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Opinion: Thrilling rowing finish in Tokyo proof it takes a village to raise an Olympian

Lions Bay residents honour homegrown Olympian Madison Mailey, one of the ‘Girls in the Boat’
Madison Mailey
The Women’s Eight rowers competition at the Games in Tokyo, held on July 23, were made extra special in the Village of Lions Bay, where residents turned out to support their homegrown talent.

Yesterday (July 23), my wife Donna and I got the same goose bumps that Canadians around the world got, watching our Women’s Eight rowers come second in a thrilling heat at the Tokyo Olympics. They caught the China team in the last 200 metres of the 2,000-m race but got nosed out for first place by the worthy international champions, from New Zealand. The Canadian women won the right to continue in the quest for medals.

What made the event especially memorable for us was the exuberant celebration only two hours before in the Village of Lions Bay, population 1,334, situated on the steep hillside overlooking resplendent Howe Sound, between West Vancouver and Squamish.

Many of Lions Bay’s residents turned out to honour their homegrown Olympian, Madison Mailey, one of the “Girls in the Boat.” Attending were political representatives, representatives from the Japanese Consulate, three other Lions Bay former Olympians, talented student musicians, a local guitarist who performed his song about Madison, an RCMP officer in full regalia, the renowned team of Fire and Rescue guys (each of whom looks like an Olympian), and the ebullient anchors of the show, Madison’s parents. Fifty volunteers helped put the event together -- think of that -- four per cent of the community participated in creating one event! They decorated the Village’s one playing field, producing a cake, and even coming up with torches from the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay.

The billboards promoting the pageant told the story - a smiling Olympian and an ambassador for a community who filled them with pride and knew she was the product of a united community investment.

Madison’s parents, Kim and Victoria Mailey, grasped completely the essence of the story -- that it takes a village to raise an Olympian. They thanked their community profusely and made sure that Madison’s story would inspire the many youngsters and their parents in the crowd. As they said:

“Teach your children to believe in themselves and that they are champions.”

“EQ skills are just as important as IQ skills. “

“Love what you do. Focus on what turns you on. Maybe it’s something you’ll be good at. “

“Do something bigger than ourselves.”

Last night’s fantastic race in Tokyo was the icing on a cake served in a community thousands of kilometres away, a community that supports its youth, cares for one another, walks humbly, yet celebrates its champions.

That, I’d say, is the story of an Olympic Village.

John Weston served as the member of Parliament for West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He’s president of the Canadian Health and Fitness Institute and a candidate for MP in the upcoming federal election.

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