As each athlete left the Olympics or Paralympics I‘m sure there was one question in the back of their minds: How long will this national celebration continue? Well, that question was answered this past week in Ottawa and Montreal. The answer is it will continue for the next four years; cheering on those who have finished their Games careers, those who will continue but are not sure if they will make it to Russia and those who are clearly focused on Sochi in 2014 and beyond.
The Olympic and Paralympics teams were invited to Ottawa to be officially acknowledged in the House of Commons. In the past this was reserved for only medalists from the Games. This time there were just over 250 athletes crammed into the little space in the middle of the assembly. The athletes were greeted by a battle between the French and English versions of the National Anthem sung by the members of Parliament but still amazing to walk into the room like that. The name of each athlete was announced by the Speaker of the House. I spoke in earlier updates about the experience of the Games. I have now realized that the experience of the 2010 Winter Paralympic Games in Vancouver will never end. It is only the beginning! I worked almost four years to get to Vancouver and 16 years before that shaped the person that I am that got me that far. Now I prepare over the next four years for Sochi. I officially began my training for the 2010-2011 season yesterday and I also begun the journey towards the 2014 Paralympics. As I prepare for the next four years the experience of Vancouver doesn’t end, it just gets built upon.
I’ve trained in Calgary for close to two years and I was right in the heart of Olympic training being at the Olympic Oval and the Human Performance Lab. I have met countless Olympians while training there and in Canmore and become friends with quite a few of them. But Ottawa offered a new take, and that was a setting where everyone was relaxed, no one had to slip out and train for the next three hours. In the two-day event I met so many athletes from other sports, met up with old friends and began new friendships. This hit me as I was standing around, snacking on a piece of cheese in a room filled with Olympians and Paralympians at a party with the Prime Minster after visiting Parliament. It was inspiring as I stood amongst the best athletes in Canada, and the World and I stood there as a part of that.
Once the party with the Prime Minster wrapped up, we all rushed for the buses and with a police escort made our way to the station to catch a train to Montreal. As we arrived in Montreal we were welcomed by a small crowd of excited fans, there to see their Olympic and Paralympic heroes. If I were to write a book of the experience of the Games the event in Montreal would probably have its own chapter. We have all heard of the parades for a team that wins the Grey Cup or the Stanley Cup, well Montreal had put on a parade for the Olympians and Paralympians. This has never been done before so no one knew what to expect, but it sure surpassed any guesses. Right from the start the crowds were three, four deep and only grew. The atmosphere was incredible. Everyone cheered at the top of their lungs, waving I’m sure until they couldn’t raise their arms anymore. If you had a dream of the best parade ever that was what happened. The one thing missing was the giant balloons. The image of kids running up to the floats (which by the way were super bouncy) and just wanting an autograph from one of the athletes was priceless.
After a three week break back home on my island and the memories gained in Ottawa and Montreal, the playtime is over. I have to get back to training before I lose all my fitness or my mind. Let the next four years be as memorable as the first four.