My mornings have been filled with essay writing for my last class that I am attempting to complete while on the road. As I sit in the bar of our race hotel at 11:00 am, wine-sipping Italians (at 11:00 am!!) chatter jovially as the morning sun breaks over the mountains and shines in through the windows. Things are more laidback around here. Also, I feel like such a bum for not understanding any Italian: I was hoping to at least pick up a bare minimum of basic sayings before coming over here, but was ultimately held up by school-work in the weeks leading up to my departure. Maybe after tomorrow’s final exam I will be able to immerse myself a little more?
Last night was the opening ceremonies. One of my teammates put it nicely: “This is my Olympics. I am fine settling for this.” For me, I have gradually made the step up from Games to Games, starting with 4 Arctic Winter Games in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006. Each of those Games felt like the Olympics to me, with grand opening ceremonies and various countries in attendance. After I became too old to attend AWG as an athlete, I moved on to attend two Canada Winter Games in 2007 and 2011. These Games were on a similar scale, maybe slightly bigger. This year I have made the next jump up to the World University Games, the second biggest Games in the world after the Olympics. Although my training this year has not been great and I have a few old injuries that have no end in sight, the possibility of attending an Olympics is still in the back of my mind. In light of the various Games that are out there, my opinion about high-level sport has developed over the years. From a young age, attending Arctic Winter Games at age 11, I always knew it had the ability to bring peoples and cultures together. Nelson Mandela put it nicely: “Sport has the power to change the world”. So far in Italy, this idea seems very clear to me. Last night was great, chatting and getting pictures with athletes from other countries and handing out Canadian flags to Italian kids in the grandstands. Maybe the small gift of a Canadian flag could leave a lasting impression on a youngster.
The three newly arrived Nipissing University athletes representing the small school overseas. (l to r: Jordan Cascagnette, Kajsa Heyes, me)
Some people say high level sport is a selfish endeavor for the wealthy. I would disagree. The ability for me to pursue ski racing at a high level for the last decade has been possible not because of individual wealth (in fact, I am usually extremely poor), but because of those who support me in my home community in the North. I am extremely grateful for the corporate sponsorships and sport grants that have allowed me to pursue my personal goals as well as my bigger goals of inspiring others to live a healthy, active lifestyle. Having my first taste of international competition last year at my first World Cup race gave me my first sense of the relationships built through sport. Imagine for a moment: here you have today’s athletic stars who are tomorrow’s leaders, forging international relationships across the world. At FISU, you have tomorrow’s great academics as well as future leaders forging slightly different international relationships. On top of this, you have Canadian athletes working as ambassadors to the host countries, putting their best foot forward to develop international kinship.
These are simply musings of my espresso-charged morning writing session, but worthy of thought. These musings and ideas seem at least worthy of a lifelong pursuit of sport, both to attempt to achieve my athletic potential while I am young but also to remain involved in sport with any future career I may choose.
Christian Zorzi and Giorgio Di Centa helped carry the FISU torch into the town square. Their image was projected on this cathedral wall. One of my favourite Olympic moments is still Giorgio receiving the 50 km gold medal at the 2006 Torino Games closing ceremonies, presented to him by his sister.
Today I got a chance to ski out on the Marcialonga trail that passes through the Val di Fiemme race trails.
A stacked men's field heads out on the last lap of the 15 km skiathlon. (I skipped today's race to focus on Saturday's sprint race)
Enjoying a post-ski hot chocolate at the hotel bar.