It is that time again where I get excited about the up and coming Summer Olympics which will be held this year in London from July 27 to August 12th.
Listening to Joanne Malar tell her Olympic stories and looking forward to her new challenge as CTV’s color commentary for swimming brought back vivid memories of the only Summer Olympic Games Canada ever hosted.
They were the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal and I had a very personal connection that still makes me emotional even today. My younger brother had been a member of Canada’s National swimming team for three years but it was the last day of the 1976 Olympic trials and he had not made the Olympic team. I remember watching his final event, the 100 metre freestyle with more nervousness that I had ever felt before. When he finished third I remember a sense of relief and jubilation that he was going to the Olympics. Coming from a small community that at that time was about the size of Summerland, the city of Mission had the same buzz Summerland had when Kristy Richards and Justin Kripps competed in the 2012 Winter Games. The lead up to the Games was amazing.
My brother Gary had the opportunity to meet Prime Minster Pierre Trudeau but was more impressed with his attractive young wife Margaret.
When the Olympic Games finally arrived the country was ripe with anticipation but our athletes were not doing very well. Gary was a member of Canada’s 4×100 medley relay team but his spot on the team was not assured until he posted Canada’s fastest ever 100 metre time in the heats. Canada was ranked fourth going into the Olympics so there was hope for a medal.
I was a University student at the time coaching Mission’s summer swim club. So there I was with the members of my swim team watching on national TV my brother’s dream become a reality. Even though they were rated fourth, Graham Smith, Steve Pickell, Clay Evans and my brother Gary MacDonald set an Olympic record in finishing behind the Americans to win a silver medal.
It is a day I will never forget and as I follow both Kristy and Justin as they continue their dreams and watch Joanne at this year’s Olympic Games, it will always be very special. (To make the world even smaller, Brent Hayden, Canada’s current 100 metre freestyle record holder is also from my hometown of Mission).
Dale MacDonald has been Summerland’s Director of Parks and Recreation for the last 22 years and in his sporting past has won provincial championships in four different sports.