Karen Cockburn lost the bronze medal by .09 points to He Wenna (Gregory Bull, Associated Press)
Canada's armchair Olympians: always wantin' more. An insatiable wish to see the country win more Olympic medals shouldn't override understanding the technical aspects of these sports everyone becomes an expert in every four years.
Honestly, addressing the idea that trampolinist Karen Cockburn was hosed out of a bronze medal or swimmer Ryan Cochrane should have had gold in the men's 1,500 freestyle on Saturday goes under the heading of "wait, what?" There was a small groundswell of we-wuz-robbed on Saturday after both results. Cockburn was bumped off the podium, first by teammate Rosie MacLennan and then by China's He Wenna, who received a score of 0.09 points higher despite a slip on her final trick. Three hours later, in Cochrane's final at the London Aquatic Centre, there was confusion after Sun Yang jumped into the pool before Cochrane and any other swimmers. To some, that meant that Yang should have been disqualified — which frankly was the only way he would not have won.
What actually happened? It wasn't a false start, as Y!'s own Nicholas J. Cotsonika explained:
Sun was not disqualified because he did not actually false start. The swimmers were told to take their marks and then to step down, because the crowd was too loud. Sun heard the second command and took off. He didn't leave before the start signal because there was no start signal yet.
Sun was upset when the officials pushed the swimmers back on the blocks quickly, making a couple of timeout signals with his hands. The other swimmers felt rushed, too.
Earlier, amid her moment of triumph, MacLennan said it was "bittersweet" that her teammate and mentor Cockburn completed her Olympics career finishing out of the medals. The entire country thought multiple medals were in the offing when He Wenna slipped on the mat. But falls aren't as damning in trampoline as in other judged sports (and come to think, haven't figure skaters in major meets fallen and still managed to win a bronze medal)? Canadian coach Dave Ross accepted the result.
"I am a little shocked the Chinese girl [He] hung on to third place so Karen got bumped down. "Karen's routine was very nice, too. I thought it was a little bit underscored. But it's a judged sport. And Karen, to be fair to the sport and the judges, is an athlete from another generation. At the end of her moves, she pikes a bit and that's sort of becoming passe. So it depends on how much they noticed it or how hard they deducted.
"Technically, there's supposed to be no deduction. But when you see other people holding their line longer, it's easy to give them a slightly higher mark." (National Post)
[Slideshow: Canada at the Olympics on Day 8]
(Excuse the mind-reading, but MacLennan's "bittersweet" comment probably reflects more on how the scenario that only she or Cockburn, but not both, would medal at London 2012. China is really, really good at the tra-mamp-o-line.)
So what's happening here? It's probably an Olympian stretch to say there's been a trickle-down from Own The Podium's objectives, which are eagerly parroted by much of the Canadian media, to the country. It is discomfiting if we cannot be happy with a three-medal day. It shows a need for validation we don't need, as Cathal Kelly pointed out:
Own The Podium is a great idea, but only as long as it represents a hoped-for destination, rather than a programmatic demand that we win a bunch of things — or else.
Nobody needs to win anything for Canada. Canada's fine on its own.
... If Olympic success is about collective choices, we've got it pretty much right — spending just enough to have a variety of muscular programs, but not so much that the real work of governance is sublimated to a once-every-second-year national sugar rush.
I'd rather have one more MRI machine, one more spot in assisted living, one less fellow citizen suffering, than a dump truck full of gold medals.
We should enjoy the success of our athletes, but should not bind ourselves up in it. It isn't fair to them.
[Slideshow: Up close and personal with Olympic athletes]
Cochrane, as noted in this space on Saturday, won the country's first swimming silver since 1996. MacLennan won its first trampoline gold. Hoist a few celebratory pints over that; it's better than whine.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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