Weekly Commentary  

With glowing hearts

With glowing hearts...that's the official Olympic theme from the Vancouver Olympic team. Even for the unemotional types it was hard not to feel a bit of 'glow' as the Olympic torch touched down Friday on Canadian soil.

The running of the flame across Canada will be the longest domestic distance it has gone in the history of the Olympics. That's impressive as was seeing Olympic Champions like Silken Laumann and Simon Whitfield taking hold of the fiery symbol soon after its arrival. They epitomize everything we admire about feats of athletic prowess.

Who can forget Silken’s incredible comeback in the heart testing and muscle tearing sport of rowing? Some people had written her off after a training accident which had shattered her leg in crippling fashion. I guess somebody forgot to tell her that her athletic career should have been over. She wasn't prepared to live with that. In a legendary 'agony and ecstasy' journey doctors pieced her leg back together and she pieced her dreams back together with a brutal and oft times painful training regime.

As her challengers in the gold medal round watched in disbelief she gave it all in the race of her life and came through with a medal of gold and a smile of joy that lit up a nation. I know she will be inspiring skating champs Jeremy Wotherspoon recovering from a broken arm and Cindy Klassen fighting back from double knee surgery.

Then there's Simon Whitfield. When it comes to the ability to run smart and run long it is often the runners from other nations who claim the right to be on the podium. I guess nobody explained that to Simon.

I had the honour of running with him once several years ago. For me this was a big thrill. I mean here's a guy who actually thought that if he was willing to put in untold hours of hard training, in the early morning light and the shadows of sundown, month after painful month, for years, that he could break the iron hold that other countries had in that forbidding sport.

As I ran (he jogged) with him that day I was impressed with his natural friendliness and easy style. He pretended not to notice my wheezing and gasping as he chatted effortlessly and shared some training tips with me.

Other than noticing he was all sinew with zero body fat there was nothing on the surface that revealed a will of absolute iron inside that chiseled frame. It's that surprise element that so often lulled other world class champions who raced against him. It's the latter miles of those seemingly endless races that separate the human race from the super human race.

How many times had wannabe winners glanced over their sagging shoulders and notice that Simon was dropping back, apparently not able to meet the final test of endurance and strategy?

They failed to realize that he was conjuring up his last remains of physical and mental fire power. He was using his brain to inform his heart that every aching molecule in his body would now be called upon to do the impossible.

Who among us could sit still in our chairs as we watched the impossible unfold on the screen in front of us? How could this guy come from so far behind? How could he maintain that speed, pass the shocked front runners and then hold off their own last desperate surge to the finish line?

Relentless training, mental toughness, game day strategizing and of course the stubbornness to believe he could do it. That's what it takes and Silken and Simon know it. That's why it was so fitting to see them grasp the torch, just as they had grasped their dreams.

In Vancouver on Friday, in my position as Federal Minister Responsible for BC, I met with mayors and councilors from the Lower Mainland. We talked about roads and bridges, water treatment, affordable housing and crime. I was able to tell them how mayors and councilors are dealing with similar issues right here in Okanagan-Coquihalla.

At the end of the meeting we heard that the torch had landed, and that our Champions were on the run once again and in that moment, despite the challenging issues all around us, we somehow felt like we could win, that we could be champions.

That's what the Olympics are all about.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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