As Sochi 2014 drew to a close I couldn’t help but think about the meaning behind the games and what it takes to show true Olympic spirit. As our athletes touched down on Canadian soil, medals in hand, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride for the way they represented our country. One athlete in particular stood out for me - long track speed skater and fellow Powered by Chocolate Milk ambassador, Gilmore Junio.
I, along with a great number of Canadians and undoubtedly people from other countries, was impressed with Gilmore's decision to step away from his starting position in the men's long track 1000m Olympic skate, and give up his spot to teammate Denny Morrison. You know, that guy who went on to win a silver medal in the race with a huge and humble smile on his face?
You can't help but think that Gilmore just won a little bit of that silver medal, too. In fact, that is exactly what Denny and Gilmore said in interviews following the race. The story is so human and heart-warming you can almost feel Gilmore’s emotions during the race as he watched his teammate win silver. We may not have been as anxious (or loud) watching Denny skate, but that feeling of working to the greater good has penetrated into the hearts of many Canadians alike thanks to Gilmore. They've won more than a medal, they've won something better - our hearts.
We all say the Olympics is more than just medals, but then we often get whisked down the media chute of "we won gold!" or "we were robbed of the gold!", and all fascination with "gold". Now I'm not here to criticize those notions (people do it far better than I), but I'm here to say that this particular scenario has led us along a better path of glory in the Olympic spirit. And I think it all comes down to sacrifice.
Sacrifice is nothing new to Olympic athletes. It is a huge part of what they do. They give up on a lot of other leads in life to follow their dream to the fullest extent. They teeter on the pinnacle of their sport, with its huge pressures and expectations. There is often very little reward. I have heard no criticism of Gilmore's decision to pass up his spot to his teammate, who he felt deserved the shot to be the best he could be. Of course, it's great for the team and it's great for the country, but I really do think it was done as part of the process of sacrifice to be your best. And in the ultimate paradigm of sacrificing at all costs to get to the Olympics, Gilmore sacrificed the Olympics. It is courage personified. It lets you into the heart of sport. Away from the gossip, the bad news, the disappointment, the injuries, and the heart break that the media machine so often churns out.
Gilmore’s story makes the everyday Canadian connect with the Olympic athlete. I hope we've all done something to give someone else a leg up - and therefore we can all relate. As a new Mom, I understand this better now than I ever have, giving of yourself to those who need you when you've reached your limit, and then you must keep giving far, far beyond that. And it's a wonderful thing. But I've also been on the athlete side of the spectrum, where you do everything possible to get yourself ahead of your competitors, at costs that often make you feel a little more selfish than you'd like. So to hold the selfishness that you need, and selflessness that sets you free, in the same hand, I think, is an amazing feat. And Gilmore has done just that.
This is what Canadian athletes are about and Gilmore's nailed it to the wall. They are humble and beautiful, they are courageous and forgiving, and most of all, they are leading and inspiring the country. People who make us feel good in this life are treasures.
So thank you Gilmore, for showing us the true meaning of ‘Olympic spirit.’