Category Archives: Olympics

Has it really been four years?

A quick glance at the calendar this morning and I saw July 23rd. Four years ago on this date, I was already fully entrenched in my London Olympic experience. I had finally figured out the Tube and how to get from our residence to Olympic Park. I also experienced Marks & Spencer for the first time since my childhood (There were a couple of Marks & Spencer stores in Calgary during the late 1980s and early 1990s). The delicious assortment of chocolate goodies and fresh cookies hadn’t changed.

London 2012 (from my iPhone)

London 2012 (from my iPhone)

Exploring London after work will always be some of my non-sports highlights of the trip, although sports always somehow did seem to creep into sight-seeing. One night while headed to the Tower Bridge with my friend from Germany, Felix, we noticed a throng of people circling a very, very tall man. I compare it to a scene from Hollywood, where the paparazzi is after the latest shot of the most popular celebrity. Instead, these were tourists, overwhelmed with excitement at being next to the giant. As Felix and I got closer to the mob, we recognized it was Chinese basketball phenom, Yao Ming. At 7′ 6″, he actually had to duck his head, while walking through the Tower Bridge, all the while trying to maneuver through the Beatles-like crowd that was following him.

More exploring took us to Covent Garden in Piccadilly Circus, which reminded me of New York’s Times Square with all the billboard advertisements and the buzz of the crowd. Another night, we headed over the Buckingham Palace. I remember being surprised at how quiet it was. Of course, there was plenty of security, but I figured there would be tourists around. Instead, it was just my friend Felix and I and a quick check of the timestamp on my camera says 10:42 p.m. I remember turning to him and saying, “I wonder what the Queen is doing right now?” as I pointed to Buckingham. Felix’s answer? “She’s probably on Facebook.”

Days at the broadcasting centre were entertaining. One mid-morning, as I walked to our newsroom, I looked over and noticed a familiar face: John McEnroe. The tennis legend was working for NBC as an analyst and I remember thinking to myself how unsuspecting he looked. He was carrying what looked like to be a homemade lunch in a plastic grocery bag and he was dressed in a tracksuit. A few hours later on that same day, a massive group had gathered outside out newsroom. Because our newsroom had glass walls, you could see everything that was going on around us. There was Prince Harry, looking over the facility and taking the tour. It surprised me at how normal it seemed because a year ago Prince William and his wife Catherine were in Calgary as part of their Royal Tour, and the fanfare that surrounded them was something like I’d never seen.

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 9.28.42 AMFor the past month or so, I’ve been working on a large women’s soccer project with members of the 2012 Canadian team that won bronze in London. They’ve shared some of their memories of the historic tournament with me and as a result, memories of my 30 days in the United Kingdom have come flooding back.

As I wait for the 2016 Olympics to begin, I smile and look back fondly on my time in London. Sports-wise, it changed my career and brought me down a different path I never really imagined. I also saw sights and sounds I had only dreamed of growing up. Whenever I hear “Good Life” by OneRepublic, I’m taken back to the summer of 2012:

Woke up in London yesterday
Found myself in the city near Piccadilly
Don’t really know how I got here
I got some pictures on my phone

New names and numbers that I don’t know
Address to places like Abbey Road
Day turns to night, night turns to whatever we want
We’re young enough to say

Oh this has gotta be the good life
This has gotta be the good life
This could really be a good life, good life

Say oh, got this feeling that you can’t fight
Like this city is on fire tonight
This could really be a good life
A good, good life

What an honour to have been there as a Canadian journalist.

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To Russia, with love: My Sochi experience at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games

I love the Olympics. One of the reasons I got into journalism was because of the Olympics. It’s a phenomenal event that brings together people from every corner of the world. When I was asked to work in Sochi, I didn’t even bat an eyelash.

I had wonderful experiences in both Vancouver and London and I expected the same in Russia. However, when the 30-day mark rolled around before my departure date, the headlines were filled with information on terrorist threats, the Olympic host being a massive target, and basically that anyone going to the area would be at risk. All of the focus on this wonderful sporting event was gone and instead, the focus was on safety. It’s something I was not used to.

Three days before I was supposed to leave, the headlines intensified. I registered with the Canadian government in case I needed to search for an embassy during my time in Sochi. South of the border, safety dominated American newscasts. Athletes said they didn’t want their families to come with them. There was even talk of the United States sending their own Navy ships to the Black Sea in case a quick escape was needed.

I had absolute stomach turning anxiety on the day I left, but the good news was, I already had colleagues in Sochi. They sent me pictures and gave me briefings about the surroundings and security presence. They felt safe. Maybe they didn’t put my mind at ease 100%, but it definitely helped.

IMG_2932

Welcome to Sochi!

My journey to Sochi was simple one: Calgary – Frankfurt – Sochi. When I arrived in Russia, I was greeted by one of the many friendly volunteers. These people were superstars. They were always smiling and ready to help if you had any questions.

When we arrived in the media village, it was as expected. Forget all the stories you saw on Twitter, the accommodations were just fine. It was clean. There was plenty of space. It was quiet. There was Internet. We were in a secure area that was surrounded by a gate that was guarded by police.

I was covering figure skating this time around. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I always knew figure skating was a popular Olympic sport, but I never really knew how fanatical people were about it until I got to Sochi. The Russians had strong skaters in every event. There’s a reason they took the gold in the inaugural team portion. They were just that good.

It was phenomenal to see the kind of drive the skaters had. They spent countless hours day in and day out perfecting their routines for the four minutes the eyes of the world were on them.

The Canadians had a strong showing in figure skating. They left Russia with a silver in the team event, silver in men’s and silver in ice dance. There was plenty of controversy along the way. Did I feel that Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir deserved gold? Of course I did, but I wasn’t a judge. It was fascinating learning about all of the different elements and finally knowing what a proper twizzle was supposed to look like.

Kevin Dineen and women's hockey team

Kevin Dineen and women’s hockey team

In my spare time, I focused on the other Canadian athletes. Our country not only impressed in the field of play, but off of it too. Other journalists were constantly commenting on the friendly and polite nature of our athletes. That’s something to be very proud of.

One of the highlights of my journey to Russia was the success of the women’s hockey team. They went into the tournament as the underdogs. The team must have used it as a rallying point, because they looked stronger than ever. Head coach Kevin Dineen had a game plan and he stuck to it. The final versus the US is one of the most exciting games I’ve ever watched. The resiliency and drive helped them bring home their fourth consecutive gold. Amazing.

Olympic Park

Olympic Park

Olympic Park itself was lovely. All of the venues were top class and they will be for years to come. Sadly, it’s just window dressings. The area outside the park is obviously struggling economically. It really saddens me to think that all of these people who worked at the Olympics are going back to being unemployed and have to wait for the next event to roll around. You could see how much it meant to the workers and volunteers when you spent time talking to them. They were all so genuine.

I left Sochi with a better appreciation for the country I live in. I’ve always been a very proud Canadian and now, even more so. We are very lucky. When I arrived home in Calgary, I had this sense of pride and calm wash over me as I waited in the Customs line.

A big thank you to everyone in Russia. Spasiba.

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Sochi is how many days away?!

77. It’s hard to believe we are on the cusp of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. It seems like only yesterday Canada was preparing to welcome the world in Vancouver. Now, it’s Sochi’s turn.

sochi-2014-logoRegardless of the event or sport, expectations for Canadian athletes are high. The team will be looking to duplicate and hopefully exceed their outstanding efforts in 2010, where Canada finished at the top of the medal rankings with 26 (14 gold, 7 silver, 5 bronze).

The Opening Ceremony flag bearer will soon be announced. I’m predicting hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser gets the call. This will likely be her last go at the Olympics. It would be a fitting way to honour an athlete who has done so much for her sport, not only in Canada, but around the world. She’s also one of the proudest Canadians you’ll ever meet. Her teammate, Danielle Goyette, carried the maple leaf in 2006.

As we inch closer to February 7th, here are some key links to get you up-to-date with what’s been happening with the red and white, in each discipline:

Alpine Canada

Biathlon Canada

Bobsleigh Canada Skelton

Canada Snowboard

Canadian Curling Association

Canadian Freestyle Skiing Association

Canadian Luge Association

Hockey Canada

Nordic Combined Canada

Skate Canada

Ski Jumping Canada

Speed Skating Canada

Official links:

Canadian Olympic Team Website

Canadian Olympic Team Collection (Hudson’s Bay)

Sochi Games 2014

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How the Canadian Sochi roster would look if only stats are considered

500px-05_NHL_ShieldAs the Ts are crossed and the Is are dotted, it looks like we’re just days away from an official announcement NHL players will be able to participate in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daley has been in talks with the IIHF and had intense meetings late this week. A number of details were released from the meetings, including a couple of major ones:

– There will be a break in the NHL during the Olympics. The last day of games would be February 8 and play would resume two days after the gold medal game.
– There will be roster changes for Sochi. Each team will be allotted two extra players (22 players, 3 goalies), compared to the roster at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver (20 players, 3 goalies) .

So, out of curiosity, how would Canada’s forward group look if Hockey Canada only selected the statistically best players from the condensed 2012-13 NHL season?

Chris Kunitz: 52 points (LW) – Steven Stamkos: 57 points (C) – Martin St. Louis: 60 points (RW)

Taylor Hall: 50 points (LW) – Sidney Crosby: 56 points (C) – P.A. Parenteau: 43 points (RW)

Andrew Ladd: 46 points (LW) – Eric Staal: 53 points (C) – Blake Wheeler: 41 points (RW)

Matt Moulson: 44 points (LW) – Ryan Getzlaf: 49 points (C) – Jordan Eberle: 37 points (RW)

Statistically next in line –  Jonathan Toews: 48 points (C), Claude Giroux: 48 points (C), John Tavares: 47 points (C), Joe Thornton: 40 points (C), Rick Nash: 42 points (LW), Evander Kane: 33 points (LW), Patrick Marleau: 31 points (LW), Corey Perry: 36 points (RW), Jeff Carter: 33 points (RW), Jordan Eberle: 37 points (RW)

This certainly speaks to the immense depth of the centre position in Canada.

Most of the wingers are able to switch sides in a pinch and most often than not, centres can adjust to playing on the wings to allow the coaching staff a plethora of line combinations.

sochi-2014-logoAs the 2014 Olympic Winter Games near (272 days to go), there will be countless potential rosters and line combinations dished out by both the fans and media. Those lists will likely include a number of the players listed above, but those rosters definitely won’t be based solely on stats. Experience, chemistry, coach-ability, and clutch play will all be factors in determining the final roster selected by Hockey Canada. Stats don’t always show the true picture and a number of notable Canadian-born players, like Jason Speeza, struggled with injuries this short regular season.

A camp with potential Olympic players will likely take place late this summer. The 2009 camp, which was in Calgary, happened over a period of four days in August with 46 players hitting the ice.

The final roster will have to be submitted five to six weeks before the start of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

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Unforgettable memories as Kim St-Pierre calls it a career

After three Olympic gold medals, five world hockey championship first place finishes and a lifetime of memories, goalie Kim St-Pierre is hanging up her skates for good.

And what a career she’s had. St-Pierre ends her Hockey Canada tenure with a 1.17 GAA, .939 save percentage, record 29 shutouts and a remarkable 64 wins.

Kim St-Pierre (WikiCommons/Jeff)
Kim St-Pierre (WikiCommons/Jeff)

She backstopped Canada to Olympic gold medals in 2002, 2006 and most recently, 2010. Although she didn’t see much playing time in Vancouver, she proved to be a mentor and leader for the emerging Shannon Szabados. It’s a role that helped St-Pierre’s career come full circle, because she herself was taken under the wing of Manon Rheaume and other veterans in 1998 when she joined the national program. Some of St-Pierre’s most dazzling saves came at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. The unforgettable 3-2 victory over the USA was marred by controversial reffing, as St-Pierre and the Canadians wouldn’t let being nearly shorthanded for the entire game prevent them from capturing our country’s first ever gold medal in women’s hockey.

She put together an amazing 25 save performance in that final. Many of them came in the first period, when Canada survived two lengthy 5 on 3s by the USA. They were resilient and showed the nearly 10,000 spectators on hand the true meaning of playing with heart.

Wayne Gretzky and the Canadian men’s team were on hand to watch the tenacity of that squad. Truthfully, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say the women’s performance was motivation for them, as they too went on to capture gold versus the USA in 2002.

Although she’s now moving on from international play, no one will ever forget the impact she’s had on women’s hockey not only in Canada, but across the world.

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Canadian moguls battle perfect competition before Sochi

No Canadian will ever forget Alexandre Bilodeau. At the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, he captured the country’s first ever gold medal on home soil. Three years later, he’s still making his mark on the moguls stage, but now he has a shadow named Mikael Kingsbury. Both men have had tremendously successful seasons:

Bilodeau

Kingsbury

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Alexandre BilodeauWikiCommons photo

Alexandre Bilodeau
WikiCommons photo

There are 13 first place finishes between the two. Other than a one anomaly by Bilodeau during a February World Cup in Russia, both finished top five or better in every single event. The results are beyond impressive and it’s safe to say both are medal contenders with the Olympic Winter Games coming up next year.

Right now, Kingsbury and Bilodeau find themselves respectively sitting in the first and second spots on the FIS Freestyle Skiing Cup Standings list. The season is drawing to a close with only one World Cup event and two Nor-Am Cup events left. Kingsbury leads the pack with an impressive 81 points, while Bilodeau is in second with 72. Third place is currently occupied by Switzerland’s Alex Fiva with 64 points.

Mikael KingsburyWikiCommons photo

Mikael Kingsbury
WikiCommons photo

One person smiling widely at these results has to be Canada’s Assistant Chef de Mission for Sochi, Jean-Luc Brassard. His gold medal winning moguls run at the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer had the world buzzing about the excitement of freestyle skiing.

Canada’s history in the sport alone will make it one of the favorites next year and combined with the talent of both Bilodeau and Kingsbury, it’s going to be a must watch.

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Celebrate ’88: 25 years later, but feels like yesterday

February 13th, 2013 marks the 25th anniversary of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in my beautiful homecity of Calgary.

25 years. A quarter of a century. Wow. I was quite young when the world was welcomed by Calgary, but I’m reminded of the wonderful event on a daily basis. All I need to do is look west to see Canada Olympic Park. While I was going to university, I walked by the Olympic Oval on my way to class. When you go skating at Olympic Plaza downtown, you just need to look around to see constant reminders of those amazing two weeks.

One of the most memorable images of 1988 is the logo. It remains very unique, combining the city and country through the letter C and includes one of Canada’s most well known symbols, the maple leaf, and an outline of a snowflake.

The logo features a unique C design. There are five large and five small letters Cs to represent Calgary and Canada - all in the shape of a maple leaf and a snowflake.

The 1988 Olympic Winter Games are also unforgettable because of the emergence of pin collecting. People from all  over the world gathered at pin “hubs” across the city, trying to add to their collections through trades. The pin phenomenon is still mainstay at both the Summer and Winter Games.

The 1988 mascots, Hidy and Howdy, had a true Calgary flare. Not only were they polar bears, but they (of course!) also donned their cowboy gear to play hommage to the Stampede. It was tough not smile when I picked up this Hidy and Howdy pin at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. Hidy and Howdy pinSunIce jackets were worn by Olympic volunteers. From time to time, you see them make an appearance around the city and it makes you chuckle a little bit. The distinct 80s style and pastel colours are pretty hard to miss. I did a quick scour of eBay and if you’re interested in picking up one of these gems, it’s going to set you back anywhere from $80.00 to over $300.00.

How about this song? “Can You Feel It?” was penned by master Canadian composer David Foster and gives me goosebumps to this day. All you need to do is hear the first five seconds and you’ll be flooded with memories. The composition may have an 80s synth sound, but it’s so memorable, the piece is used during the Bellagio Hotel fountain show in Las Vegas.

There’s not enough space to mention all of the athletes and amazing moments from 1988. All I will say is The Battle of the Brians, Eddie the Eagle, and the Jamaican bobsled team. Personally, my favorite memory is Elizabeth Manley capturing silver in figure skating at the Saddledome. She had a delightful, up-tempo routine in a pink gown and became a true Calgarian when she popped on a white Stetson.

What do you remember? Celebrate 88!

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