canada-russia, the way we were

Of course, only us digital immigrants will remember the 1972 Canada Cup when Canada beat Russia. I was in Grade two. The TV was on in my school. We watched. It was a BIG DEAL. I remember the 1976 Canada Cup less however except that my parents were out of town and the babysitter was a hockey fanatic. And it seemed to me that every time she told the players to do something, they did it. So I thought twice before misbehaving under her watch. So when Canada met Russia today, I brought all that angst with me.

When I think about these games, I’m often reminded of how much Russia has changed. I remember the USSR. The long names, the fierce competitors, the incredibly moving national anthem. I was an amateur figure skater. When us small town skating club wannabe olympians watched the Russians compete, they were the enemy by virtue of how often they won. What they lacked in apparent personality, they made up for in medal count. Canadian skaters probably would have won too if their coaches were tougher. But we were soft. We couldn’t handle it. Which meant we stayed home and admired the talent on TV.

So is Russia  just like the rest of us now? So preoccupied with capitalism. spending too much time shopping and not enough time training? Even their team uniforms are, well, very western. The big red swirl design pops on a field of white. You can see them in any crowd. Any crowd. I saw a few athletes in Vancouver. They were perfectly coiffed and manicured. They even had a certain hollywood appeal. It was a fascinating surprise and reminder that things aren’t anything like they used to be.

The Russians won the medal count in 1972 and 1976. They were second to East Germany in 1980. They won in 1984 and 1988. Glasnost hit in 1989. They were second to a unified Germany in 1992. Then third in 1994 and 1998. Come 2002, they were 7th. Then 4th in Torino. At this very moment, Canada is just slightly ahead of Russia in the medal count. I can hardly believe it.

I know priorities change. It’s human nature. These days,  I think about laundry and lunches before most anything else. When I skated, I thought about how late I could go to bed and still have a half decent practice at 6 am. Turns out, 9:30 pm was the latest. So much for the social life of a teenager.

The jumps and spins and willingness to be up way before dawn to train have long left me but the wanna be competitor in me is still around. When the Russians are on, I get nervous. I’m just glad it only took a few minutes for Canada to own the rink tonight. And while I should be thinking about laundry and lunches, I might just settle in for a few more hours of Olympic TV watching. I’m a grown up now and if I want to stay up past 9:30, I’m allowed!



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