Groan, the Podium

It was with much hype that Canada launched the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, flash with the promise to “own the podium.”

This, of course, was a promise to show Canadians our best athletes on the podium at the Olympics. Preferably winning Gold Medals.

Canada, prior to these Games, has never won gold at home. Now, thankfully, that curse is broken.

The fact an athlete has a Gold Medal, won on home soil, notwithstanding, if you listen to the commentary on TV and read the articles in the newspapers, you’d think Canada was doing extremely well at the Olympics.

The commentators usually spill some tripe about “personal bests” and “top ten finishes;” as if anyone will remember an athlete who achieves a personal best while finishing 7th in their event. But this is Canada, eh? A nation where shaking hands, playing nice, and being “good enough” is in the national psyche.

One can even see this sentiment at the Opening Ceremonies, where an embarrassing and disastrous hydraulic malfunction left Catriona Le May Doan standing holding an Olympic torch looking lost, while three other torch-bearers lit the Olympic Cauldron — all because only three of four “arms” of the mechanism actually worked properly. But hey, in typical Canadian fashion, three out of four ain’t bad. It’s “good enough.”

The fact is, the “good enough” mentality encourages mediocrity. “We’re not the best, but we’re nice guys, and we’re okay with that.” Where’s the national pride? Where’s the attitude, “we’re Canadian! Welcome to the best nation on earth! We’re going to show you how we do things here – and we do them well, and, by golly, you’re going to gasp in surprise and be awed!”

The “good enough” philosophy is also present in the discussion when a Canadian achieves a spot on the podium. “So and so won the Silver!” (Or Bronze). No, they didn’t “win” the Silver, they lost the Gold; or, if you prefer, they achieved a Silver medal. A Gold medal is awarded to the first-placed athlete. The winner. If you come second, you don’t win. But, apparently, in Canada, second place, third, fifth, or 87th is “good enough” as long as the athlete has achieved a “personal best.”

Now if an athlete achieves Silver with a personal best, of course they should be proud of themselves, and we should celebrate with them, but let’s never forget – Silver isn’t Gold. Silver means the athlete didn’t win. They’re not The Best. When an athlete competes, they don’t compete to “win” the Silver medal, they compete to win the Gold.

Canada should be a Nation of Excellence; not a nation of mediocrity. Excellence doesn’t imply perfection; it implies doing exceedingly well in all areas. In Olympic terms, it means being competitive. It means being looked at by the other competitors with respect and grudging admiration; where the coach says to the competing athlete: “there’s the guy from Canada. He’s the guy you need to beat.”

Canada needs a national attitude shift.

“Good enough” isn’t.

About Steven Britton

Steve is a freelance programmer, partial billionaire, dad, Recovering Atheist, Conservative, and occasionally prolific blogger.