Joanne Malar provided commentary on swimming events for CTV at the 2012 Olympics in London. At left is Rod Smith of CTV.

Witnessing the stories at the Olympics

I felt so privileged to witness the personal stories, triumphs, emotions and excitement of the Olympics.

As my eight-day Olympic swimming extravaganza unfolded, I felt so privileged to witness the personal stories, triumphs, emotions and excitement of the Olympics.

As an athlete, it was difficult to describe an Olympic experience, and I find it just as difficult this time, as a CTV commentator.

Friendliness

The Olympic Games always resonate with a unique mix of happiness, excitement, goodwill and a global community all blended into one.

As an athlete, I experienced three Olympics — Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney — and was a spectator at three more — Athens and the Winter Olympics of Turino and Vancouver. London was my seventh Olympic experience.

Every country displays their different flavours and all these Olympics to me were equally as special.

As many British Columbians experienced in Vancouver 2010, there is a definite sense of spirit. There is an energy that resonates at a deep level throughout the competitors, volunteers and spectators. It is simply beautiful. One would love to bottle that combination and replicate it universally and constantly.

Friendly rivalry exists between so many athletes within one’s own country but also between countries.

Seeing 20-year-old, Chad Le Clos of South Africa, win the 200 butterfly by 5/100th of a second over Michael Phelps was a surprise finish no one expected.

In an interview with CTV, Phelps was asked how it felt to have Le Clos beat him as Le Clos was just eight years old when he watched Phelps set his first world record and wanted to be just like Phelps one day.

Phelps response was, “I love that guy,” and he genuinely was happy for the young gold medalist who defeated him in his signature event.

Excitement

There is never a lack of excitement at the Olympics in terms of athletic performances and accomplishments.

The top moments for me in the swimming pool was seeing two British Columbian swimmers mount the Olympic podium.

Brent Hayden of Mission, winning bronze in the 100 freestyle and Ryan Cochrane of Victoria winning silver in the 1500 freestyle.

These were the only two medals for Canada in the pool. The determination and self-confidence required to have a perfectly executed performance on game day is admirable and many new young Canadian swimmers will be inspired.

Another top moments for me was seeing Phelps become the greatest Olympian of all time, winning his career total of 22 medals, 18 of them gold.

In London, his first two races were sub-par, finishing out of the medals in the 400 IM and silvers in the 4×100 freestyle and 200 fly. He maintained his composure and ended up winning four gold medals and it was so satisfying to see the greatest swimmer and Olympian of all time show his human side of going through struggles and hanging in there to elevate back up to victory.

There were young females who at 15 and 16 years of age, set world records and won gold medals in complete shock — Ruta Meilutyte (Lithuania), Katie Ledecky (USA) and Ye Shiwen (China) as well as veterans who competed in their third and fourth Olympics.

Emotion

So many emotions whizzed around inside of me, watching swimmers hold back tears not only after victory, but after competing in their last career race. Sport has given so much to them personally, their families but also to all of us fans and supporters.

Life is about allowing real emotions to be experienced and both celebrating with each other and sympathizing in difficult times.

This togetherness unites us as a world community and simply as human beings.

From the Blade Runner, Oscar Pistorius, making history to Paula Findlay succeeding in simply finishing her triathlon, or Scott Dickens weeping to learn he earned a final swim.

It is priceless to witness families experiencing their child’s dreams.

We can have these Olympic moments not every four years, but every day.

By taking the time to get to know each other in the community better, caring about some one else’s goals, celebrating small successes and being supportive when times are tough.

This is what I love about Summerland, and it being a smaller community. I feel like we are more aware of these community factors and are more personally vested.

You don’t have to travel thousands of miles to experience a taste of the Olympic spirit. Summerland is rich in all of its community events from Action Fest to triathlons to Light Up.

Live life with the Olympic values as much as possible: respect fair play, excellence and friendship. This is success to me. At a world level, community level and personal level, that’s the beauty and success in life.

Joanne Malar is a three-time Olympic Swimmer, 2012 CTV London Olympic Analyst, Summerland Parks and Recreation Programmer and Head Coach for ORCA Swim Team.

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