It’s a rare jewel to discover something completely out of the ordinary in sport. Few are the spectacles that cause one to sit up and take notice.
Brent Hayden’s marvellous swim in the 100-metre freestyle, the fastest of the season, was certainly one. So was an evening in which Canadians won three gold medals as female grapplers made their debut at the Commonwealth Games.
“I was not letting that go,” said the effervescent Ohenewa Akuffo who claimed an overtime victory in the 72-kilograms category. “Coming to these Games we wanted to let other countries know you don’t mess with Canadian women, and I kind of like that.”
Akuffo’s smile was brilliantly vicious.
Justine Bouchard of Calgary knocked off a tough Nigerian fighter who was coached by Daniel Igali. This was the same Igali who had fled to Canada as a refugee and delivered Olympic gold for his adopted country at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. He became a legend in the process.
Then there was Carol Huynh of Hazelton, B.C. Tiny and unassuming, the Olympic champion of 2008 waded into the lion’s den to struggle mightily and eventually defeat the crowd favourite from India.
“She fought pretty hard and it felt like the crowd was willing her to take it,” Huynh reflected with glittering gold adorning her neck. “But I thought to myself, this is mine!”
It was that rare evening when everything seemed to go right. In the one final where Canada was not represented, the wrestler from India won the gold medal. The place was packed and as the young woman, known simply as Geeta, paraded before the fans, the cameras and the media throng, she smiled, clutched her medal and held it aloft. An outpouring of joyous emotion ensued.
She stopped to do myriad interviews and her cauliflower ears only added to her charm. Geeta’s admirers loved her at first sight.
“She will be a star for all of the Indian youngsters,” offered one local journalist. “Men get so much attention here and so especially for the girls she has become suddenly very important.”
They are all important.
As Commonwealth debutantes they have created a feel good story. The women of wrestling are the diamonds in the rough that New Delhi desperately needed to give these Games some lustre.