Love is a powerful force. It will drive you to soar and to crash, to elation and to despair, to push forward and to pull back.
It drove Joannie Rochette, the Canadian figure skater whose mother suddenly and unexpectedly died days before the Olympics, to compete to honor her mother and walk away with a bronze medal. It drove Edwin van Calker, the driver of the Dutch 4-man bobsled team, to withdraw from the Olympics, enraging his coach and dashing the Olympic hopes of his teammates.
Joannie is being hailed as a hero, a triumphant athlete who stood tall under tremendous adversity. Edwin is being branded a goat, a coward who has disappointed a nation.
This is unfair. Edwin watched the Georgian luger perish and saw 30 other competitors crash on that same track. He listened to commentators repeatedly expressing the view that this particular track was dangerous. He thought about himself, his wife, his kids, and he decided the competition wasn’t worth the risk.
Have you ever been in a near death experience? Have you ever witnessed a fatal accident?
Many winter sports have inherent dangers. The athletes who compete exhibit bravery every time they take to the snow or ice. Van Calker’s decision took a different kind of bravery.
So who is the real hero?
In their own ways, they are each heroic, for different reasons and for different people. Rochette is a hero to her family and her nation for her performance and achievement under adversity. Van Calker is a hero to his family for coming home to them safe and sound.
Canadians will honor Rochette everywhere she goes. That’s easy for them. How will the Dutch respond to van Calker? Will they lift him up? Will they honor him? Those who do are also heroes.
BTW, regarding yesterday’s post, the Leopard can stand tall, having beaten skiers from such snow producing countries as Sweden, Canada, USA, Switzerland, Russia, Norway, Italy, Finland, and Austria. Congratulations!