The Home Stretch
Sometimes at the Olympics it’s an athlete winning a gold medal that captures a nation and pulls at your heartstrings, but many times its selfless moments that truly show the meaning behind the Olympics.
Yesterday during the men’s free sprint cross-country ski event was one of those moments.
With one of the favourites in the event, Russian Anton Gafarov, coming over one of the final hills before the finish line it was evident he wasn’t moving at his regular pace. After crashing twice his ski had been broken, which slowed Gafarov down significantly in the race that is usually neck-and-neck at the line.
Cue Canadian cross-country ski coach Justin Wadsworth.
All his athletes were eliminated, but he was still at the line to watch the semifinal wrap up. When he saw Gafarov he grabbed a spare ski from one of his skiers and ran onto the track.
In a report afterwards it was clear that nothing was said between the two men as Gafarov stopped, Wadsworth removed his broken ski and replaced it with his spare. Gafarov only nodded to recognize what had been done for him.
“I wanted him to have dignity as he crossed the finish line,” said Wadsworth in a Toronto Star report.
These are the moments that truly capture us in the midst of the competition for gold medals. Athletes are out there to win, but selfless acts like this are what make the Games special.
Just a day earlier Alexandre Bilodeau captured the nation’s heart. He won his second-straight gold medal at the Olympics in men’s moguls after winning his first and Canada’s first overall medal at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. Mikael Kingsbury was just behind Bilodeau, winning silver, but it wasn’t the medals that made the only headlines in that moment.
The embrace shared between Bilodeau and his older brother Frederic, (who has cerebral palsy), similar to when Frederic jumped out of his wheelchair to hug Alex in Vancouver, was a moment being shared everywhere yesterday.
One of his biggest inspirations and his hero, Frederic is why Alex pushes himself as hard as he does. The sheer joy that came over Frederic’s face when Alex won was something that is hard to describe and another way of showing what the Olympics are truly about.
These athletes push their bodies to the limit and regardless of the outcome there is always someone there for them at the end of the day, similar to when Frederic was all smiles when he saw Alex after a disappointing run in Torino.
We aren’t halfway through the Olympics, so these moments will continue to shine through as competition continues. Watch for them because they will have more meaning at the end of these few weeks in Sochi than a final medal count will
Christopher Cameron is the sports reporter for The News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NGNewsChris. His column runs weekly on Wednesdays.