Celebrating our figure skating team’s amazing performances in Korea gives all our Alumni the opportunity to remember many of their unforgettable Olympic moments. Whether performing on the ice, participating behind the scenes, coaching or judging, the Olympics offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Alumni blog highlights a few of those precious memories.
Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe – 2016 Olympic Winter Games in Torino
Watching these touching commercials, the great athlete stories, and of course watching Canada win GOLD reminds me of all the great friends made when Megan and I competed at the 2006 Olympics in Torino. We met and remained good friends with some of the speed skaters on Team Canada, including Denny Morrison and Jason Parker. Just hanging out in the athletes lounge with NHL hockey players, short trackers, and athletes from all different sports was a cool and unique experience. The athletes, the on-ice moments, and our time together during the Olympics are what we remember most. We were happy to have clean performances in each part of the event, especially on the night of the Original Dance. That night the weather outside was crazy, it was snowing, raining, hailing, then suddenly clear with a bright full moon while inside the rink, so many teams had unexpected falls and mistakes. It was definitely a strange evening for many people. For us the 20 years of work, perseverance and determination were all made worthwhile by the amazing 3 weeks we spent at the games.
The moment I heard the news, I knew that whatever lay ahead, the Olympic Winter Games of 2002 in Salt Lake City would not be the fairy tale Games that I had hoped they would be. No, that moment had nothing to do with the pairs figure skating event. The date was September 11, 2001. The world had changed in a few short hours with the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the USA. Would the Games of Salt Lake even go ahead?
As Chef de Mission for these Games, I had been developing our Salt Lake program since my appointment two years before. I was spending time getting to know our athletes and their coaches by visiting their training sites and trying all their sports. Our scheduled orientation weekend for the hundred or so members of our mission staff in Calgary ten days after 9/11 was now the least of my thoughts. Beyond my own deep fears and feelings about the implications of the tragedy in the USA, numerous questions emerged about the Games. Would they be cancelled? If they went ahead, would our team be safe? Would our athletes and their support teams even want to participate? Would the security be so tight and so menacing that our team would not have good experiences? And as for the orientation weekend in Calgary the following week – would airlines be flying? Would my mission staff even want to be there?
Not the way I envisioned the last four months leading into the Games. Immersed in emergency preparedness planning.
But more about Salt Lake 2002 later. Suffice it to say, that what we see on television during the Games does not always reflect what the experiences on the ground represent.
I have attended seven Olympic Games, six winter, one summer. In each Games I had a different role, and in three of these I was dedicated to figure skating.
Albertville 1992, Team Leader for Figure Skating
The sports were distributed among a handful of alpine villages, each of which had been promised a piece of the action in the bid phase of these Games in the French Alps. The figure skating team was housed in the delightful Bride-les-Bains along with short and long track and a few alpine skiers. We were a good hour’s bus ride to the skating rink with other venues tucked away in other villages more than 2 hours away. I had already been team leader of a few world and international teams so I knew how to get things done in a single sport environment.
However, I was ill-prepared for the immensity of the Games and the multiple layers of decision-makers in the Olympic environment. In my view, the athletes were at the bottom of a very large hierarchy of other groups’ interests, and it was hard to get things done on their behalf.
One indication of this was the opening ceremonies. Our transportation from our Village was six hours before the start of the ceremonies, a time lapse that saw the athletes waiting an inordinate amount of time before marching in. But everyone was thrilled to be at the Games nonetheless and we marched proudly into the Opening Ceremonies wearing our improbable white, purple and luminescent silver uniforms whose designer thought we should look like firefighters.
Lillehammer 1994, Assistant Chef de Mission
Lillehammer was entirely different from my first experiences in Albertville. There are reasons why they were dubbed the Fairy Tale Games. The Norwegians had a perfect set-up with just two towns acting as hosts and venues that were relatively close together. And the services for the athletes were uppermost. As Assistant Chef de Mission, I was part of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s leadership team working with Bill Warren, the past-president of the COC and Chef de Mission. My job was to pay particular attention to our sports that had fewer athletes and coaches: luge, biathlon, cross-country skiing. I learned how to read a luge track to make sense of how the sliders read the ice and curves. I found out why our single cross-country skier needed eight support officials: taking temperatures of the snow, waxing the skis and trying them out on a practice hill in the early morning long before the athlete arrived, timing intervals around the long track to judge the changing conditions. And I had the privilege of getting to know Myriam Bédard, gold medallist in the biathlon, and her parents. And of course, I watched all the figure skating! Our uniforms that year were designed to resemble the RCMP and we marched into the Ceremonies wearing a magnificent gold-lined cape!
Nagano 1998, Judge for the Men’s Event
It is perhaps significant that I cannot find any photographs of the Nagano Games. As judge of the men’s event, I characterize my experience as one of extreme tension that did not dissipate until the event was finished. The 6.0 marking system was still in place. A judge’s country name was displayed above that judge’s mark on the scoreboard. Elvis Stojko, the reigning world champion was in the event. I had judged him at Worlds when he won. I had suggested the Japanese taiko drum music that he was using for his short program. He was injured. I was tense.
The Chair of ISU Medical Commission, Jane Moran — good friend from Canada – was doing some research on the physiology of judging. She tracked the heart rates of some of the judges during the short programs and dance. When we received the computer print-out of our results, both our dance judge and I were dumbfounded but not surprised at how high our heart rates rose. For both of us, our resting heart rate is around 65. We were on the judges’ stand for about 4 hours. Have a look at our results and make your own conclusions about the stresses of judging at the Olympics.