Wednesday, August 20, 2008

SPORTS: Two Canucks Doin' Their Best

And the best of Elliotte Friedman and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep is pretty good.

First, let me praise Friedman, the best Canadian sports broadcaster since Brian Williams was at the top of his game. Friedman is close to inheriting the mantle of the man who takes sports seriously and is willing to ask the tough question. Ron MacLean has a higher profile. He does sit at the right hand of God, errrr, Donald S. Cherry, afterall. But MacLean's more entertainer than penetrating interviewer. For me, Friedman is nearing the top of the food chain when it comes to Canadian sports broadcasting. He'll be the man to trust, in five years, if not already.

He also writes an irregular column called From the Pressbox. And the most recent installment of the column is all about how hard it is NOT to cheer in the pressbox, or even in the stands, if caught hob-nobbing with the masses. He admits he's almost done it once, and came perilously close to doing it again Monday night. The cause celebre?

The astonishing bronze medal won by Priscilla Lopes-Schliep in the women's 100-metre hurdles in Beijing.

I admit that in my dotage (and the fact I'm not a sports reporter anymore), I haven't followed track and field as assiduously as I once did. But I still knew Canada's medal hopes went out the door when Perdita Felicien, a glorious creature in her own right, couldn't overcome health problems to compete in Beijing. Even a finals appearance was unlikely with the perpetual runner-up Angela Whyte also unhealthy. I KNEW Lopes-Schliep was there to carry the colours, but didn't for a second believe that she had a chance at MAKING THE FINAL.

Wrong I was. There she was in lane 8 awaiting the starter's pistol. More muscular along her shoulders and maybe a little less gazelle-like than her competition, Lopes-Schliep sort of stood out. At first sight, my first impression was, "SHE'S in the final?!?" Looks can be SOOOOO deceiving.

Lopes-Schliep's good friend, the American hurdling star Lolo Jones, broke to the front and was crusing to the gold medal. Then, with as much suddeness as befell Felicien an Olympiads ago, Jones' whole universe shattered as she clipped the final hurdle. That struck her from the victory roll, affected runners on either side of her and let five runners suddenly joust for two medals and three bad memories of what might have been. The timers had all five within two one-hundredths of a second. Two of them, the Australian girl, and Lopes-Schliep, were deemed one fingernail faster than the others in the group. Suddenly, the girl who was third in Canada was third in the whole wide world.

I saw an interview with Lopes-Schliep last night with MacLean. She cleans up awfully well. She's warm, bubbly, confident and anybody with half a heart must be totally over the moon that this lady has garnered the recognition that a medal will bring her.

Friedman's right. This is one performance worth standing up and applauding. Even if you're a (lapsed) journalist.

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