The Canadian home Olympics are a year gone. But a change in attitude lingers.
While we rejoice in 14 gold medals and 26 podium results, the close encounters are more indicative of a seismic shift in expectations on the part of Canadian competitors.
Almost winning doesn’t count anymore, which is a good thing for a country that fancies itself a sporting nation.
Five fifth place finishes at the 2010 Games warrant re-examination.
Melissa Hollingsworth ended up fifth in skeleton over the course of four heats - a mere half second from the gold medal performance Great Britain's Amy Williams. It was a miniscule margin of defeat that left Hollingsworth distraught, declaring, “I let my entire country down.”
But Hollingsworth soldiered on, and instead of quitting she committed herself to the journey to Sochi in 2014. In eight World Cup races this season, she’s been on the podium three times and is ranked third in the world.
“It stinks,” Patrick Chan said after finishing fifth in figure skating. But then again he learned something.
“I saw that one day I could dominate my sport.”
Now Chan is the Grand Prix champion, has the quad jump in his arsenal and has the inside track on next month’s world championship in Tokyo.
On the last day of the Games in the biggest cross-country ski race, the 50K marathon, Sudbury’s Devon Kershaw was fifth, 1.6 seconds from gold. He got lost in the dust of the Sidney Crosby goal and the men’s hockey victory.
“That opportunity is gone forever,” Kershaw said of that ordeal. “But it was the most motivating thing that could ever happen to me.” This season in the massive Tour de Ski, Kershaw scored his first World Cup victory and found the podium four times in eight races.
Finally, there’s alpine skier Erik Guay.
Fifth in both the Downhill and Super G at Whistler, Guay missed two gold medals by the sum total of eight-tenths of a second, or the blink of an eye.
He wasn’t the hottest interview afterwards. But he did collect himself to score three podium results and win the Crystal Globe to end the campaign. He’s also the only Canadian to win a medal on this year’s World Cup circuit.
That’s the legacy of Vancouver, plain and simple.
Nowadays for Canadian athletes this business of finishing fifth equals one thing.