Canadian speedskater Gilmore Junio created one of the most compelling stories of the 2014 Sochi Olympics when he gave up his spot in the 1,000 metres so teammate Denny Morrison could compete. Now his selfless gesture has been recognized with a commemorative medal, crowd-funded by people from across Canada.
In a ceremony at King Edward Elementary School in Kitchener, Ont., on Wednesday, the 23-year-old Olympian was awarded a Canadian-crafted medal to honour his personal sacrifice for the better of his team, one which led to Mr. Morrison earning a silver medal. Students at the school were among hundreds of Canadians who donated money as part of a crowd-sourcing campaign started by a Toronto design firm.
The idea came from Jacknife Design, which developed a website with a video and started a campaign on the crowd-sourcing website Indiegogo.com. They quickly realized they weren’t the only Canadians totally inspired by watching Junio’s tale unfold.
They raised over $7,500, far more than required to cover the costs of materials and specialty craftsmen needed to produce the medal, while the rest is being donated to charity. Donations came from across Canada, including the King Edward schoolchildren, who donated loonies while learning about “filling our buckets,” a popular motto for teaching kids about kindness.
“To know that what Denny and I did resonated with Canadians in a way that they would go out of their way to show their appreciation is super-humbling,” Mr. Junio said by phone, chilling out at the Jacknife offices after a day jammed with interviews nationwide. “It was flattering to see how much traction it got and how many people supported it. It’s very humbling to be recognized.”
The finely crafted medal, conceptualized by designers from Jacknife, has layers of Canadian maplewood, silver and gold. Inscriptions on it, in addition to the skater’s name, read “Thanks from all of us” and “Made in Canada.” Names of all those who contributed money are inscribed on the strap.
“In our studio during the Olympics, the day after seeing it all unfold on TV, it’s all we were talking about over our morning coffee,” said Mikey Richardson, Jacknife partner and creative director. “We thought someone should do something about it, and how about us? We know how to make stuff and get people mobilized around an idea.”
Mr. Morrison had fallen and failed to qualify for the 1000m at the Canadian Olympic trials. While in Sochi, Mr. Junio opted to give him his spot in the race, realizing Mr. Morrison had a better chance at a podium finish than he did. Mr. Morrison responded with a silver-medal performance.
“I always knew Canadians were good people, but to see that amazing people went to the trouble to donate and make this medal really cements that for me,” Mr. Junio said. “It has changed my perspective on sport. I’ve met amazing people all over Canada since Sochi, and I’m super proud to have represented them at the Olympics.”
The curious schoolchildren peppered Mr. Junio with questions about the Olympics on Wednesday, and about his decision to give away his spot in the race. The kids also had a flurry of questions for the guys from Jacknife: how to design things with technology, use teamwork, galvanize people for a cause on social networks and pay it forward.
“We had an objective of completing the story Gilmore started when he demonstrated the values we believe in as Canadians,” Mr. Richardson said. “We wanted to close the loop and demonstrate that nice guys can finish first, that there are rewards for acts of kindness.”
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