The greatest achievement of this 2010 Winter Olympic games wasn’t Canada’s first Gold medal, or its last, or any other Gold or Silver medal awarded in the Olympics. The two most courageous performances in the Olympics netted Bronze. One was a battle as much with emotional trauma as with any other competitor. The other was a battle through serious injury, repeated several times over.
On February 26 it was announced that Petra Majdič and Joannie Rochette are the two Olympians to receive the prestigious Terry Fox Award, the purpose of which is to honour an Olympian who touched the world with courage, humility and extraordinary athletic abilities at the 2010 Games.
I’d forgotten about this award when I began this post. In fact, all I knew when I started looking for a song to post was that I wanted to talk about courage. I started with Joannie, then recalled Petra…then rediscovered the award while researching her.
Rochette’s mother died suddenly, just two days before competition. Ranked fifth in the world entering the Olympics, she skated a near-perfect short program and a long program good enough to secure the Bronze, unable to hold back the tears at the end of either performance.
During a warmup for the 1.7km Classic Sprint competition, Majdič — the odds-on gold medal favourite — skied off the nordic course into a 10m gully, crashing hard into the rocks below. She skied through a qualifying heat, ending in a heap of pain at the finish line, having just qualified. There were 3 more heats that day and at the end of each, she lay just beyond the finish line, sprawled in agony. At the end of the last, the final heat, only two competitors had crossed ahead of her. It was only after this that the extent of her injuries were revelealed: several broken ribs and a pneumothorax. She accepted the Bronze later that day with a chest tube to relieve the pressure.
when you’re afraid
but you keep on moving
when you’re in pain
but you keep on living
This song, Courage Is…, isn’t a great piece of music. Its lyrics are a little more direct, more on-the-nose than I normally like. And yet, the words and music speak truthfully and simply. Not just about the courage displayed by a couple of elite athletes confronting emotional and physical hardships, but by the courage displayed daily, by all of us, as we confront the hardships of living, and convert them into the joys of life. Remember, too, that it’s not always about winning the gold. Any display of courage is a gold medal with little diamonds on it.