Canadian Olympians showed true grit

The John Wayne classic True Grit is a favourite movie at our house.

The John Wayne classic True Grit is a favourite movie at our house.

There’s a great moment in the climactic scene as the young heroine Mattie Ross witnesses the aging marshall take on four armed outlaws single-handedly and she enthusiastically proclaims, “No grit? Rooster Cogburn? Not much!”

Well, the 2010 Olympics are now just a fading street party. The pride of Cole Harbour has restored Olympic hockey greatness to its rightful place and Canadians from coast to coast can begin their slow withdrawal from our daily fix of emotional highs and lows as we shared in the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

It’s been a remarkable two weeks.

In watching and reading, I honestly think we’ve had a moment of national growth here that just may be worth all the millions of tax dollars that were spent, in spite of the obligatory attempts by the usual suspects to remind us that their oh-so-easily-offended sensibilities were, once again, easily offended.

In spite of the weather glitches thrown at them, the Olympic organizers laid out a platform where the real stars of the show could shine. And shine they did.

With all the world their stage, we saw our athletes show us their true grit. They thrilled us and they surprised us and they entertained us. Some of them disappointed themselves, but none of us are disappointed in them.

We saw athletes, who were favourites going in, fail to make the podium because they came up a couple of hundredths of a second short at a race where 10th place was only a few 10ths of a second shy of the gold medal. That’s not losing. That’s racing.

But standing up before the nation and showing us your heartbreak for not winning, for us, that takes some grit.

For others, time and age caught up, and the Olympic podium remained out of reach. There’s no shame in that. It took some grit to become one of the most feared competitors on skates or skis or skeleton or bobsled, even if Vancouver denied you her jewels.

Jeremy Wotherspoon, Emily Brydon, Pierre Leuders and Mellisa Hollingsworth all showed us their grit, even if they didn’t get to stand on the podium.

And we saw grit in victory. We saw it in spades.

We saw the grit that it requires to become an Olympic medal winner on a daily basis, from the speedskating oval to the cross-country track.

We also saw true grit in the faces of the parents and siblings and spouses of the Olympians. We saw, and shared their jubilations and heartbreaks as their own long Olympic roads came to a triumphant end, or not.

The Olympics brought us all together as Canadians. For the last two weeks, we cheered and we cried together as one nation, which has led to something even more special.

A groundswell of national pride has bloomed; something that some claim we shouldn’t have, and others thought we didn’t.

It bloomed as the wonders of modern media brought to our living rooms a bouquet of stunning moments of national victory.

It started with Jennifer Heil and Alexandre Bilodeau, and ended with Kevin Martin and, of course, Sidney Crosby. Crosby has etched his name in Canadian hockey history and claimed a spot which will rival, and maybe eclipse, Paul Henderson.

Canada made history at these Olympic Games, and we need not apologize for it. We set a stage for the world’s best and we invited them to bring their best game. And bring it they did.

And we stood tall and showed them our grit. We challenged the Dutch at their national game and showed them we had some pretty sharp blades, too.

We challenged the Russians at a game that they thought they had claimed as their own and sent the Russian bear back to her cave to lick her wounds.

And in the midst of it all, we found a true Canadian hero. We found her in a sport not known for grit. We found her in a sport struggling to reclaim legitimacy.

We found her in a sport that hides the bruises and the torn ligaments and crushed cartilage beneath a veneer of costume and music.

No grit? Joannie Rochette? Not much!

Yeah, I think these Olympics are going to stick with us for a very long time.

Bill Greenwood is a local freelance columnist.