Thursday, January 19, 2006

Flagging Spirits

Canada's elite athletes are getting a bit of a rough ride in the press because so many have publicly refused to carry the flag in the opening ceremony at the Winter Olympics in Torino next month.

But it's not just a matter of selfishness or laziness, but the athletes' desire not to risk anything prior to their competitions:

We just can't afford to waste any energy on anything," Canadian cross-country coach Dave Wood said Wednesday. "The opening ceremonies (on the Friday night) is, in a way, a gruelling event in itself.

"We have an event on Sunday and she felt, and we totally support her, that she's got a finite amount of energy, and she wants to put it into the competitions. Our sport is incredibly physically demanding. You just have to have everything at your disposal."


Involvement in the opening ceremonies takes up the better part of the day and the time commitment is even greater for athletes living at sub-villages in far-flung towns.

"There are also many extra demands placed on the flag-bearer that potentially take away from the preparation (for competition) and which can be a distraction," said Holmik. "A number of athletes choose not to take on that added responsibility because they believe their first responsibility is to perform at their absolute maximum."

Holmik admits there is pride in carrying the flag and representing your country.

"But all that has to be balanced with how it affects the athlete," he said. "Some say participating in the opening ceremonies is an uplifting experience and take the position that, 'I'll benefit.' Others decide that taking part, standing for so long, having to change schedules . . . that maybe that will affect results and they choose not to participate."

This seems fair. Why take a chance on anything that might cost you a medal, just a few days prior to the event you've spent four years, even a lifetime, working towards?

I wouldn't question their patriotism or their enthusiasm for begging off. It's not as though someone won't be carrying the flag on the team. And who really cares who does it, as long as someone does?

Source: Yahoo

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