Olympics full of positive energy

By JOHN SHORT, QMI Agency

WHISTLER, B.C. -- Boy, these West Coast people are noisy!

They have good reason to be.

The 2010 Olympics have been a terrific exercise in athletic competition. Also in communication and co-operation and other valuable things.

On Saturday, for example, the downtown area of this resort centre bubbled with energy as a result of Jon Montgomery's victory in skeleton.

Earlier, massive outbursts of goodwill celebrated gold medals won by Alex Bilodeau in freestyle skiing and Maelle Ricker in snowboarding.

AMAZING LATE BURST

Downtown Vancouver was a web of noise after long-track speedskater Christine Nesbitt staged that amazing late burst to win gold at 1,000 metres, but something more shocking happened Thursday night.

As a medal ceremony took place indoors and a Canadian was being decorated, hundreds of strollers -- all smiling, all talking -- watched on television and started to sing O Canada.

Three previous Olympics have been staged in Canada during my life. I have spent time at all of them. Never before, not in Montreal or Calgary or here in Edmonton during Commonwealth Games or World Student Games, had I witnessed such a thing.

Any Canadian who lacked pride in this nation before that loud eruption of off-key song had every excuse to dust off old patriotism buttons before the noise ended.

I sat on the fourth turn in Vancouver as Nesbitt defied the odds in her victory. All of her interval times had been slower than required. She needed a magical burst to win.

She got it.

I stood on the hillside as Montgomery reached speeds of more than 140 km/hand overcame Martins Dukors of Latvia for the gold in skeleton.

The story was much the same as for Nesbitt. Interim times suggested there was no chance for the Canadian to pull out the victory -- but Montgomery did.

We won't win the total medal count. I don't care. That's for the future.

Skeleton racing confounds me.

All I knew before Friday going in was that brave athletes jumped on a sled and headed downhill at outrageous speeds. Then I had the pleasure of spending time with two Calgary teenagers who are already labelled as potential future stars on the world stage.

They taught me a lot.

SERIOUS KNOWLEDGE

A provincial government program provided funding for their visit. Travis and Patricia, both young and both extremely intelligent, showed serious knowledge of skeleton and ongoing commitment to excellence.

Everywhere a guy looked for four days, prominent former athletes were representing us.

Former Oiler and University of Alberta Golden Bears defenceman Randy Gregg supported his speedskating offspring.

Ricky Walters, who caught CFL passes until about four years ago, works on special projects for cabinet minister Lindsay Blackett.

The Spirit of Edmonton Committee was on hand, partly to discuss their role in the Eskimos' trip to Moncton and ultimately the organization's role in Grey Cup 2010.

I have hundreds of memories, all positive.

For me, smiles and unexpected street-corner singing are tied in first place.

JCSHORT@SHAW.CA

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