As the Olympics draw to a close today, I have to take a moment to talk about the U.S.-Canada dynamic throughout the duration of the Games. It's always a rivalry to say the least, but this Olympics has had it's share of moments highlighting that rivalry.
From the opening night, when Jenn Heil won her silver medal, and was flanked on either side by American skiers waving the American flag, it looked like a dim premonition of what may be to come. In the first week, after the U.S. took a lead on the medal count, and Canada conceded that they would not be able to catch them, it appeared that the dream of leading the Olympics in medals had been lost to our neighbours to the South.
But 13 gold medals later (one possibly one more to come), Canada leads the medal count in Golds...the most ever by any country at the Winter Olympics, and a total medal count higher than ANY host country, including the U.S. at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
Now people are saying that we actually have WON the games due to our gold medal count, and here's where I disagree. It's a uniquely American trait that when you aren't the best, you simply adjust the parameters so that you are now defined as the best. Remember Michael Johnson and Donovan Bailey? Historically, the title of 'Fastest Man Alive' was always reserved for the winner of the 100 meter-dash at the Olympics, but when Donovan Bailey won in 1996, all of a sudden, the American speedster Michael Johnson was now the fastest man in the world, because he won the 200 meter-dash. It was an ignorant attempt at patriotism by the U.S., and I refuse to play the same game by saying we won the Olympics because we have more Gold Medals. The goal was to win in overall medal count. We didn't, but that doesn't mean it was a failure in any way. It was fantastic...but let's not go the American route and make up reasons why.
These Olympics have had a lot of U.S.-Canada subplots, none bigger than the hockey rivalries on the mens and womens sides, but something happened the other night that said a lot.
In the 500 metre Short Track Speed Skating Final, Charles Hamelin and Francois-Louis Tremblay were both skating against the U.S.'s Apolo Ohno and Korea's Song Si-Bak. Coming around the final turn, Ohno clearly put a hand on Tremblay, causing him to fall, and in turn causing Bak to fall, with Hamelin crossing the line first and Ohno in second.
I immediately screamed at the TV that Ohno needed to be disqualified for the contact, and sure enough he was. But after the fact, Ohno skated around the ice demonstratively protesting that he did nothing wrong.
After the race, on NBC, Ohno was asked by Cris Collingsworth about the incident, and Ohno replied by saying that he disagreed with the ruling, but that since it was a Canadian referee, there were two Canadians in the race, and "we're on Canadian soil", that explains why he was disqualified so that they could get two medals. To his credit, Collingsworth pushed him on that statement, asking him if that's really why he thought he was disqualified, and Ohno replied "Absolutely."
What an ignorant comment. I was disgusted by Ohno, widely regarded as one of the greatest Olympians in U.S history, spewing his sour grape wine all over the camera for the world to see. And even more ignorantly, there were no U.S. media outlets that reported his inane comment, other than one that proclaimed that "Ohno was in a position to win a medal when the incident happened" and that the Canadian ref essentially stole it from him.
Well, Ohno was in 4th place of 4 skaters going into the final turn, and since they only award medals to the top three, I would hardly consider that "in a position to win a medal." Ohno owes an apology to Charles Hamelin, and the Canadian Olympic Team.
Sour grapes indeed.
There will likely never come a time when the U.S.-Canada rivalry isn't in the forfront of the Winter Olympic Games, but let's have some decency when we are defeated fair and square.