Olympian admitting his mistake was inspiring

The 2012 Summer Olympics are in the books, the cheers have wound down and the tears have dried up. More important, television schedules will be back to normal.

It was a great diversion to watch the Winter Olympics on those cold, wet days and nights.  The summer events however had to compete with picnics and barbecues, and often we felt guilty glued to the screen as a fine summer day drifted away on us.

I’m sure most of us got some goose bumps watching Christine Sinclair’s beaming smile as she entered the stadium as our closing ceremonies flag bearer. Obviously that duty is an honour, and much deliberation goes into the selection.

Sinclair certainly deserved the spot in her team sport role. We had one gold medal winner, we had members who have competed in multiple games and others who have been repeat medal winners. All would have been accepted as a great choice and their smile would have been just as big.

I wonder if the selection committee considered Jared Connaughton as the flag bearer.  I know, you are all wondering who Jared Connaughton is. He is a member of the Canadian men’s 4x100 relay team, who relinquished their bronze medal when he stepped on the lane line during the race, resulting in a team disqualification.

He stood in front of the cameras and owned the mistake. “I stepped on the line, I apologize to my team and the Canadian people. It was my fault.”

Wait a minute. You mean it wasn’t an opposing team member who jostled him?

“There is a lot happening out there very fast in a tight space, I stepped on the line,” he told us.

Could it have been one of his own team members who screwed up the exchange and threw him off? No, according to Connaughton, his team members performed to world class standards.

“The rule is stupid,” he said, “But it is the rule and everyone knows it.”

“It’s finite,” he said. “The line is two and one-half inches wide. My foot is five inches wide. It’s a game of inches. It’s not three steps on the line anymore. They changed that. It used to be three steps. Now it’s one.”

When he spoke about apologizing to his team mates, he was clear. “I’ll look them all in the eyes and put it on me,” he said, pounding his chest. “It’s sports. They don’t mail you the medal before you get here. You’ve got to earn it.”

We have read plenty about how the women’s soccer team will inspire many Canadians by their performance. Wouldn’t it be nice if his reaction also inspired many others?

The people who drive exotic cars or motorbikes at high speeds and then hide behind parents or the law, what if they stood up and admitted their mistakes? Hit and run drivers, what if they remained at the scene?

What about employees who deny wrongdoing, and chase the system through mediation or arbitration until the system buries their mistakes? What about judges who make mistakes?

I think a replay of Connaughton’s admission should be replayed in our schools and sports arenas as often as the podium scenes are. His words remind the public that a first-class athlete doesn’t always end up with a trophy on his shelf or a medal around his neck.

Life without rules or officials to enforce them would be pretty chaotic. At least that’s what McGregor says.

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