It is strange how the blink of an eye can change things forever.
For skeleton slider Jon Montgomery, seven one-hundredths of a second separated him from the rest of the Canadian athletes in Whistler.
That sliver of time meant he became a gold medal champion while others were left to consider opportunities missed.
But even though not everyone can win a gold medal, or any medal for that matter, there are a champion’s qualities that come to the fore if you pay attention to what the athletes say when it’s all over.
Erik Guay is a case in point.
He missed the podium by a mere three one hundredths of a second in the Super G. Guay made an error at the third gate. It was a slight stumble that he believes cost him the Olympic championship. It’s something he can never take back and it’s doubly difficult to accept knowing he missed a medal in the same race at the Games of 2006 by a similar margin.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” Guay said. “But I made a mistake and I take full responsibility. If anything it makes me hungry to push ahead to the next Olympics in 2014. I’ll be there.”
Taking the blame is a tough thing to do when you’re that close to glory. Guay did exactly that by resolving to be better next time instead of making an excuse for a near miss.
For Jon Montgomery, the circumstances were very different but the rules he lives by are strikingly similar to Guay’s.
“This is Canada’s gold medal for sure,” said Montgomery after claiming first place in the skeleton by less than a tenth of a second.
“It belongs to my parents, as well. They raised me and instilled in me the attributes of an athlete who can perform at the right time and achieve his goals.”
Then Montgomery went on to thank his sponsors and the people in Calgary who operate the track he trains on as well as the Own the Podium program that has funded his Olympic dream.
“All of these people have a piece of this medal,” said Montgomery.
It is enlightening to listen to the athletes in the aftermath of their performances. While some have succeeded and others have not, they are â€” as a rule â€” distinguished by their grace and generosity of spirit.
You might say that most Olympians live by their own golden rule.
In victory and in defeat it is best to share the credit and accept responsibility for the outcome of every race.
â€“ Gemini Award winner and author Scott Russell is the Host of CBC Sports Weekend seen Saturday afternoons. A 20-year CBC Sports veteran, he has covered a variety of professional and amateur sports including nine Olympic games and numerous world championships.