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You may have heard this weekend that Tokyo has been awarded the 2020 Summer Olympics. If you haven’t well, now you have. Like many others , I read the stories on news sites, saw peoples reactions on Twitter and Facebook and even watched a couple videos of the reactions of some Japanese who were up at 5 am to watch the announcement that was taking place in Buenos Aires.
As I watched the members of the Tokyo bid committee and ordinary Japanese celebrate their successful bid I couldn’t help but feel good. I always get the shivers whenever I see large outpourings of jovial national pride, regardless of whether its my nation or someone else’s.
Inevitably, I made my way down to the comments sections on one of the news articles and, again inevitably, I found comments supporting and congratulating Japan mixed in with a healthy dose of “the Olympics cost too much and nobody cares, or benefits and the money should be spent elsewhere” comments.
The truth is, the Olympics do cost a lot of money. Sometimes, its money well spent and well managed and a host city can have a hugely successful games (Los Angeles ’84, Calgary ’88 and Vancouver 2010 come to mind). Sometimes its not (Montreal ’72, Athens ’04 and I’m sure others). But one thing that people don’t always think of is the emotion that the Olympics, not just the two weeks of Games, but the lead up that starts with the announcement, can bring to a country.
I remember in 2003 when the International Olympic Committee was about to announce who would host the 2010 Winter Olympics. At that time, I had just finished grade 10 and was attending a summer training camp for young skaters at the Olympic Oval in Calgary. There is always a buzz for all things Olympic around the Oval, and every T.V in the place was turned on to CBC to watch the announcement. When Jacques Rogge opened the envelope and announced that Vancouver would be host, the room went crazy. G.M Place in Vancouver went crazy. I think a lot of Canada went crazy.
In that moment, I remember feeling so much excitement. I added up the years and knew that 7 years from that announcement I would be 23, a prime age for Olympic competition. I vowed to myself that I would make it to those Games. It would be an amazing moment, an Olympic Games in my own country! Right after the announcement, I had to head to my next session, and I remember doing it with a little bit of extra energy, knowing that I had seven years to get to my best and not a second to waste.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I didn’t make it to those Games. I just missed out. But thats not the point of this post. The point is that while the Olympics come with a hefty price tag, I’m guessing that if the excitement they generate are enough to make this 16 year old kid dedicate himself to seven years of sport and healthy living then there were numerous others all across our country (and maybe even the world) that did or wanted to do the same. And if a bunch of kids can be inspired to do that from one announcement, then imagine what an entire 2 weeks of games can do!
So congratulations Tokyo, and all of Japan. You may have just committed yourself to spending a big wack of cash, but I’m sure there is already a generation who are inspired to take up the Olympic spirit and carry it with them for the rest of their lives. Call me corny, but to me, thats the most important reason why hosting the Olympics is worth it.
If you’re interested, here is the video of the Vancouver 2010 announcement.
Thursday was the day that the team was officially announced. Even though the announcement had been leaked earlier in the week by yours truly and others on the team, it was still a big showy event.
Fancypants. Photo from Speed Skating Canada.
The event started out with a few speakers from the COC. Following that, we were presented with our team jackets. It was cool way of doing the announcement.
Chef de Mission and former Canadian downhill skier Steve Podborski giving me my team jacket. Photo from Speed Skating Canada.
After the jacket presentation, the photo opportunities started. We had several set photo ops to do. The first was a ‘check-in’ to the Hilton on our way to Sochi. Hilton Hotels was announced at the press conference as the official hotel supplier of the Canadian Olympic Committee.
Checking in. Photo from Speed Skating Canada.
The second was a team shot outside. First we had to just line up, then we were supposed to ham it up for the camera. I think this one of me flexing and making a face in the back ended up in the Globe and Mail, I haven’t seen it myself, but apparently my Grandmother did and was unsurprised that I was the only one making a face…
Photo from Speed Skating Canada.
Anyways, it gave me a good idea of what its like to be on a red carpet. A LOT of camera flashes.
First group shot as a team. Photo from Speed Skating Canada.
After that, it was on to interviews. I did a TV interview for CBC North and then several telephone interviews to different media outlets at home in the Northwest Territories. I’m pretty amazed by the support that is coming from home!
I think I’m still in a bit of shock over the whole announcement of my name as one of the 10 that are nominated to the team. Racing, and hopefully winning, at the Olympics has been my goal for so many years, and I am getting so close to realizing that dream. At the same time, since I’m currently on the sidelines, I can’t help but feel like I’m not making any progress on my path towards the opening ceremonies in February. Despite what I’m trying to tell myself that everything I do now is another step toward being at my best in February, its hard to believe my own words when all I can do is very, very light workouts and rest.
Healing my head has been a patience testing process at best. My body feels amazing. Its not often that it gets this much recovery. But my head and neck are still not perfect. And so I will continue to do my best at recovering so that when its time, I can go full gas.
These days are pretty boring (well I’ve had some exciting news, but check back on Thursday for that!). Like most injuries, the best way to heal is to rest. The only problem is that its easy to rest something like, say, a sore knee or ankle. You simply stay off of it. A brain though, isn’t so easy.
I’ve been trying lots of methods, but its not easy to keep brain stimulus to a minimum. Its not easy on the brain to watch hours of TV, read a book or surf the internet for hours on end. Even just sitting or lying there doesn’t work that well since all I can think about it whether I’m getting better. Or wondering if that little twitch I felt might be a headache and then overanalyzing until I have a headache from nothing other than worrying. Its frustrating.
So what do my days look like these days? Well, I’ve been going into the rink in the mornings while the guys are on ice. This give me some connection to the skating world and lets me watch and try to keep some technical cues sharp in my mind. While I’m there I can do a small activation routine that I’ve been instructed to do by our medical team. Then I normally get some physio done on my neck. Basically thats it for the day. The rest of the time I try to rest my brain as much as possible.
One thing that I’ve found to be effective in calming my mind and allowing rest has been long walks. I’ve been exploring my neighbourhood quite a bit. Hochelaga has some cool things going on. Back alleys are a great way to find out what a neighbourhood is like.
I also do some work with a electrical stim machine to try and reduce the effects of atrophy on my legs. This will hopefully lessen the amount of time it will take me to build back up to full strength once I’m back on ice.
Sorry for the bad quality. I’m putting the nodes on to stim my calves.
Now that Olympic Trials are over, its time for me to recap my crash from a week and a half ago.
As many who read this blog may have heard, I crashed hard in the first A final of the Intact Insurance Short Track Olympic Team Selections. It was a bit of a freak accident. After taking the bell lap in 2nd place, I was rounding the second to last corner when I hit a rut and went down. Had I just fallen by myself, it would have been a routine, although disappointing, crash. Unfortunately though, Charle Cournoyer, who was following a few positions behind me, hit the same rut and went down as well, piling straight into me. My knee went straight into my face and Charle hit the rest of my head as he went into the mats. I’ve posted the video below.
When a skater falls in short track, the first thing you do is a sort of systems check to make sure everything feels like its in one piece. The first thing I noticed was that my face hurt and it felt like my nose was bleeding. As I opened my eyes to check for the blood I expected to be coming from my nose, I was surprised to see an orangish liquid, one that I’ve never seen before, coming out of my nose faster than you want to see. By that time the doctor and medical team had jumped over the boards and were pinning me in place in case of a severe spinal injury. After they checked with me to make sure I was experiencing any tingling in my extremities and that I could move my arms, legs etc, I wanted to get up and off the ice.
Feeling a little woozy once I got off the ice, our team doctors decided that I should really go to the hospital to get a CT scan on my face and skull since I took such a wack to the face and because that orangish fluid can potentially be an indication of skull fracture. This would mean I would have to pull out of the trials for at least the rest of the day. Normally this would be something that would make me mad and I would resist against (pulling out, not precautionary scans), but this time, I didn’t feel like going back on the ice that day. And when I don’t feel like that, I know that theres something serious.
After an awful drive, starting and stopping in rush hour traffic while concussed and nauseous is not fun at all, we got to the hospital. After a relatively quick wait, I received my CT scan and the good news that no fracture was shown. I headed back home with a banging headache and a swollen cheek.
Its my experience with injuries like this during times of competition that getting injured isn’t the hard part. The hard part is waiting to get better while you watch your training partners and friends get ready to continue racing. I wanted to be out there so badly. But each time I tried to run scenarios of when I could get back on the ice and compete, I worked myself up and my headaches got worse. Finally, after being re-evaluated each day and hoping I would magically wake up each morning feeling 100%, we (myself and the team medical staff) made the decision last Thursday that I would pull out from the rest of the Olympic Trials. There was no way I could get on the ice and be ready for the last days of the competition with anything close to my 100% performance level that would be needed to participate, and succeed, in such an elite level competition.
The decision to pull out was both an easy one and a hard one at the same time. Easy because I know that I only have one brain for the rest of my life (although Liam Mcfarlane may argue differently…he’s sure robotics will take over in the not too distant future) and also because I knew that I would potentially be a hazard to not only myself but the other skaters on the ice. And hard because I had worked hard for a long time so that I could perform at my best at the Olympic Trials and prove to myself and others that I was deserving of a spot on the 2014 Canadian Olympic Short Track Team.
So whats next? Well immediately after the crash, my focus turned to getting back to full health. Since Aug 7th, I have seen a very good improvement in my condition. The headaches are subsiding, my neck is feeling slowly better and I feel more myself each day. I’m hoping to get back to some light off ice training sometime this week and maybe back on the ice in a week or so. Of course its all a day to day thing, as I must continue to be symptom free during my return to training. Everyone I have talked to has told me not to push it and come back too early, and I plan on taking that advice, even if its hard to do as I’m chopping at the bit to get back.
On the Olympic qualification side of things, I am lucky to live in a country that leaves space in their selection policy for medical byes. I will have to ask to be selected to the team through this route, based on my performances from last season. Now that the competition is over, Speed Skating Canada will be deliberating this week before an official announcement of the team in the coming days. Having to request a bye is not what I had envisioned, but I am lucky to even still have a chance to potentially qualify.
As always, thanks to my sponsors, SSi Micro, Tait Communications and the Government of the NWT. Thanks as well to everyone who has wished me well over the past few days!
First of all, I am continuing to call this the weekly update. Why? Because its ironic. And ironic is funny. Right? Oh well.
Well, just like that here we are. Olympic trials are upon us. Tomorrow marks the start of 5 days of competition spread over the next 11 days that will determine Canada’s 2014 Olympic Short Track team.
I could get into a big song and dance about how I’ve prepared, how fast the last four years have gone etc, but I’d rather just say this. I’m ready. I’m ready to attack this set of trials like I have attacked every set of trials I have ever raced. There is nothing new here. Its just time to race.
Our Olympic season is now well underway. We’ve been on ice for three weeks already. This is the earliest that I have ever started skating. It was actually kind of nice to start skating again after only three weeks. Too long off the ice and it takes a while to get your feeling back. Obviously it would have been nice to be on off-season for a bit longer, but being able to get back on the ice with some feeling for our skates still left over from last year will help get us up to speed and working on what we need to excel next year in less time.
I spent most of my off season travelling. First, I was in Toronto to visit Jess. We also made time to rent a car and head down to visit my grandparents in St-Marys.
Luckily my time in Ontario also coincided with my Grandmothers 91st birthday. It was fun to get out for dinner with her and my cousins to celebrate.
Following Ontario, I headed north. I planned a 24 hour stopover in Calgary on my way to Yellowknife to visit some friends and my sister quickly. It was a beautiful day so Jill suggested a short hike. We did a quick walk up Prairie mountain and took in some Alberta scenery and sun. I don’t get out to the mountains enough living in Quebec now, so I really enjoyed that.
Once I made it up to Yellowknife, it was time to relax! I spent a lot of time out at our cabin, resting, eating and enjoying spring-ish weather. I couldn’t get out and do as much as I wanted to while I was there since I was nursing a bit of a groin injury from the end of the season, but it was still awesome to be out of the city for a while. As I mentioned in my last post I met with SSI Micro to finalize a sponsorship and later that day I visited the CJCD radio station for a quick interview.
I also got invited by the Yellowknife Speed skating club to come out and hang out with the club skaters. Their season had just wrapped up, so we rented the fieldhouse and played some games and ran around a bit. The kids had tons of energy and I had a lot of fun!
I am very happy to announce that for the upcoming 2013-14 season, I will be welcoming SSi Micro to my team as a Silver Sponsor! I had the chance to visit SSi’s headquarters in Yellowknife last week. They have an awesome set up (yes the TV’s and couches in the pic are at their offices!!) and it was great to meet some of the staff.
SSi Micro is a Yellowknife, NWT, Canada based communications solutions and service provider. Involved with operations across Canada’s North and the World, SSi’s business, not unlike Short Track Speed Skating, requires inovation and speed to excel.
I have always received fantastic support from the people of the NWT, and I am excited to be able to represent a company that, like me, is excelling to be the best in its field!
About SSi Micro:
Headquartered in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, the SSi Group of Companies provides broadband service across Canada’s North. SSi understands first-hand the challenges faced in providing effective and affordable communications services to remote and outlying areas, and in providing a competitive alternative to the incumbent operator in small and remote markets.
SSi has deployed advanced satellite and local broadband wireless facilities that deliver services throughout Nunavut under the “QINIQ” brand, and in over thirty communities of the Northwest Territories, an area spanning over three million square kilometers. The network uses state-of-the-art full mesh connectivity and supports broadband Internet, voice and videoconferencing technologies.
The end of another season. I can’t believe how fast this season seemed to go. World Championships are now done, and I’m back in Canada.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the way things went in my first individual World Championships. It seemed to take me a while to get the goal of skating individually at Worlds checked off my list, especially so since I was slated to compete last year but had to miss out due to my broken shoulder. But its checked off now, and I can hopefully move onto bigger things!
Instead of rehashing the details of how my races went (well I’ll write this: 5th in 1500m, PEN in 500m quarter finals, 5th in 1000m, 1st in relay) I’ll share some highlights and lowlights of the competition with you, the faithful few readers. If you really want to see how my races went, I suggest watching some video. Full coverage can be found online at CBC’s website or on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/user/lgs1083?feature=g-high-rec.
I’ll start with the lowlights, since no one likes ending on a low.
1. All three Canadian men (Charles Hamelin, Olivier Jean and myself) getting penalised (Dqed) in our quarter finals. Canada has traditionally been strongest in the 500m and after a strong start on Friday in the 1500 with 2 men in the final (myself included), I think we all thought some big results were possible in the 500m. Not to be, and everyone was bummed out about that one. I think I read somewhere that this was the first time that no Canadian man has podiumed in the 500 at World Champs since 2002.
2. Meng Wang’s blatant contact to knock Park Seung-Hi down in the 3000m super final, which ended Park’s chances of catching Meng in the overall standings. Despicable in my opinion. Sure our sport is unpredictable, but predictably taking someone out in order to win does not fall in the category of unpredictable. Win fair and square or accept that someone else was better than you on the day.
3. My pre-competition preparation. This isn’t really a massive low light, but I definitely felt that I fought myself mentally in the month between the World Cup in Dresden and the start of the World Champs. As a result, I didn’t come in with as much confidence as I would have liked. That said, I still managed to have decent performances, so maybe how I managed the fact that I wasn’t feeling 100% prior to a competition so that I could get good results can be considered a highlight. Hmm, I’ll take that as a sign to switch to highlights now.
1. Winning the relay. We didn’t do well this year on the World Cup. We wanted to be better at World Champs and defend our title from last year. We did.
2. Our team staff. I really can’t say enough about our team staff. They work hard and tirelessly to make it easy for us and they have fun while the do it. Thanks to Yves, Suzanne, Vero, Fabian, Alex, Laurent, Francois, Phil and the coaches Derrick and Fred. For this trip, a special mention goes out to Fabian our sports psych for helping me keep my head on straight, and Vero, our physio for keeping the body in one piece at the end of the season.
3. Another highlight was the Hungarian hospitality in Debrecen. The competition itself was very well organized. There was a boardless mat system which no doubt saved me from injury after I fell with a Dutch skater in the 500m. The hotel and food were great, in a great location and close to the rink. I hope they can host more competitions there in the future.
Relay Gold! Photo Credit – Istvan Lehotzky
Thats a good looking team there! (minus the possessed eyes we all seem to have)
Notice something wrong with how I’m skating here? Just after the Korean skater on the right bumped me, resulting in their DQ. Photo credit – Istvan Lehotzky
Painfaces. 1000m Quarter final behind 2013 World Champ Sin Da-Woon. Photo Credit – Istvan Lehotzky
The team and I are now in Debrecen, site of the 2013 World Championships putting the final touches on our form for this weekend’s competition.
Like I mentioned in my last post, we spent a week in Budapest acclimatizing to the jet-lag and getting a last bit of training under our belts. Despite having trained in Budapest this summer, I had completely forgotten how cold the rink was. Maybe it was the fact that when we were there in June it was above 30C almost everyday or my mind had erased bad memories of the cold, but I was shocked. Most of the team struggled a bit with not being able to feel our feet after 30 or so minutes on the ice. We also had to resort to extra layers over our skin suits. I like to consider myself a hardy northerner, but even I had to wear a toque under my helmet a couple times. Pathetic!
I love dried dates and figs. I picked some up at the Budapest market.
Olivier was pumped to buy his weight in sausage at the market
On Sunday we hoped on a bus with the Hungarian team and travelled the 2.5 hours to Debrecen. We are staying at a very nice hotel only a few minutes from the rink. Its been gorgeous here every day. Today, Val, Gabby and I rented bikes from the hotel and went for a little tour around the hotel. The area around the hotel is a big park/sports complex/water park, and the local university is close to, so that made for a nice short tour to shake our legs out on our afternoon off.
Our hotel in Debrecen.
Afternoon bike ride
University in Debrecen. According to Gabby, it has a good medical school.
Some off path riding…
…And some off roading
Tomorrow is the last day of practice of the season. I’m ready to get this competition going!