The Olympic Games is universally recognized as the paramount achievement in sports. Many people may attempt to embark on competing at the Olympic Games, but only a few will become an Olympian. For the longest time, qualifying for the Olympic Games felt like the biggest albatross around my neck. I had failed twice before, each time feeling devastated and frustrated with the process and system.
In 2000, despite having the Olympic Games’ standard and being ranked number 1 in Canada I was not selected for the Canadian Team. Canada typically has tougher standards than the IOC’s standard, and in my case I was off the Canadian standard by 1cm. For similar reasons I also missed out on the 2004 Olympic Games.
Having experienced the challenges with becoming an Olympian I have an even greater respect for this title. I understand the temptation for athletes to switch allegiance, so that they may be able to compete at the Olympic Games. Yet, at the same time I can’t help feeling that when athletes represent a country they really should embody what it means to be a citizen of that country. And the motivation to switch allegiance should not be about participating at the Olympic Games, but because one really feels they are of that citizenship.
I had the ability to represent other countries, but I knew it wouldn’t have felt authentic. I wanted to represent the country, which every fiber of my being identified with, and that's Canada! I AM CANADIAN through and through! So, in spite of not agreeing with our selection criteria, I remained committed to qualifying for Team Canada, missing 2 Olympic Games as a result. In 2008 when I did qualify (according to the Canadian standards) it felt as though my persistence had paid off. I believe that the Olympic Games are about the best athletes from each country competing against each other in the name of excellence. But, perhaps the Olympics are no longer about countries facing off on a grand stage as it was originally intended by Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic Games. Perhaps, it's more about being an Olympian.
Some athletes will even go as far as pretending they are an Olympian when in fact they aren’t. This is shameful!!!! How can anyone make this claim, and feel proud doing so? One athlete, Okiki Akinremi, for example, has made a business making this claim along with being a 2-Time World Champion. He is neither! On his website, he looks into the camera and states he will help you achieve success using his experience of becoming an Olympian and 2-Time World Champion. REALLY?! That’s just wrong!
The road to the Olympic Games is truly a challenging journey. There are a lot of tears shed, overcoming of setbacks and believing when there are many reasons to doubt. You develop in more ways than just an athlete. And once you become an Olympian you are still striving for that podium. Pierre Coubertin intended for the Olympic Games to be about personal excellence demonstrated in sports but applicable to life.
Let’s continue to honour this vision.