambani at the Sydney Games. Wilf was quite startled by this outpouring of emotion, and while I can’t imagine how someone could not be moved by such a display of Olympic spirit, I think he put it down to hormones. It probably wasn’t until a CBC featurette on Mark McMorris during the Men’s Slopestyle that he realised what he was in for. The clip featured an interview with McMorris’ Grandma and showed her playing shuffleboard. She talked about how proud she was of her grandson and he said that he wanted to do well because, unlike the X-Games, his Grandma’s friends were familiar with the importance of the Olympics. While Wilf seemed unfazed by this featurette, I was going through kleenex faster than a biathlete shoots targets. Same thing happened when they interviewed Charles Hamelin’s mom.
To his credit, Wilf has been fairly accommodating to these outbursts (initially he expressed sincere concern, but now he just laughs or ignores me). I’ve long since been banned from watching the athlete featurettes. Still, regardless of their nationality, I still cry every time I see an athlete crying, and when the camera pans to their family and friends in the crowd. I cry when I hear the Canadian national anthem. I cry when a team doesn’t quite reach their anticipated potential or an athlete crashes out of competition. Naturally I cry at all the VISA ads. I guess when you add it up, I’ve been engaged in some form of crying for about 96% of the time Wilf and I have spent together since the Games started. But really, I can’t help it.
And, on top of it all, these Olympics have been especially emotional because, for the first time ever, I realized I will never be an Olympian. (Shocker, I know.) A few days ago, during the ladies figure skating, the announcer mentioned that the 29 year old British competitor was the oldest in the event. And that she’d been skating for something like 16 years. Well, whether it’s something you’ll admit to it or not, I am convinced that everyone thinks about competing at the Olympics some point. And historically, every four years I get really enthusiastic and consider getting into some random, exciting sport and competing four or (more realistically) eight years down the road at the Olympics. Well, this is now the first year that I feel too old for this pipe dream. I don’t know why, but the idea of being 29 by the time Pyeongchang rolls around (where I’d be competing in freestyle moguls or speed skating against a bunch of teenagers who’ve been practicing since they were toddlers) just seems a little far-fetched, even for me. That said, I may still have a shot at curling. Skeleton and ski jump are outliers with potential as well, but I guess those’ll depend on whether or not I feel like breaking any more bones before my 26th birthday…
Other than the crying, the only real hiccups these last couple weeks came during men’s freestyle moguls when Wilf decided to cheer for Kazakstan (“They’re a small country!”), when we got into a 20-minute argument on ice dance twizzles, and now that he is boycotting men’s ice hockey because he doesn’t think Canadian kids care as much about winning the Olympics as much as they care about winning the Stanley Cup. This point I will respectfully acknowledge, but it doesn’t make me care any less about the importance of winning gold in this sport. For me, it isn’t about who the players are, it’s about being the best in the world at the game. (He will naturally be joining me and Kaz downtown as we hunt for a bar in which to watch the gold medal game at 3am…)
Anyway, after all that, the whole reason I had evening coffee on Tuesday was because I was invited to attend the 2013 Murray A. Newman Awards at the Vancouver Aquarium. These awards are given out annually, to two people who have demonstrated life-long achievements in marine research and conservation. This year, the awards went to Drs. Verena Tunnicliffe and Rob Devlin. Although their research areas are very different, when they gave their presentations, I sensed an underlying theme of pushing the boundaries, both scientifically and socially. Dr. Tunnicliffe was one of the first women to ever work on deep-sea ecology and continues to be at the forefront of this field at an international level, and Dr. Devlin has spent a large chunk of his career working on producing transgenic salmon with enhanced growth rates for benefits to aquaculture. Although the night was filled with good food (OceanWise certified) and stories, it was the inspiring messages of two scientists who have dedicated their lives to understanding and protecting our oceans that I will remember the most. And so, while I may never be an Olympian, I plan on working toward a similar contribution for the benefit of the marine world, and our planet as a whole.
*People who have been watching the Olympics in Canada should automatically understand this reference. Everyone else:
I really enjoyed this post. Thank you so much for sharing. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a dream about competing in the Olympics, but my dreams have always been related to acting and writing. That being said, I also get “a little bit” emotional watching the Olympics. Watching an athlete celebrate, no matter what country, after winning Gold sends a chill up my spine. It’s weird. Can you imagine being the best in the world at something? The olympics always make me step back and consider my life.
Rennie, you never ever fail to disappoint on your topic. Reading this, you brought tears to MY eyes. You have always been a competitor–whether on ice, on ground, on snow, in the water….or jumping around the house as a little girl–leaping over furniture as a future Olympic gymnast. Those memories are loud and vivid for me. And just so you know, you will always be our “Olympian” in everything you do. Why? Because you do everything you do with heart, passion and commitment. And THAT is an Olympian!!
Well aren’t we from the same family. I too get very emotional at the stories behind the athletes. Their struggles, sacrifices and journeys to the games along with the stories of their families brings tears to my eyes every time. Don’t be too hard on yourself – to be fair I think there is a part of all of us that secretly yearns to be one of the fortunate few to stand on one of the Olympic podiums. You will always have that competitive edge no matter whether on the playing field of sport, or the playing field of life. You can be an Olympian in your chosen field of work and change the world if only for a moment in a corner of the world. xoxo
Thanks for the feedback everyone! Glad I’m not alone 😉