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Monday, February 24, 2014

What I have learned about life from watching the Sochi Olympics

I have been essentially glued to the TV since the winter Olympics began in Sochi about 2 weeks ago. Every four years, I find the stories that emerge from this global sporting spectacle so fascinating! This time, however, I also noticed that there are lots of 'life lessons' that accompany these special moments in sport. Here are a few things I learned from some specific Olympic events:

Hockey - never give up
Hockey Gold! Photo: CBC sports
If you caught the women's gold medal match, it would have been easy to turn off the TV with 5 minutes remaining in the game and assume that the US would win. Team Canada, however, did not give up and despite being down two goals with only minutes to play, managed to tie up the game in the dying seconds and win the gold medal in overtime. Not only was it was an amazing hockey game, but also a perfect life lesson on why you should never give up.

Freestyle Skiing - train with the best.
Two great Canadian stories emerged from the moguls competitions earlier this week. On the women's side, 3 sisters from Quebec competed for medals (of which 2 of them won) and on the men's side, the Canadians also took Gold and Silver. In each instance, the winners cited that part of their reason for winning was that they trained with the best competitors - always pushing each other to do better!

Bobsled - stats don't matter
After Day 1, where the first 2 runs of the Women's 2-person bobsled was completed, the American Team was way ahead in the standings. Later that day, an article was published in USA today highlighting the statistical improbabilities of anyone catching the American team the following day in the last 2 runs. The article was titled 'Here's why the U.S. women's bobsled team has basically already won gold'. Interestingly enough, and despite the statistical odds, the Canadian team did catch the front runners to win the gold!

Figure Skating - let go of past mistakes (quickly!)
Aside from being amazing athletes, figure skaters are THE BEST at dusting themselves off after a misstep or a fall. Even after a big crash, they continue with their routine, somehow manage to maintain a graceful presence, and smile as if nothing bad happened. Amazing composure and resilience!

Skeleton looks like so much fun! Photo: CBC sports
Luge/Skeleton - every millisecond counts! 
First of all, these events look like the most fun! The most astounding thing, however, is the minuscule margin of victory. It seems that the winner of each run is determined by only fractions of a second meaning that, even at those extreme speeds, precision is so important.

Biathlon - versatility
Biathlon is a combination of two very distinct activities - hard core cross country skiing (where you heart is pumping and adrenaline rushing as you race towards the finish line) and target shooting (where everything comes to a standstill and extreme calm and precision are required to succeed). Just like a successful biathlete needs to be good a both, a versatile skill set like this is also necessary for navigating the natural ups and downs of life.

Ski Jumping - equality 
Ski jumping was an Olympic lesson in gender equality, or lack thereof. In an era where we would assume that gender is no longer an issue in the sporting world, women were denied the right to participate in this event in the 2010 Olympics. Sochi was therefore the first time ever that women were allowed to compete in ski jumping at the Olympics. Surprisingly, there is still no women's event in the Nordic combined which is blend of ski jumping and cross county skiing events. 

Speedskating - never give up (part 2)
It never ceases to amaze me but every time I watch the short track events, there is inevitably a spectacular crash where one person nudges another, who then catches an edge, who then causes someone else to stumble, who then makes somebody slip and suddenly, like dominoes, a pile of skaters fall and slide heavily into the padded barriers of the rink. My favourite part is when the athlete in last place glides along peacefully (untouched by all the mayhem because he or she was so far behind!) and ends up crossing the line ahead of everyone. You never know what might happen so stay in the race as long as you can!

Curling - Teamwork & Communication
Curling exemplifies what teamwork is all about. In order to be successful, all team members must be on the same page with regards to strategy, following the game plan, ongoing shot selection and shot execution. Curlers also seem to be very good at practicing ongoing communication ('hurry haaaarrrrrrddddddd!!') to get the job done right.

Now you've got 2 years before the next summer Olympics to put these ideas into practice!

PS - Go team Canada!!