Saturday, February 9, 2002
Olympic dreams are early starters
By STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun
SALT LAKE CITY -- This is where it begins for kids and their dreams. From a television image not forgotten. From an Olympic memory that never leaves. From a moment that tells them, the way Kelley Law explained the feeling yesterday, "that I wanted to be one of them."
Before she ever had a sport, Law knew what she wanted.
She wanted to be an Olympian.
This is the visual and emotional power of the opening ceremonies, a power that still exists in the Olympic Games. However crass and corrupt they may be, however tainted the process has been by drug abuses and scandal, the Games themselves endure.
You see that in the faces and in the eyes of every Canadian athlete here.
You hear it in their words and when they relate the stories of what made them decide to be skiers or sledders or skaters.
You watch the strong and the quick and the powerful but deep down, they're only small kids with big dreams.
"I always watched the opening ceremonies on television," Yannick Morin, the little known Canadian bobsledder, said. "I was taken by the planes flying over the stadium. I always loved the parade of athletes, all dressed up in their uniforms. I said to myself back then, 'One day, I'm going to march in the opening ceremonies. One day, I'm going to be in the Olympics.'"
Last night, all dressed up in Canada's latest from Roots, Yannick Morin of Montreal found his day, marched into Rice Eccles Stadium, the smile never leaving his proud face.
STEP INTO SPOTLIGHT
This was his step on to an Olympic podium, his unofficial medal, a step taken that so many of the under-funded, under-publicized, took last night. Their step into the spotlight. Their Olympic moment.
"I started waatching the opening ceremonies in Montreal (1976)," said Law, a mother of three from British Columbia. "I was glued to Nadia Comaneci. I couldn't budge for 11 days. I watched every minute of the Olympics, watched her win her gold medals. And years later, I watched Sandra (Schmirler) win her gold medal (in Nagano) and it was a real inspiration to me. That stuff never leaves you."
Of the 156 athletes on the Canadian team here, it is remarkable that more than half have legitimate hopes of winning a medal at the Salt Lake Games.
Most of those are team players (hockey and curling) and skaters -- figure and speed.
But that's what made last night so special. The cross-country skier who will finish 31st walked beside the curler who should win gold. All of them together as teammates. Almost all of them expressing some kind of dream with their inclusion here.
There was something about being an Olympian that has meant everything to Cindy Klassen, speed skater, of Winnipeg. She tried women's hockey, but didn't make the team four years ago. She tried mountain biking. She raced at the Pan American Games in in-line speed skating. She played national team lacrosse. Yet, something made her want to be here. Something told her she just had to be here.
The walk through the stadium last night was, "everything I ever wanted," Klassen said. "Just an unbelievable feeling."
Her place in the Winter Olympic sun.
Just as it was for Mike and Chris Moffat, the brother lugers from Calgary. Or for Amanda and Jaime Fortier, the cross country skiing sisters from Canmore. Or for the husband and wife freestyle skiing team of Andy Capicik and Tami Bradley. Or for so many of the little known athletes whose names you may never know again.
There are many kinds of Olympic victories, but two are most distinct. One is all about winning. How you finish, where you finish, what you come home with. The other is about just getting here. Making it this far. The Olympic experience.
One success often can be as inspiring as the other. A dream come true for Olympic-watching kids all dressed up last night as adults.
2002 Games Columnists