PYEONGCHANG — Excuse me if I’m not among the thousands — millions maybe — celebrating the great gold medal victory by Canada’s mixed curling team.
Mixed curling, invented in form for these Winter Games, does not belong on the big stage. You know that for this very reason: Most Olympic athletes train their entire lives just to qualify for the Games, let alone wind up on any podium. Yet John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes stood on a podium with gold medals around their neck having practiced once for half an hour in Winnipeg, before dominating the field here.
This is a longtime problem with understanding Olympic success. Not all medals, gold or otherwise, are created equal.
The Mikael Kingsbury gold medal? That’s one worth dancing about. He has been participating on the World Cup circuit for years, dominating it, and on the largest day of his sporting life, he came through wonderfully under phenomenal pressure.
I’d love to tell you Morris and Lawes dominated the World Cup of mixed curling, but there is no such thing. In fact, the world championships of mixed curling is not played by two curlers. It’s played by four.
In other words, this is a made-up sport, added basically because curling draws television numbers and this gives television another sport that fills plenty of hours for broadcasters around the world.
And mixed curling is not alone in its place as an Olympic sport that should be edited out of this already bloated event. Canada has a gold medal in team figure skating. Do you know anyone who grew up wanting to be a team figure skater? Anyone?
Figure skating has been an Olympic sport for 110 years. It is a fabulous, heart-breaking, dramatic event that has produced some of the greatest moments in Olympic history. The battle of the Brians. The drama surrounding Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. The excellence of Katarina Witt.
You know what they all have in common?
Not one of them owns an Olympic medal for team figure skating, which has been in the last two Games, and for 100 years nobody thought there was any reason to include it in the program.
It’s a made-for-TV nonsense sport, proving next to nothing.
Patrick Chan now has a figure skating gold medal because he was part of Canada’s gold medal-winning team. Twice, as world champion, he won silver medals and will openly admit he didn’t skate anywhere close to form. He now has four Olympic medals, two silvers from singles competition, and another silver and now a gold from the team competition.
Chan told people after the team victory that his gold medal win made-up for the disappointments from previous Games. That is hokum.
He now has a gold medal — as do his Canadian teammates — from a sport that doesn’t really exist in the big picture and wasn’t deemed to be Olympian for the first 100 years of figure skating at the Games.
Mikael Kingsbury. Morris and Lawes. Team figure skating.
One of these things is not like the other.
I’m more impressed with the bronze medal of Alex Gough, becoming the first Canadian to win a luge medal than the golds of mixed curling or the team figure skating, in which some countries took so seriously they left off their best skaters off for the event.
I’m more impressed with the medals won by Max Parrot and Mark McMorris — and the McMorris story remains beyond belief — in slopestyle than anything accomplished on the ice by team curlers and team figure skaters.
How can you not be impressed by the speed skating medals, short track and long track, by Kim Boutin and Ted-Jan Bloemen — pursuits that are achieved by a lifetime of work and practice and dedication and heartache.
And the comeback of Laurie Blouin, hospitalized one day, in dangerous conditions the next, on the podium in women’s slopestyle the next, with a cut and a welt below her left eye.
All those medals, to me, are more meaningful than two curlers who barely knew each other taking on the world and a group of figure skaters — most of whom are contenders when it matters — bringing home gold.
Canada is off to a wonderful start, with some disappointments in the early days here in PyeongChang. We didn’t win a gold medal in Calgary in 1988, won two in Albertville in 1992 and won three in Lillehammer in 1994.
Our history: Bring in new sports, we tend to succeed, no matter what you might think of the new sports. Canada has three gold medals already: There will be more.
But don’t equate the three golds earned to date as equals. For now, Mikael Kingsbury stands alone as champion of the world and the Games. There is room for others to join.