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Islanders at the olympics

Kabush rides out of London in style; Mountain biker eighth as Island finishes with four medals
Courtenay's Geoff Kabush pushes hard to the finish line during the men's mountain bike event in London on Sunday.

A total of 48 Island athletes were part of it as the host nation put the Great back in Britain over a truly memorable fortnight of sport and celebration.

The 2012 London Summer Olympics concluded Sunday with the Who's My Generation reverberating throughout the stadium at the end of the frenetic closing ceremonies that chronicled several eras of British pop-music history, from Ray Davies, Queen and the Spice Girls to One Direction.

CTV and Canada's Olympic consortium Monday reported a viewership of 7.5 million for the closing ceremonies and that 95 per cent of Canadians viewed at least some part of the London Summer Olympics over the 17 days.

The Canadians wore casual denim as they walked into the closing ceremonies, which by tradition are much less formal than the opening. Bronze-medallist soccer player Christine Sinclair of Burnaby carried the Canadian flag for the closing, following up Victoria triathlete Simon Whitfield, who carried it in the London opening ceremony.

"I went ballistic when the Spice Girls came in," smiled Victoria cyclist Gillian Carleton, who won bronze in the London Games.

Nanoose Bay highjumper Mike Mason, who narrowly missed a medal, walked in alongside fellow Canadian high-jumper Derek Drouin, who was awarded bronze. Men's eight silver-medallist Malcolm Howard was at the base of a human pyramid as fellow Victoria rower Patricia Obee scaled to the top before thinking better of it and scampering back down.

Victoria rower David Calder walked in with his sunglasses popped on the top of his head. Nearby was pairs partner and Brentwood College-grad Scott Frandsen.

"I'm looking for closure at the closing ceremony," said four-time Olympian Calder.

"It's always been part of my plan to participate tonight. It will be nice to say goodbye to my last Olympics as an athlete. This will help the transition."

There was also sporting action on the last day of the Games.

Gold-medallists LeBron, Kobe and the U.S. Redeem Team II weren't the only ones competing on the day.

The last of the 48 athletes based on the Island to compete were mountain bikers Geoff Kabush, a University of Victoria mechanical engineering graduate from Courtenay in his third Olympics, and Tofino native and Olympic rookie Max Plaxton of Victoria.

Plaxton did not finish, while Kabush placed a credible eighth in the race Sunday and now has two top-10 finishes over three career Olympics dating to Sydney 2000.

"I really felt comfortable and confident on the starting line," said Kabush.

"It was a close race and there are so many variables and things that can change the course of a race. I dreamed big and I came up with the goal of winning a medal. But I accept my eighth place and I'm satisfied."

Island athletes ended the Games with four medals through the silvers won by the Elk Lake-based Canadian men's rowing eight and Victoria swimmer Ryan Cochrane in the 1,500-metre freestyle and the bronzes won by 10K open-water swimmer Richard Weinberger of Victoria and cyclist Gillian Carleton of Victoria in women's velodrome track team pursuit.

Weinberger, Carleton and Cam Levins of Black Creek - the latter top-15 in both the track 5,000 and 10,000 metres against killer fields headed by homenation gold-medallist sensation Mo Farah - lead a generation of young Island athletes who were introduced to the world during the Games.

There were Island disappointments, too, with Beijing Olympic silver-medallists Calder and Frandsen failing to medal this time around in London, favourites Obee and fellowVictorian Lindsay Jennerich failing to reach the podium in women's lightweight doubles, two-time Olympic medallist Whitfield crashing out of the men's triathlon and Victoria-based Paula Findlay, a former world No.

1, tearfully crossing the finish line 52nd in the women's triathlon after missing a great deal of lead-up preparation due to a vexing hip injury.

So it could have been almost directly to the Island athletes that Sebastian Coe, the former track great and head of the London Olympic organizing committee, was speaking when he said during the closing ceremony: "We witnessed heroism and heartbreak that will live long in the memory."

Canada finished with 18 medals, the same as in Beijing 2008, good for 13th in total medals won at London and just off the stated preGames goal of top-12. But Canada, with one, was only 36th in gold medals, which is the standard used outside North America to rank nations in the Games.

After topping the goldmedals table at the homenation 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Canadians jarringly rediscovered just how much greater the depth of field is in Summer Games sports and how much harder it is to win a medal in the Summer Olympics than in the Winter Olympics.

The Olympic flag was handed to the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics, which provided a sensual samba beat during its portion of the London closing ceremony that was topped with an appearance by soccer legend Pele.

Olympic beach volleyball player Martin Reader of the Comox Valley can contemplate going from playing at Horse Guards Parade in London to Copacabana Beach.

So the work begins for athletes all over the Island - which is a major Canadian Summer Olympics training hub - with 1,450 days and counting until Rio 2016.

ISLAND TRAILS: Soccer player Emily Zurrer of Crofton, a talented veteran of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2011 World Cup who was named to the team but was injured and did not play for Canada in the London Olympic tournament, was not on the podium but did receive an Olympic bronze medal.

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