Erinne Willock had hoped to go back to the Olympics this week, chasing a cycling medal.
Instead, she got her prize July 11, when baby Xavier Zarsadias arrived in the world.
So as the road race unfolded in London on Sunday, new mom Erinne was home in Victoria with husband Tony Zarsadias and wee Xavier, following the action on TV.
"It definitely was hard watching it, in a way," she says. "On the other hand, you've got this brand new baby in your lap." The 30-year-old says there's nowhere she would rather be than where she is, right now.
Just a reminder that some things are more precious than medals.
It's usually at this point, three whole days into the competition, that Canadians start fretting about our lack of Olympic success, as measured by the medal count.
Grief-stricken commentators debate whether we suck because A) Canadians don't have a killer instinct, B) there's a lack of government support for our athletes, who only stave off starvation by turning in the empty beer cans tossed from cars rocketing past the Elk Lake rowing centre, or C) we have become a nation of fat kids who can't waddle to the start line without risking a massive jammer at age 11. This fussing continues until D) we win something, or E) the Valium kicks in.
Canadians are not alone in knee-jerking in this manner. On Monday, Britain's Guardian newspaper summarized how various nations' media were, after two whole days of competition, crushing their own athletes under the weight of unrealistic expectations: "Miserable, with few bright spots," said the Sydney Morning Herald after Australia's swimmers failed to win. "Another flop show," India's Mail Today declared after the country's archers missed the mark. "Even the Kazakhs are laughing at us" wailed Germany's Bild.
"Man [and woman] are we bad."
For once, Canada is relatively free of this angst.
Perhaps that's because Canada's first medal came after two days of competition, not eight like in Beijing. Or maybe we're still feeling good about Vancouver.
We're still setting our athletes up for failure, though, with the Canadian Olympic Committee's stated goal being a top 12 in the medal standings - the implicit message being that anything less would be a disappointment. Remember that almost 200 nations are represented in London.
You would think the COC would have learned from 2010 and the kerfuffle over Own the Podium, an excellent athlete-funding program with a horrid name that made us appear jingoistic and bellicose. "The Canadians have come across as a bunch of meanspirited, chippy, unsporting losers," declared the Times of London. The New York Times labelled the approach "un-Canadian" and "unOlympic," while the Salt Lake Tribune settled for "boorish."
The result? A total of 26 medals, two more than the previous games in Turin, when Canada also had the third-highest medal total.
In the end, the world judged Canada not by how many victories it won, but by how well it hosted the Games. It was the infectious good humour on the streets, so absent in Turin, that won over the cynics.
Going into London, British pundits weren't asking whether their athletes could emulate Canada's medal success, but whether their citizens could replicate Canadians' spirit.
"Bottle that Vancouver enthusiasm and London will really hit the spot," declared the headline on an opinion piece penned by Tessa Jowell, Britain's Olympics minister.
Sometimes the COC, the media and ordinary Canadians act as though all our athletes have to do is will themselves to victory. ("Do you believe?" asked those spooky Children Of The Corn kids on CTV.) The truth is that a total of 10,960 athletes are competing for 958 medals, and none came to London with the idea of serving as doormats for the others.
"All the countries are at their peak," says Willock, who raced in the Beijing Games. The Stelly's grad has an Olympic pedigree; her dad, Martin, rode in Los Angeles in 1984, and his brother Bernie qualified for the boycotted Moscow Games of 1980.
She knows how hard it is just to make the team.
"Your whole goal is go to the Olympics," Willock says. "Then you get there and go 'OK, what do I do now?' "
You compete, is what you do. Odds are, you won't win a medal - probably won't come close - but you try anyway. That's sport.
Going for the gold is laudable, but not getting it shouldn't be equated with failure.
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