The last formal Medal Ceremony at Whistler Medals Plaza in Whistler Village was tonight. It was a FREE first-come-first-serve spectator event. I was so excited to attend, I went as soon as my work shift ended. The gates opened at 5:30 p.m. I secured a place right in front, which was my goal since I’m short and I wanted to capture video/photos. The venue has a capacity of 8,000. People soon began to come in and fill up the space. They were dancing to a DJ and chatting away as they waited for the event to begin at 7 p.m. A group of very enthusiastic Japanese athletes and supporters showed up with a huge flag and a long green fabric fish. People immediately flocked to them and started taking pictures. Shortly after, the ceremony began. A lot of divisions received medals, but two of them in particular were my favorite …
Brian McKeever of Canada skied with his brother and guide Robin McKeever in the men’s 10 km classic cross-country, visually impaired event and won the GOLD. I thought it was interesting that they are a brother team. I was surprised to learn that in the visually impaired division, the guide receives the same medal as the athlete and is honored in the ceremony! (see photo above)
Two American women were honored in the women’s Alpine, sitting division. Alana Nichols of the U.S. won the GOLD and Laurie Stephens won the SILVER. (Claudia Loesch of Austria won the BRONZE.) The women were all so ecstatic about their victories, they were bouncing in their wheelchairs. Their enthusiasm was infectious. When they raised the flags and played our anthem I started to cry. It was the first time I ever witnessed a medals ceremony in person. I was filled with pride for our country. It was incredibly moving. As the trio wheeled off to the side of the stage to pose for the press, they threw their flowers into the crowd.
It was such a joyous evening that I found myself cheering for all the winners, regardless of which country they were from. The Paralympic athletes are so impressive, you can’t help but root for all of them. It was a wonderful evening.