Jack Todd: Olympic heartbreak can be painful to watch

 

 
 
 
 
Women’s moguls Olympic gold medallist Justine Dufour-Lapointe, second from right, poses with her sister and silver medallist Chloé, centre, and her other sister Maxime and mother Johane Dufour and father Yves Lapointe at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Sunday.
 

Women’s moguls Olympic gold medallist Justine Dufour-Lapointe, second from right, poses with her sister and silver medallist Chloé, centre, and her other sister Maxime and mother Johane Dufour and father Yves Lapointe at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Sunday.

Photograph by: Paul Chiasson, THE CANADIAN PRESS

MONTREAL — As soon as the results went up on the screen, showing Justine and Chloé Dufour-Lapointe finishing first and second in the moguls in Sochi, you thought of Maxime.

The oldest of the Dufour-Lapointe sisters, the trailblazer, the one who got the others into the sport, finishing 12th and then celebrating her 25th birthday on the edge of the spotlight as her sisters became Canada’s darlings.

It’s the nature of the Olympic Games: tears of joy for some. Just plain tears for others. The Sochi Games are barely underway and we’ve already seen heartbreak aplenty, like Canada’s Spencer O’Brien, breaking down in tears after finishing 12th in the women’s slopestyle, an event where she was supposed to have a shot at a medal.

Or Erik Guay, finishing 10th in the downhill, 81/100ths of a second from Olympic gold. Even the much-hyped American Bode Miller, who is supposedly a money competitor, finished eighth in the downhill.

The heartbreak can be painful to watch and even more painful to endure. I saw it up close the first time when Anne Montminy crashed out of the 10-metre platform in Atlanta. These athletes are so young, they put so much into it — and the emotions run so high that even silver medallist Chloé Dufour-Lapointe broke down at her news conference.

Heartbreak is built into the time frame of the Olympics. When a player in the NHL has a rotten game, he’s got another one tomorrow, or the day after. Even when a team loses a playoff series, it’s only three months or so until the next training camp rolls around.

Fail on the Olympic stage, and you’re looking at a long and uncertain four years before you get another crack: an eternity in the life of an Olympic athlete. For much of those four years, you’ll train and compete in relative obscurity to prepare for another chance — knowing it’s entirely possible you won’t even make the team, much less succeed when you get there.

Canada is off to a pretty good start with four medals from the opening weekend in Sochi. There will be more triumphs and more failures and no matter how many medals Canada wins, you get the sense that Canadians will consider these Games a disappointment if the men’s hockey team doesn’t bring home the gold — part of the reason I would rather see the NHL stay home.

But your heart goes out to those who don’t make $5 million a year and who have come up short during their moment in the sun.

In an Arpon Basu story published in The Gazette in 2005, Maxime talked about her relatively modest ambitions for her career.

“I would love to make the national team and compete on the World Cup circuit,” Maxime said. “Making the Olympics would be a great cherry on top of the sundae.”

If that cherry tastes a little sour today, Maxime certainly did not show it in her interviews. She was all warmth and happiness for her sisters. And perhaps, down deep, she really feels that way.

Whatever, the Dufour-Lapointe sisters are in the best position you can be in at an Olympic Games: They’re young, beautiful, healthy, victorious — and their event is over. In every language in the Olympic Village, that’s spelled P-A-R-T-Y!

Escaping to Sochi: The Canadiens had to feel good about themselves as they scattered to the four winds for the Olympic break. Three straight wins, a solid grasp on a playoff berth, Ryan White back and Alex Galchenyuk on the mend — and it appears they dodged a bullet after Max Pacioretty crashed into the goalpost in Carolina.

The concern when they go back to work is a combination of the schedule (which is brutal) and Olympic fatigue for their core players: Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban, Alexei Emelin, Andrei Markov and Carey Price. (Tomas Budaj will back up Jaroslav Halak for Slovakia, but Budaj doesn’t play much here and is unlikely to see much action in Sochi.)

History shows post-Olympic fatigue can be a key factor for teams that send a number of players to the Games. That hurts teams like the Habs and helps those, like the Maple Leafs, who are able to contend without many Olympians.

If those key players are worn down (and given the fact they have to cross nine time zones to get to Sochi, they will be) then that post-Olympic schedule is going to be brutal. The Canadiens play Detroit and Toronto at home and Pittsburgh on the road before hitting that Bermuda triangle out west with the Kings, Ducks, Coyotes and Sharks before returning home to meet Boston.

It’s a brutal eight-game gauntlet. If they can play .500 through that stretch, the Habs will be sitting on 78 points with 15 games to play. Not a playoff lock, perhaps, but close to it, despite the long slump that began in early December.

Meanwhile, handicapping the Olympic men’s hockey tournament is difficult, because there isn’t an obvious winner. On North American ice of whatever size, Canada is an overwhelming favourite. But Sochi is 1) big ice and 2) not Red Deer, Saskatoon, Burnaby or Chicoutimi, a fact that tends to bother Canadian teams.

Switzerland? They will make some noise, but not gold-medal noise.

So who wins? Let’s start with who doesn’t: Finland has now lost both Valtteri Filpulla and Mikko Koivu. Finland is always tough, but they don’t have enough depth to absorb such losses.

It would be sweet to see Jaromir Jagr and Tomas Plekanec lead a deep Czech run, but let’s just say their chances would be better if the country was still Czechoslovakia and they had Zdeno Chara on the back end.

You can scratch the U.S. as a medal threat right now. They perform miserably overseas (see Nagano and Torino) and they did a lousy job with their selection (see Brian Burke.)

Three teams could win it: Sweden, Russia and Canada. It says here that Sweden will miss Henrik Sedin more than Canada will miss Steven Stamkos, simply because Canada has more depth.

Russia? Too much pressure, too little on the blue line. By a process of elimination, that leaves Team Canada, coming home with the gold.

Heroes: Justine and Chloé Dufour-Lapointe, Mark McMorris, Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir, Kevin Reynolds, Kaetlyn Osmond, Kirsten Moore-Towers, Dylan Moscovitch, Vladislav Tretiak, Irene Wust, Martin St. Louis, David Desharnais, Carey Price &&&& last but not least, Maxime Dufour-Lapointe, because she’s part of it, too.

Zeros: Ed Snider, Shaun White, Ron MacLean, David Amber, Vladimir Putin, Irina Rodnina, Stephen Harper, Marcel Aubut, Claude Brochu, David Samson &&&& last but not least, Jeffrey Loria.

jacktodd46@yahoo.com

Twitter: JackTodd46

 
 
 
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Women’s moguls Olympic gold medallist Justine Dufour-Lapointe, second from right, poses with her sister and silver medallist Chloé, centre, and her other sister Maxime and mother Johane Dufour and father Yves Lapointe at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Sunday.
 

Women’s moguls Olympic gold medallist Justine Dufour-Lapointe, second from right, poses with her sister and silver medallist Chloé, centre, and her other sister Maxime and mother Johane Dufour and father Yves Lapointe at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Sunday.

Photograph by: Paul Chiasson, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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