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Extending Canadian pride beyond the Winter Games



One of my favourite side effects of the Winter Olympics is that it's the one time that Canadians are more unapologetically patriotic than any other.

We get to tout our athletic prowess in a coterie of winter sports we traditionally excel at, and even some we don't. The nationalistic fervour always tends to reach a boiling point whenever we beat our geopolitical pals to the south, and the unabashed pride Canadians feel after winning over the U.S. is something I wish we got to see more than every four years.

Take our women's hockey team's thrilling come-from-behind OT victory over its fierce rivals in red, white and blue from last Thursday. The jubilation that spread across the country in the aftermath of Marie-Philip Poulin's timely goal was a sight to behold. A quick YouTube search comes up with hundreds of ecstatic reaction videos, from high school gymnasiums to the bowels of Toronto's City Hall (Rob Ford's three-inch vertical is another sight to behold, albeit for very different reasons). There were dozens of clips of maple-leaf emblazoned fans dancing like they were on designer drugs, restaurants advertising their Soup of the Day as "American Tears," and Sportsnet radio hosts Sid Sexeiro and Tim Micallef cutting off mid-sentence to lose their respective minds.

"Knock knock, who's there?" Sexeiro cackled. "GOLD MEDAL TO THE FACE, THAT'S WHO!"

This is not the kind of unassuming, polite behaviour that Canucks have become known for, in case you haven't noticed. Canadians have always had an uneasy relationship with nationalism, and one can only assume that has something to do with the large shadow cast by our superpower neighbours below the 49th Parallel.

But our chests puff out a little further during the Winter Games, those glorious few weeks when the whole country allows itself to revel in borderline jingoism. And why not? We've certainly had plenty to cheer about in Sochi, even if you don't count yet another impressive medal haul from our guys and gals in Hudson's Bay gear.

Early on we saw a genuine moment of selflessness from Canadian speed skater Gilmore Junio that set the tone for the rest of the Games. Junio literally took one for the team, giving up his hard-earned spot in the 1,000-metre final to teammate and three-time Olympian Denny Morrison.

"To represent Canada at the Olympics is a huge honour and privilege but I believe that as Canadians, we're not just here to compete; we are here to win," Junio told the media.

But no one would have faulted Junio even if Morrison hadn't ended up taking home the silver, his third piece of Olympic hardware. What he did was inherently Canadian, and that's good enough even without a win.

There was a Canadian cross-country ski coach coming to the aid of Russian athlete Anton Gafarov after he broke one of his skis in a nasty fall. Without so much as a word between the two, Justin Wadsworth replaced Gafarov's ski so he could finish the race with his head held high.

In the ultimate display of humility, we saw freesking superstar Alex Bilodeau pass the figurative torch to his second-place finishing teammate and close friend Mikael Kingsbury in the moments after his gold medal finish.

"That guy that finished second, he is going to win everything after I'm gone," Bilodeau said.

All of these instances are underlined with a common thread: valuing the greater good. Where Americans have long valued the individual, Canada's DNA has been instilled with a collectivist spirit since the frontier days when pioneers braved the harsh elements and had to rely on community to survive. Where the Yanks boast about America's exceptionalism, we Canadians tend to let our actions — like those of our commendable Olympic athletes — speak louder than our words.

Of course, there's nothing even remotely wrong with that, it's a quality that makes us who we are. But how refreshing would it be if this outward display of patriotism extended beyond the Winter Games? Sure, boasting about universal healthcare, or low crime rates or a stable economy may not be as sexy as another victory from our superstar hockey team, but we have every right to do so.

So with Sochi in the rearview, go ahead Canada; walk with a little more swagger in your step and hold your heads a little higher. You've certainly earned it.

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