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Faster, higher, angrier: Canadian athletes speak out at London 2012

Canada's Simon Whitfield talks to reporters after crashing and retreating from the men's triathlon at Hyde Park during the Summer Olympics in London on Tuesday, August 7, 2012.

The Canadian Press

There have been loud appeals of boxing decisions, sharply pointed questions about disqualifications.

There have been ugly internal squabbles in the normally genteel worlds of triathlon and equestrian.

Over the past 11 days, Team Canada has been in the thick of all manner of arguments, disagreements, protests and at least one international incident involving Norway.

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That's a reference, of course, to The Game, in which Canada's national women's soccer team was wronged by a Norwegian referee, leading inexorably and inevitably to the sort of loss that makes serious athletes violently ill.

Enraged striker Christine Sinclair reacted by essentially accusing the ref of fixing the outcome – this, it must be said, is simply not done.

Canadian athletes have contributed some towering performances to these Olympics – witness the women's soccer team's effort against the United States – but these are in some sense the angry Games.

Former gold-medal-winning equestrian Eric Lamaze was certainly angry at equestrian's governing body for disqualifying teammate Tiffany Foster's horse for what the Canadians argued was a minor scratch on the hoof (Ms. Foster, as it happens, also works with Mr. Lamaze in Florida and is his student).

"We don't always have to agree with all decisions; if we think it's unfair, it's not wrong to voice your opinion," Mr. Lamaze said Wednesday.

And maybe that's the true legacy of the exercise in national sporting affirmation that was the Vancouver 2010 Olympics: that we will get angry when the occasion demands, dammit, and we will not be too nice and politic to criticize injustice.

Even when it means turning the indignation inward.

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Mr. Lamaze was steamed at the International Equestrian Federation, and then perhaps more so at Equine Canada, for not defending Ms. Foster vehemently enough in a press release.

So the governing body did the only thing it could in the face of blunt criticism from its biggest name and one of the world's pre-eminent equestrians: It rewrote the release, double-quick time, to question the medical technicality that led to Ms. Foster's Olympics being ruined.

Now that the seriousness of Mr. Lamaze's threat to stop competing for Canada in international team competitions won't have to be tested, this is surely an outcome that suits both parties.

It may take a little longer to smooth over the ruffles caused when triathlete Simon Whitfield, also a former gold medalist, took a healthy rip at his sport's national governing body.

In that case, it was for its handling of teammate Paula Findlay's hip injury – "completely mismanaged" was his judgment.

That Mr. Whitfield crashed and Ms. Findlay finished dead last are two of the more heart-rending moments of these Games for Canada, along with Alex Despatie's final Olympic dive, of which the less is said, the better.

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Even when Canada isn't on either the pointy or the blunt end of a controversy, the national team somehow manages to pop up in the frame, Zelig-like.

No one who considers the question seriously should be surprised that Canada was unwitting bystander in the great Shuttlecock Gate match-fixing scandal – and got a shot at a badminton medal as a result.

We came up short, of course, which is fitting given the overall tone of these Olympics for Canada.

There is one thing that would help dissipate the anger, and that's more success. Team GB is all smiles and why not – they're winning medals as if they owned the place.

It's not to say there haven't been any stirring individual triumphs or group successes – Canada's showing at track is an under-reported story – it's just that they haven't been coming in as giddy and delirious a fashion as we all may have hoped.

It doesn't help when you get jobbed, as boxer Custio Clayton and Ms. Foster and the soccer team did.

Five days remain in these Olympics, and there are some very real medal possibilities – including a couple at gold – so perhaps the dark storm clouds will lift.

Until then, you don't have to look closely to tell whether Team Canada is laughing or snarling.

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More


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