February 18th, 2010
02:41 PM ET

Has the U.S. proved that winning's in the blood?

America's history-making performance at the Winter Olympics on Wednesday summed up why the country has a reputation for winning, and why no other nation should try to copy them – especially the hosts here in Canada.

Shaun White's gold on the half pipe was part of an American medal rush Wednesday (Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images).
Shaun White's gold on the half pipe was part of an American medal rush Wednesday (Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images).

Never before has the United States won so many medals on a single day of Winter Games competition – and four of the six athletes knew exactly what it takes to finish on top of an Olympic podium.

On the one hand, you could argue that this makes it easier for them to win again. However, I would say more people fail to carry on winning compared to those who are able to repeat significant triumphs.

The mark of a true sporting champion is someone who continues to rack up momentous victories despite the inexorable and burdensome rise of expectation.

And the Olympics is one of the harshest competitive spotlights of all. You have athletes from sports that are largely ignored for four years and who are then asked to perform in front of the world’s gaze.

The not so subtle message is: “Don’t worry, it’s only you and your entire country’s pride at stake.”

Which brings us to the hosts of these Games. This is my first visit to Canada and, while I wouldn’t presume to take Vancouver as representative of the whole country, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen. The locals have been friendly, the city feels homely and the surrounding landscape is spectacular.

Nearly all Canadians I have spoken to seem to be as self-deprecating as the British can be. For both countries, I would suggest there is an unwritten rule that the Americans can confidently strut as much as they like but we just don’t approach our sport like that.

However, the Canadians have approached these Olympic Games like that. There are television adverts banging the patriotic drum, hype surrounds every home medal hope and there is wall-to-wall maple-leaf mania.

Now, I’m not pretending for a second that my country – the UK – won’t do exactly the same thing when London hosts the summer games in 2012. But it won’t make it any less of a mistake.

There’s a fine line between wallowing in the glory of being a host nation, whipping up nationalistic fervour for the sake of making the event a commercial success and sabotaging your own athletes chances of success.

Would Canada have won more medals by now if they hadn’t tried so hard? Or do we have to admit the Americans are just born winners? After all, Lindsay Vonn, Shaun White and Shani Davis hit the golden target, despite everyone breathing down their necks.

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Filed under:  2010 Winter Games
February 18th, 2010
10:45 AM ET

No apologies Tiger, just be real

Tiger Woods fever is running high once again after the world number one's agent confirmed the golfer would speak publicly on Friday, for the first time since his "transgressions" and self-imposed exile from the game.

Obviously, we want him to return as the same great golfer he was when he left. And, once he’s shaken off the rust and weathered the media storm, there’s no reason why the post-scandal Tiger should play any differently from the pre-scandal Tiger when it comes to winning golf tournaments. But, more importantly, what do we want to see from Tiger the man?

Fans all over the world want to see Tiger playing golf again but what he does first is a bone of contention.
Fans all over the world want to see Tiger playing golf again but what he does first is a bone of contention.

Veteran American golfer, Tom Watson, would surely applaud the planned mea culpa interview, after advising Woods to do as much in recent interviews. The purpose being to show a contrite, changed man with a healthy dose of humility.

South African golfer, Retief Goosen, is among those who believe Tiger owes the sport an apology for the embarrassment he caused. While fellow player, Jesper Parnevik, who introduced Tiger to his future wife, Elin, also favors the sackcloth and ashes approach. Whether both will be satisfied with Friday's events remains to be seen.

Veteran golfer, Nick Faldo - who is no stranger to marital controversy himself - said that Tiger’s best course of action is to say very little and simply focus on playing golf. The Englishman reasoning that the game will be his salvation. It seems it is not just Colin Montgomerie who is shunning the advice of the former European Ryder Cup captain.

As for the media? Well, regardless of where the outlet stands on the tabloid to broadsheet continuum, the demand will be for public hari kiri, followed by some genuine evidence of remorse, during which the story can stay hot on the back of a load of psycho babble and analysis, ultimately leading to a glorious resurrection in which Tiger, with Elin on his arm, comes full circle as a husband, father, and walking talking life lesson, because everyone loves a happy ending.

What do I want from Tiger? Well, I don’t want an apology, as I’m not his wife, his kids, his friends, his family, or any of the sponsors whose money he took and then let down. I don’t want the mea culpa speech either. He has already confessed, and his actions in hiding speak louder than words. I know as much as I need to know about what he did, and why he did it seems patently obvious. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. What I do want though is for Tiger to start being real, whatever he says and whatever he does. Because replacing one façade with another would do nobody any good at all.

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Filed under:  Golf