Actions speaking louder

If one thing is for certain heading into these London 2012 Games, it’s that the Canadian Team has found its voice. What’s impressive is how these athletes have walked their talk.

In December 2011, Canadian Olympic hopefuls gathered in Mississauga, ON for the aptly-named Olympic Excellence Series. Here, Olympic champions, veterans and potential rookies gathered to share energy, wisdom, motivation and momentum during what was the opening phase of many 2012 training regimens.

It was at this session where athletes brainstormed the exact words they wanted to describe their collective attitude as the 2012 roster began to take shape. What they didn’t know then, was that these five words would soon reverberate through the country, end up on billboards and newspapers and eventually make their way into daily dialogue around the Team.

‘Relentless’, ‘fierce’, ‘unbreakable’, ‘proud’ and ‘world class’ can mean many different things to many different people. But one look at the 2012 Canadian Olympic Team just before these athletes put on the Maple Leaf for competition offers a true portrait of these words. It proves actions speak much louder.

Clara Hughes, one of the world’s most decorated athletes, an eternal Canadian hero,  showed what it means to be relentless in her cycling training to make her sixth Olympic Team and now has the chance to fight for her sixth medal to become the most decorated Canadian Olympic athlete of all time. Hughes will compete in the road cycling race Aug. 1.

Ryan Cochrane stepped off the podium in Beijing with a bronze medal around his neck and he stepped into a four-year promise of dedication to reach the top of that podium in London. He has been relentless in that promise and now he has proven himself a sure contender in the 1,500m freestyle. Heats begin Aug. 4.

Though the women’s basketball team was not a lock to earn a berth for the Games, this crew of relentless women fought to the very last game an pushed through qualifying rounds moment by moment to eventually defeat Japan for a ticket to London. The team will square off July 28 against Russia.

Karen Cockburn knows what she wants and she knows how to get it. The three-time Olympian and three-time Olympic medallist understands success on the trampoline. At 31 years of age, she staved off injury to prove herself truly relentless in her Olympic lifestyle that has inspired a nation for decades. She competes Aug. 4.

Christine Sinclair is a force on any soccer pitch in any soccer match on the planet. She is fierce in her approach to the game and her commitment to it. With this leadership she captained her underdog Canadian crew to an Olympic berth with months remaining to train as a group before competition in London. The Canadians will face Japan July 25.

Simon Whitfield, the Canadian Flag Bearer for these Games, said the men’s eight rowing crew doesn’t “want to win”. Instead, they “need to win”. This fierce mindset is steeped in Canada’s rowing history and again is reflected in the 2012 Heavyweight crew out to defend its gold medal. These men begin competition July 28.

Quiet and confident, Paula Findlay finds her ferocity in her day-to-day drive to deliver on her potential and talent. Unwavering in her commitment to this Olympic lifestyle, she has put herself in a position to do redefine triathlon in this country. Findlay will toe the line Aug. 4.

Synchronized swimming at the Olympic level in Canada is nothing short of fierce. By revealing cutting edge design in both routine and costume and continuously delivering on their international reputation as athletes to beat, these women proved their unity and dedication to success. The duet of Marie-Pier Boudreau Gagnon and Elise Marcotte will compete Aug. 5 and join the team in action Aug. 9.

World class
Dylan Armstrong held global shot put dominance, ranked No. 1 heading into the 2012 season and overpowered his competition internationally. His calm, humble personality defines him as a Canadian athlete as much as the target on his back for the rest of the world. He competes Aug. 3.

Fourth place at the Beijing Games, mountain biker Catharine Pendrel has taken her training and performances to a level that has international competitors chasing her and collected a 2001 world championship. This is an undeniable world-class pace heading into the Games. Pendrel races Aug. 11.

Winning the Giro D’Italia says something to the world: ‘Come and get me’. This is exactly what Ryder Hesjedal did in the month leading up to the Games. Anyone on the start line with Hesjedal knows he is world class, indeed. Hesjedal lines up to race July 28.

When Simon Whitfield waved the Canadian Flag in front of Parliament Hill after accepting the honour of Flag Bearer, he gave a speech that reached the hearts and minds of 3.5 million Canadians. He talked about the pride he has in his heroes and teammates. It’s role models and leaders like this two-time Olympic medallist that inspire pride not just throughout the team, but also throughout a nation. Whitfield competes in his fourth Olympic triathlon Aug. 7.

Three Olympic medals demand a certain amount of pride. But if you ask Adam van Koeverden, who says carrying the Canadian flag at the Olympic Games is one of the proudest moments of his life, he will tell you it’s the pride he takes in everyday training that gives him success. One look at how he gives his everything, day in and day out, shows how much he believes in this. Van Koeverden begins competiton Aug. 6

Three-time world champion boxer Mary Spencer faced adversity not knowing if she would earn the right to compete at the Olympic Games. After missing qualification at the 2012 world championships, her fate was left in the hands of International Olympic Committee decision makers. Like an unbreakable champion, Spencer said “the only thing better than winning an Olympic gold medal, would be to win an Olympic gold medal as a wildcard”.  Spencer steps in the ring Aug. 5.

Julia Wilkinson considered retirement after a shoulder injury pulled her back from an impressive NCAA career. Following surgery and a rejuvenated, unbreakable attitude, Wilkinson decided she had more to prove in the pool. The backstroke specialist will compete Aug. 30.

Entering his fourth Olympic Games, diver and Canadian sporting icon Alex Despatie is a true veteran who again proved his unbreakable dedication to the sport he loves. He came back from injury to earn a 2012 berth in both the 3m individual and 3m synchro with partner Rueben Ross. In his unwavering Olympic training, he then recovered from a concussion to get himself ready to deliver in London. His first day of competition is Aug. 6.

These are but just a few examples of the athletes who define these five words with every decision, in every dedicated moment of their lives. Over the next few weeks, Canadians can feel lucky to have the chance to see a true expression of these words as these athletes put on the Maple Leaf to express the very words that define them.