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Courtesy Tim Hipps

Olympic Games have the power to unite Canadians

By Jill Girgulis, August 2 2016 —

Every four years, something strange happens.

Despite Calgary’s sunny weather and wealth of available outdoor activities, I find myself spending a disproportionate amount of time in front of the television for two weeks of the summer. The reason is three simple words — Summer Olympic Games.

Growing up in an athletic family, competitive sports were a constant presence. Gymnastics, soccer and running captured my attention for years, both in real life and onscreen. As a result, I’ve evolved into somewhat of an Olympic junkie.

When the Olympics are on TV, I have a tendency to drop everything and immerse myself in two weeks of sporting spectacle. I eat too many maple leaf Oreos, wear too much red and white and get too few hours of sleep. The Olympics are a big deal in my house, and I expect this year to be no different.

At the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this year, I’m most looking forward to three events — track and field, sprint canoe kayak and track cycling. In each of these disciplines there’s a good chance athletes will bring home a medal for Canada. And the excitement that resonates across the country when this happens is definitely something to jump on.

The 2015 World Championships in Athletics were the most successful for Team Canada in history, with eight medals, including two gold. This bodes extremely well heading into the 2016 Olympics. Keep your eyes on pole-vaulter Shawn Barber, high jumper and London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Derek Drouin, heptathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton and decathlete Damian Warner for potential medal-winning performances in Rio.

Sprint canoe kayak is an overlooked summer Olympic sport in Canada, but it shouldn’t be. In the last Olympics, Canadians earned three medals in this discipline, which was the most earned for Canada in any sport that year. All three of those medallists — Mark de Jonge, Adam van Koeverden and Mark Oldershaw — are back to compete in Rio this August. De Jonge is the most likely of the three to return to the podium and may also be Canada’s best bet for a golden performance at the games.

If you only catch one event during the Rio 2016 Olympics, make sure it’s the women’s track cycling team pursuit finals. Canada’s team — including Calgarian Allison Beveridge — boasts two top-three finishes from the 2015 and 2016 Track Cycling World Championships and is in good form to earn a medal this summer in Rio.

Seeing these events at the Olympics is a humbling experience. The games show all of us athletic feats and put the limits of what the human body is capable of on display. Nothing else compares in bringing people together from all backgrounds to compete and celebrate the spirit of sport. With every Olympics comes the potential for iconic Olympic moments to occur. When they do, everyone who took part in the experience is united.

The Olympics are more than 17 consecutive days of sports. For everyone involved — athletes, coaches, commentators, relatives, spectators and fans — the Olympics are an unforgettable experience.

Part of what drives interest in the Olympic Games is fear of missing out — the desire to feel included is a natural human tendency, and this desire is satiated when a successful performance has the power to sweep an entire country off its feet. The Olympics are more fun when you let yourself be part of this encompassing excitement.

From August 5–21 this year, I’ll be cheering on Team Canada. I hope you will be too.

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