Tuesday, March 11, 2014


           It’s funny how four years can make such a difference, you know? Back in 2010 when Canada and Vancouver hosted the Olympic Games it seemed like the whole country got involved. Canada was ripping it up in the medal count and many of us sat in front of our TVs in awe as we watched our usual “also-ran” Canadian Winter Olympic team triumph in so many ways.

            Fast forward to today’s Sochi Olympics and it’s a bit of a different story. We’ve lost the home-ice advantage, it seems, and the time difference between Canada and Russia makes it hard to watch many of the Games’ events live which, for me, takes away from the total “feel” of the games.

            Four years ago I think Canadians were pleasantly surprised at how well our athletes were performing and that transferred into an outpouring of national pride very seldom seen or felt in this big, beautiful country of ours. Don’t get me wrong, I think most Canadians are still welling with pride at our country’s athletes’ performances, good, bad or otherwise, but, as stated above, it doesn’t quite have that…I don’t know…SOMETHING…that you feel when it’s happening at home.

            To me, losing some of the national feel of the 2010 Vancouver Games has been offset by the inclusion in these Games of our local skating heroes Paige Lawrence and Rudi Sweigers. Regardless of their placement in the field of Pairs Skating it is still amazing to see these two skate in an Olympic Games and know that they come from small-town Saskatchewan…OUR…small town Saskatchewan. Small “towns”, as it were, (Kennedy and Kipling).

            Rudi was in the same grade in school as our son Nolan so we saw a lot of Rudi back in the day. Nolan and I were discussing the old days with Rudi and Nolan recalled one particular birthday party of his in our back yard where Rambunctious Rudi took a leap off of our picnic table, got caught up in our clothes line, and did a complete header onto the ground, glancing his head off of the seat of the table on the way down and landing with a resounding thud. Nolan says, “He did a “Swiggers” and jumped up and dusted himself off and said…I’m okay, I’m okay!” Smiling away! And he was. Okay. Thank God. Nolan and I are unsure how many “Swiggers” it takes to become an Olympian but we’re pretty sure it’s more than a few.

            Although I don’t know Paige as well as I know Rudi I know her parents very well and when I saw Leanne and Jimmy on the TV screen in Sochi, along with Paige’s’ brothers Jesse and Dawson, it gave me goose bumps. You’d have to confirm this with them but I think Jimmy and Leanne began their long relationship while Jimmy was playing Junior B hockey in Kipling with the Pipestone Beavers back in the ‘70’s before his famous rodeo days. Leanne was a figure skater and lived at the Kipling Arena, it seems, and her brothers played on the Beaver’s team, too, and her Dad, Dave Toppings, was the team’s long-time manager. Paige has certainly become a chip off of both the old blocks with her skating ability and her bull-rider mentality.

            Paige and Rudi may not have ended up at the top of the podium at the Sochi Games but their hard work and determination has paid off in helping them become world-class competitors in a demanding and super competitive sport and they are truly Olympians that all Canadians can be proud of.

“If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride-and never quit, you’ll be a winner.” Paul “Bear” Bryant. (1913-1983).

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