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Canada’s Olympic athletes swept away by spectacle of closing ceremony

Christine Sinclair carries the Canadian flag into the Closing Ceremonies of Olympic Games in London on Sunday August 12, 2012.


London promised to treat the 10,000 Olympic athletes to a stadium-scale party full of iconic British music and eye-popping stagecraft. Canada's athletes – whether rookies or veterans – got right into the spirit.

"It feels incredible. I couldn't be prouder to be Canadian right now," said Mark Oldershaw, who earned a bronze medal in canoe. "We are going to have a great time tonight and celebrate all our accomplishments."

After collecting 18 medals in London – one of them gold – the Canadian Olympic Committee admitted on Sunday that more gold would have been nice, as would qualifying more team sports. Those will be goals for the 2016 Olympics.

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There were pleasant surprises, like Rosie MacLennan's gold medal; the bronze medal by little known judoka Antoine Valois-Fortier; and a Canadian soccer team that captured the nation's attention with a heart-wrenching and controversial loss to the powerhouse Americans, before earning an unexpected bronze.

Disappointment reigned too: a ninth-place finish for mountain-bike favourite Catharine Pendrel; the bike crash by triathlete Simon Whitfield; or the dead-last finish by his teammate Paula Findlay. There was the disqualification by a relay team that had a medal in hand, and the early bounce by boxer Mary Spencer.

But as the athletes prepared to leave London and the posh confines of its Canada Olympic House at Trafalgar Square, Canada's team celebrated its victories and rallied through the shortfalls with soccer star Christine Sinclair chosen to carry the flag.

"Our soccer team is all over the map with our emotions, and then to hear Mark [Tewksbury] ask if I would be willing to carry the flag, very few athletes get a chance to do that," said Ms. Sinclair . "It's the hugest honour. I'm emotional."

Those looking forward to seeing a red-jacketed Ms. Sinclair parade out with the flag, leading a uniformed Canadian contingent, were in for a surprise.

Dressed like most of Canada's athletes in a jean jacket decked out with Canadian patches, the scoring machine who led Canada's soccer women carried out the Maple Leaf while her teammates from all sports flooded in behind and spilled off in all directions, mixing and mingling with the rest of the world's athletes.

Canada's silver-medalist kayaker, Adam van Koeverden tweeted a photo as he threw his arm around one of the Games' greatest celebrities, Mohamed Farah, the British Somali track and field sensation who won two gold medals and ignited the Olympic Park.

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The athletes weren't ushered off into a reserved seating area as they sometimes are for such ceremonies. Arrayed in the pattern of the Union Jack, they stood concert-style – with video cameras and smartphones in hand – to enjoy the show. Some eventually sat on the ground, handfuls drifted out the back entrance, but most stayed for the party.

Canada's team in London had been 60 per cent first-time Olympians and many didn't get a chance to take part in the opening ceremony because it was too close to their competition dates. That included gymnast Dominique Pegg, part of the Canadian gymnastics team that surprised many by making the team final and finishing a Canadian-best fifth. She tweeted about her excitement at seeing the Spice Girls: "I'm gunna cry!"

One group of Canadian athletes looking forward to the closing ceremony were marathoners Reid Coolsaet, Eric Gillis and Dylan Wykes. The men's race is always on the last day of the Games and the marathoners had been at a training camp in Europe throughout the Olympics, far from the athlete's village or other distractions of the Olympics. Their days consisted of running twice a day, eating and watching the Olympics on TV, said Mr. Gillis. They weren't going to miss the closing, he added, no matter sore legs, dehydration and upset stomachs.

Veteran triathlete and opening ceremony flag-bearer, Mr. Whitfield, still with bandages on his leg from his disappointing bike crash during competition, was there to celebrate, tweeting about the music and clicking photos.

"So stoked to get a photo with our Captain," Mr. Whitfield tweeted as he posted a photo of himself with Ms. Sinclair.

With a report from Paul Waldie

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Sports reporter

Based in Toronto, Rachel Brady writes on a number of sports for The Globe and Mail, including football, tennis and women's hockey. More


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