Twenty-four months. That's how long it is until the Vancouver Olympic Games. I get more excited by the day.
I found this CTV article by Michael Stittle this morning, a little advertising for tomorrow's Olympic special "Olympic Journey: Calgary to Vancouver", airing tomorrow night on TSN.
Twenty years after the Calgary Winter Games, Canada is haunted by an
embarrassing fact -- it's the only country to have hosted the Olympics twice
without winning a gold medal.
But athletes should bring in a record haul in Vancouver, says CTV Olympic
Host Brian Williams.
"In the past, Canadians were content to show up and then that was good
enough. Showing up is not good enough," Williams told CTV.ca.
"This is not an intramural activity. They're on the world stage. I'm
not saying they all have to win medals, but you must show up and do your best."
Canada won 24 medals in Turin, the most ever captured at the Winter Games.
Sixteen of those medals were won by women like speed skater Cindy Klassen,
arguably won of the finest athletes the country has ever produced.
Williams said the Own the Podium program, launched in 2005, has
contributed greatly towards the growing success of Canada's amateur athletes. It
gives them much-needed support in terms of doctors, physiotherapists and
"I will tell you that as I travel across this country, Canadian
athletes are not intimidated by the pressure," said Williams. "In fact, they're
looking forward to it, they're thriving under it, and they're all talking about
who will be the first Canadian athlete to hear 'O Canada' on Canadian soil."
Stories of passion, of trying to overcome the odds, are already emerging among Canadian athletes looking toward the 2010 Games.
One of the most remarkable is cross-country skier Brian McKeever. He has less than 10 per cent of his vision -- he's legally blind -- but is considered one of the top competitors in the world.
McKeever's vision problems come from Stargardt's, a form of macular degeneration that has left him with only peripheral vision. Because of his condition, he relies on his brother Robin to guide him from behind during races.
Robin is a former Olympic athlete who competed at the Nagano Olympics in 1998. He gave up his Olympic aspirations to train McKeever, pushing him to fight beyond his limitations.
"Brian has competed in a regular world cup event and finished in the top half," said Williams.
"He hopes to compete in Vancouver-Whistler. The problem is that at the world cup, robin was there to ski behind him and direct him; at the Olympics, you're not allowed to have someone directing you. It will be interesting to see what happens, but it's a wonderful story."
If McKeever is allowed to compete with Canada's Olympics team, he'll have to deal with intense pressure to perform better than any other Canadian team in the history of the Winter Games.