”Oh Canada”…….the first two words of the best song in the world! That song was heard more times from February 12 to February 28 than ever! What a celebration.
So many Canadians are having post Olympic depression, asking themselves “what do we watch now”, but for me I am so proud to have been a part of the 2010 Games, but am happy they are over. The Games came full circle for me. I was fortunate enough to have been in that room in Prague on July 2, 2003 when Jacques Roggue announced that the 2010 Winter Olympic Games were awarded to Vancouver/Whistler. I was on the VANOC board for three years, and after that I was involved in various events leading up to the Games.
On October 30, 2009, I had what I consider to be my most emotional Olympic moment ever. I was asked to be one of the first torchbearers to begin the Olympic torch relay. I had been asked to keep this confidential and was told the other first torchbearers, Simon Whitfield, Silken Lauman, and Alex Despatie were given the same instructions. I realized this was a big deal, but until I landed in Victoria, BC, that morning, it hadn’t really hit me. My flight was delayed, but was told that the Flame which was flying in from Greece was delayed also. I was walking off the tarmac and stopped for a moment as I saw a Canadian Forces plane land – the Olympic flame was aboard. It was then that my nerves and excitement started.
Once downtown, I got my white torchbearer suit, met with the others, then we got into position. As they started the ceremony, it hit me…….we were the FIRST torchbearers!!!! Simon looked at me and we talked about how nervous we were. As athletes, we are individuals who are all about control, knowing and preparing for our situations. This was different – this was something we couldn’t prepare for. Our names were announced. We walked on to the stage, waved, then walked to the cauldron, lowered the torch, and the first of thousands of torches began the route across this incredible country of ours. Simon and I proceeded down the path, but it was when we started to jog, that it really hit me. Thousands of kids and adults lined the way, waving Canadian flags. It was overwhelming. I was not prepared for how emotional that moment was. It took me by surprise. I thought of my kids and how so many experiences in life will inspire them and how this was one of those moments for these kids here.
The next hour was a blur. We were whisked to interviews where it started to hit me……..how powerful this day was to so many Canadians. On the set of CTV, Brian Williams kept telling me how I seemed more emotional that even after my gold medal. I had very short answers. I WAS more emotional. When I won my gold medal, it was due to decades of work, and it was a moment that continues to sink in. This was just so intense and powerful and I didn’t know how to react or vocalize it. If I had really tried to explain it, I would have been an emotional mess…….you know, that crying when you can t speak……that sort of situation.
I flew home that day and the moment I saw my children I cried so hard. My kids of course were saying “mummy, what s wrong?” with me trying to explain how I was so happy! For the next 24hours, I cried! At this point I had already known that I would carry the torch on February 11 – the day before the opening ceremonies. Coke had asked if I would like a spot. This was before I knew anything about October 30th or what else was to come. I knew at that moment on the 30th that I was happy my kids weren’t there as this was a moment for all Canadians but that I wanted them there on the 11th, as this would be a day for us as a family and me not as an Olympic champion, but me as a proud Canadian.
Fast forward through a wonderful Christmas season where it was such a joy to see my kids have fun skiing, skating, tobogganing, be surprised by Santa, and a spectacular, relaxing trip to Mexico.
January 19th, 2010. I receive an email from John Furlong; “please phone me, I have to talk with you about a confidential matter.” At this moment I think, maybe he will ask if I will help carry the Olympic flag. Talk had been going around about who would light the cauldron. I figured it wouldn’t be me since I had been first torchbearer. I phoned john and he asked if I would be willing to be one of 4 final torchbearers to light the cauldron. I was in shock, became emotional, said yes and then thanked him. I came downstairs and burst into tears as I told my family what I had accepted to do.
That was a tough secret to keep. Let me tell you though, I am proud of well I was able to not let on what I knew. BUT, let me explain, I had no idea who the others would be. I had my guesses (I was mostly right) but until a few days before the opening ceremony I wasn’t told. We did two rehearsals in the middle of the night and it was at that first one when we found out who we would have to honour of being with.
Our two rehearsals went off without a hitch.
On February 11th, our friend Kameron drove me and my family to where I would be running. I got my number – 167, and then boarded the bus with the other torchbearers. I loved that – hearing the stories about how and why the others got the opportunity to run. There are so many incredible and inspiring stories that I have heard about the incredible feats of so many. I sure hope to read them all in a book someday! I got off on my stop, and my family met me there. My son, Easton, who had just turned 3 on February 7th, had just woken up so was a little grouchy and groggy. My daughter, Greta, 5 ½, was becoming overwhelmed with all the people wanting a photo. I loved the moment when someone asked if I was the only celebrity on the bus. I said no, we are all celebrities – we are torchbearers. Those 300m were so special. I ran slowly with my family running beside me. The team that has crossed the country has done such an incredible job, and they let Bart and the kids run to the side of me. Greta was smiling and waving, as was Easton. It was such a special time to share with them. Those 300m were all about the full circle my life has come with the Olympic Games, and to share it with Bart and the kids was a dream come true.
What no one knew was that in 24 hours, I would carry the torch again.
I had a really interesting situation. I was working the opening ceremonies with CTV, helping bring the athlete parade of nations into the stadium, and then left the broadcast booth to change and get ready. I didn’t know how emotional this I would be. There was a very special moment when were moving to our designated areas. Rick Hansen gave me hug, and said, “I am so proud to be doing this with you kid.” Wow, that was amazing! I was so honoured – he is such an incredible individual!
Of course what happened next is now famous……the “Malfunction”. The most common question was what was going through our mind. I was worried our torches would run out of fuel. We waited, and waited, and waited, and finally we were instructed to proceed. I would not light a cauldron but would salute with the flame. My first instinct was to go to Steve Nash’s cauldron, but thought it wasn’t fair to him.
I have to say, right after we were done, I was sad. I felt like I had been left out. I am able to rationalize well, and I did just that. I had so many amazing emails and texts from friends and family about how poised I was, and that helped, but a small part of me, felt like I had been cheated.
I believe fully in the Olympic Games. I believe in the power that it has for athletes, coaches, volunteers, and our countries and communities. We all saw that power in Vancouver and Whistler. As Canadians, we stood tall. We have always been proud, but we finally had the courage to voice it! I had a wonderful opportunity to bring the sport that I love so much, speed skating, to so many Canadians’ homes with my broadcast role,
Four days before the end of the Games, I get a phone call from David Atkins, the brilliant producer of the ceremonies. Would I be willing to be a part of the first 5’ of the closing ceremonies? I was elated! Two days later I went for a rehearsal, and to see what he had created was amazing. This man is brilliant! We watched it with stand -ins and then went down to the floor and I turned to David and told him that he didn’t need to do this, but that I appreciated it. I started to get emotional and he put his hand on my shoulder and smiled and said, “It’s the right thing and it’s going to be great!”
That moment is probably what most people talk about when they mention the closing ceremonies of 2010. The mime “brought” my cauldron up, and then I rose from the floor with my lit torch (it was lit from the actual Olympic flame that was kept in the lantern). To finally have that moment, of lighting to the cauldron, of saluting the crowd – that was a moment that I will remember forever.
In the few weeks since the Games, life is back to normal. But what is normal? Sometimes rushing for flights across the country, other times rushing to get Greta to kindergarten on time, and the best times, outside playing with the kids and laughing.
We all have our favourite Olympic moments. I have fortunate as I have had many special moments. What makes me so happy knows that in 2010 so many Canadians got their first Olympic memory and were inspired by it.
Even though the Games won’t be back to Canada for a long while, the impact of these Games will last a lifetime. Young or old, we can always use inspiration to help us on that daily journey toward realizing our own dreams!
Catriona Le May Doan