To witness excellence

This past weekend Skate Canada International was held in my small city of Kelowna, BC. It brings together some of the top figure skaters in the world. I am not really a figure skating fan, but thought this would be a great opportunity to see some amazing athletes at the top of their game (and in the flesh!). I went in with an open mind, and was certainly amazed at the level of precision these athletes brought to the ice — and at such young ages! Even to these untrained eyes, I could tell that they were special. All the skaters were amazing, but two stood above the rest: Hanyu Yuzuru and Alexandra Trusova.

Hanyu is a legend in Japan. Maybe more like a god. He won two Olympic gold medals back-to-back, and is the recipient of the 国民栄誉賞 (People’s Honour Award) in Japan. Once we found out that he was coming to Kelowna, we bought tickets right away back in early July. And we weren’t disappointed.

Tons of the local Japanese community turned out to see Hanyu, as well as lots of diehard fans from Japan and around the world (a Japanese fan sitting beside my wife came to watch Hanyu from London England!). It is probably easier to see Hanyu here in Canada than getting tickets to see him in Japan.

Rows of fans seated holding Japanese flags
The Japanese fans sure turned out!

And when Hanyu finished his last, first-place-winning routine which put him 60 points ahead of second place, the crowd reaction was amazing to behold.

The FULL aftermath
The aftermath

There are lots of YouTube videos, live television broadcasts and DVD sets that allow you to see excellence, but it is a whole other thing to witness it — to experience it collectively with a group of other admiring human beings.

Like I said, I know nothing about skating, so I had never heard of Alexandra Trusova, the “Jumping Queen.” Trusova is the first female figure skater to land a quadruple lutz (one of those spinny-jumpy things) in a competition. During this event, she scored over 100 “technical” points, the first for a female in history. Oh, and she is 15 years old.

She was amazing to watch. At the very end of the event, when only the diehards were left in the arena to catch one final glimpse of their heroes, Hanyu and Trusova came out and had a “quad-off” (I caught it on video). Seeing them fail repeatedly; to not give up; to strive and not be satisfied until they have done it… is very inspiring. Combine all the hard work and the drive with the natural talent that the two of these have, and it is a privilege to see them in person. They are very rare beings on this earth.

It made me think of all the other human endeavours (besides figure skating or even sports) that I know nothing about and could experience. Even if I am not of their world, I can still go and appreciate their skill at a human level, and take away a feeling of awe and inspiration. You might be thinking sarcastically: “Boy, Chad just discovered the joy of sport…” Well, yes, I don’t think I am saying anything particularly insightful. I just feel a great sense of appreciation and freshness(?) after my Skate Canada experience. I am otherwise content by myself in my little office, reading and writing; or to walk places I have never been and take photos to share with friends and family. But now, I think I shall endeavour to get out more and witness excellence.

Yesterday after work I got a frantic SMS. “Got fix to Vanier Cup! Wanna go?” Sure! I thought. I haven’t been to a game of hand-egg since the mid-nineties.

What a dramatic game! The underdog McMaster Marauders — who have not been in the running for the Vanier Cup in 40 years — were taking on the Laval Rouge et Or who were looking for their seventh championship. McMaster owned the first half, going up 23 points. Laval turned on the heat in the second, overtaking McMaster, who were able to tie it up with just a few minutes left. Unfortunately, they missed a field goal in the final 3 seconds, taking the game to overtime.

In overtime each team got a chance at a play from the 35 yard line. McMaster made a touchdown and converted the point. Then Laval had their chance and equalized. Laval was up again and were sacked and the ball was overturned. McMaster had another chance for a field goal to put the game to bed and made it! The crowd went wild and the McMaster players poured onto the pitch. Amazing scenes.

There was some excellent football on display. Great passing, long runs, and the MM quarterback jumping over a guy at full-tilt, avoiding a sacking. It was a loooooong game (nearly 4 hours to play four 18 minute quarters!) but it was well worth it.

See all my photos of the event.