Tuesday, October 16, 2007

(Once Again) In Praise of Speedskating

Last March, I wrote a short piece in which I unabashedly sang the praises of speedskating. Having just returned from the first meet of the new season, I wish to reiterate what I wrote then. Speedskating truly symbolizes what is best about Canada. It encourages excellence; it seeks to make a place for everyone; and it is based on the simple proposition that doing something well can be fun.

As I also wrote at the time, my wife and I find ourselves in rinks across this province at ungodly hours; and we drive considerable distances for that privilege. But, after all, going anywhere in this country usually involves travelling a considerable distance.

This weekend's competition occurred two weeks after Marion Jones returned her Olympic medals to the International Olympic Committee. It struck me, as I watched the competition, that perhaps speedskating is so enjoyable because its devotees are passionate amateurs. They all have day jobs, because no speedskater can make a lucrative living doing what he or she loves to do. There are no astronomical salaries, and no agents who are laughing all the way to the bank. And, so far, the fame speedskaters have achieved has been relatively modest. Perhaps that explains why, to the best of my knowledge, BALCO has not peddled its products to Olympic speedskaters.

My wife, who had broken an arm a few weeks before I wrote the March post, has healed nicely. She did not participate this weekend. She wisely decided that she was not ready for a two day meet; and, while she has been back on her skates since the beginning of September, she will begin competing at a smaller, shorter event later this fall. And she has decided that there are some exercises which she will not attempt. Speedskating is fun; but nursing a broken arm isn't.

I wrote last March that, if a visitor to Canada wanted to know what this country was like, I would take him or her to a speedkating competition. I still stand by that statement. Speedskaters live in a community which represents what is best about the Great White North. Despite the hype, Canada is much more than just Hockey Country.

No comments: