There is no argument about the fortitude figure skater Joannie Rochette was required to find to compete in the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.
There is no question about the strength and courage she displayed in winning a bronze medal.
There is no question of how magnificently she responded to the pressure, creating a moment in Canadian Olympic history that will be forever remembered.
Because of her performance following the death of her mother days earlier, she is worthy of being recognized as one of the most auspicious, exciting and moving moments in Canadian sport.
But it was only a moment in time, a snapshot in a year of other remarkable achievements constructed by athletes, some of whom were remarkable on a repeated basis.
The selection of an athlete of the year should never be based on a single performance. The parameters for selection as the athlete of the year should be based on winning the ultimate prize and on an athlete’s performance measured over a long period of time.
This is not a criticism of Rochette’s accomplishments.
But Rochette’s skate yielded her a bronze medal, a remarkable bronze but a bronze nonetheless. Before the Olympics, her season did not yield particularly strong performances.
She did not compete after the Olympics, including at the world championships in Italy.
The athlete of the year needs to perform well for more than just a moment in time.
The male athlete of the year, baseball player Joey Votto, overcame his own hardships to perform strongly over a period of more than six months. In a sport surrounded by a multitude of great talents, Votto was voted as the most valuable in that league of great talents.
One could argue that competing despite the death of her mother placed Rochette at a different level than other athletes who did not face the same obstacles.
While that may be true, other athlete achievements should not be minimized, simply because they had the good luck to compete under better circumstances.
For my money, there was no better athlete in 2010 than London’s own Christine Nesbitt.
The long track speed skater won a gold medal in the 1,000 at the Vancouver Games under immense pressure after her team had not performed as well as expected.
She finished at the top of the podium.
And she didn’t stop there.
Nesbitt fractured an elbow when a car hit her bicycle during her off-season this summer. As of mid-December, she had won all four 1,000-metre races and was three-for-three in the 1,500 to begin the 2010-11 World Cup season. She won an eighth gold in team pursuit.
The measure of a truly great season comes over a period of time and by facing multiple tests.
Nesbitt has maintained that level of excellence.
Rochette captured the hearts of Canadians by delivering an inspired performance during her free skate.
Nesbitt delivered an athlete-of-the-year performance by capturing the true meaning of what the award should be all about.