For most of the 200-plus athletes on the Canadian Olympic team – save for an NHL star or two – there are no fancy flights, five-star hotels or media scrums after practice, and no throngs of adoring fans hounding them for autographs at every turn.
For these dedicated, shining examples of clean living and old-fashioned Canadian hard work, typically there are no interview requests, agents, contracts or the glare of television cameras.
At least not between Olympic years.
But now, the Sochi Winter Olympics are their time to shine, their payoff for years of early morning workouts in freezing conditions in relative obscurity.
Think of the bobsledder and cross-country skier. The speed skater and the athlete who does that scary skeleton thing – bombing down a steep track of ice headfirst, on a sled no bigger than their torso. There is no Luge Night in Canada with its own theme song and a TV audience of millions every Saturday night, no wall-to-wall media coverage of the World Cup ski circuit.
The Peninsula is rife with Olympians and Paralympians, including Janice Birch, Mary Benson, Sarah Hunter, Hillary Caldwell, Brittany Reimer, Richard Weinberger, Christine Girard, Lynn Kanuka and Elaine Tanner.
Ask any of them about their Olympic experience, and they’ll likely tell you that being in the international spotlight was a highlight of their life.
And now, this country’s latest crop of athletes deserve our attention and our support, too.
The Sochi Games have – in the early stages at least – garnered something of a bad rap, from the high costs of staging the Games to warm weather and a lack of snow (sound familiar, Vancouver?), and to media and athlete accommodations that in many cases have been less than stellar, albeit amusing for those able to take the challenges in stride.
But now, with the Games officially on, it is athletic accomplishments that should take centre stage.
So while there are no doubt important issues away from the field of play, from the colossal misuse of money – these Olympics are the most expensive in history – to Russia’s misguided, discriminatory anti-gay laws, it is also time to think of that lonely cross-country skier, slogging day after day for years in the cold, somewhere near Calgary or Williams Lake or Sherbrooke.
This is their time.