As the week begins, Canada’s best winter sports athletes are gathering in Pyeongchang, South Korea for the Olympic Winter Games. Apologies to the NHL players who have been on that list since 1998, but are not going to these Games. Theirs is the only professional league that would have to shut down for three weeks to accommodate the schedule.
Nathalie Lambert knows very well what the Canadian team can expect on such a big stage so far away from home. A three-time Olympian in short track speedskating and chef de mission for Team Canada in Vancouver eight years ago, Lambert will attend this year’s Games as chair of the technical committee for short track.
“I think we have a very strong team,” she told me. “We have a lot of medal possibilities and I think it’s possible that this will be the strongest and most successful team we’ve ever sent to a Winter Games.”
There are 225 athletes and 87 coaches wearing Team Canada insignia. The oldest is Cheryl Bernard, who won a silver medal in curling in 2010. She’ll be a reserve for Rachel Homan’s team in Pyeongchang. The youngest are 16-year-olds. Eliot Grondin is part of the snowboard cross team. Elizabeth Hosking is a snowboarder. Imagine the stories they’ll be able to tell when they come home.
There are five sets of siblings on the Canadian team. There is a married couple: speedskaters Denny and Josie Morrison. There are four athletes who have at least one parent who has represented Canada in Olympic competition. Three athletes will have competed at both a Summer and a Winter Olympic Games. Alberta has 54 of its own on Team Canada, the largest provincial contingent in the country. Twelve provinces and territories are represented, which might be a first.
And, for the first time, we have athletes who were born in the 21st century.
There are 119 Olympic rookies on Team Canada. There are 46 athletes who have at least one Olympic medal in their personal collections. And there is one athlete, Jasey-Jay Anderson, who will make his sixth appearance at these Games, the most ever by a Canadian in winter Olympic Games history.
And so, for the next two-and-a-half weeks, Canadians will be staying up late or getting up early to see how our fellow Canadians are doing on the world stage. I dare say the Canadian Sport Centre in Calgary will have more than a few marathon parties with a large TV as the featured attraction. The hope is we’ll have to remember to use the new wording of O Canada and that we’ll get the chance to do that a lot. I can still remember the party at Canada Olympic Park in 2002 when Canada’s men’s hockey team broke a half-century drought when it won gold. More than 600 people joined in the national anthem that day.
The anthem always seems to sound better the further away from home you are. But I think if we hear it a few times this month, it will still sound pretty good here too.