March 1st, 2010
11:19 PM ET

At Olympics closing, lone athlete stands proudly for Chile

If you watched Sunday’s closing ceremony of the just concluded Olympic Winter Games, you saw a mix of humor and humility. Canadians, known for poking fun at themselves, did plenty of it during the two-hour show from BC Place in downtown Vancouver. From actor and commercial pitchman William Shatner rising from the center of the stage to proclaim, in his own special way, that he’s proud to be Canadian to the huge floating moose that circled the arena from high above, the closing ceremony had it all.

Noelle Barahona on the snowy slopes of Whistler near Vancouver. (AFP/Getty Images)
Noelle Barahona on the snowy slopes of Whistler near Vancouver. (AFP/Getty Images)

Amid all the joyous mayhem that ensued in the wake of the terrific 17-day sporting festival, there was one Olympian taking part in the Vancouver Games finale who could be excused if her mind was elsewhere.

Chilean alpine skier Noelle Barahona almost missed the ceremony. If it wasn’t for the fact that she couldn’t get a flight back to her homeland earlier in the weekend, Barahona would have already been back on South American soil.

While Barahona and the small Chilean delegation prepared to close out the final weekend of the games, a deadly earthquake shook their homeland to its very core. The news spread north and the rush to the airport was on. When Barahona learned that family members, many of whom accompanied the skier to Vancouver, and friends in her native Santiago were fine, Noelle decided to take part in the closing extravaganza.

Barahona was the only Chilean athlete to walk into BC Place with her fellow Olympians. Chile’s two other athletes, both alpine skiers, had already left Vancouver as they had previously planned.

The night gave Barahona a chance to catch-up with and say goodbye to the many friends that she made during her stay in the athletes village. It allowed the skier to reflect on her Olympic experience. It also, for a few short hours, gave the Chilean a chance to enjoy her remaining hours in Canada before making the trip south and into the unknown.

Life for Noelle Barahona was surreal, on many levels, here at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Returning to life in an earthquake ravaged country will likely be the same.

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Filed under:  2010 Winter Games
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Vikram Chauhan

    She's fine, her family is fine, but lots of Chileans are not fine. Surreal

    CNN , please concentrate on the news. Don't make a human interest story where none exists.

    March 2, 2010 at 1:29 am | Reply
  2. Monica_chile

    Noelle shows the real spirit of chilean people. We are now facing the most terrible nightmare you could ever imagine. But, as Noelle did, we will proudly stand from the ground and start from zero. Thank you all for your attention and coverage to the tragedy my country is going through right now.

    March 2, 2010 at 3:39 am | Reply
  3. Miyake@Tokyo

    Noelle, I fully understand your hard situation and hope you and your family, friends, colleagues soon overcome this difficulty. As an amateur skier of Japan, I wish you all make it and go on skiing for future world competitions!

    March 2, 2010 at 5:19 am | Reply
  4. jes_james

    She is what the Olympics symbolizes, to represent ones country, to be the best sports person one can be and to respect ones fellow Olympian. I hope she will compete again in the next Olympics.

    March 2, 2010 at 6:18 am | Reply
  5. Claire Finn

    Noelle, We are so proud of you. Fuerza Chile!

    March 2, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Reply
  6. Don Jenkins

    I am asking that you review your Olympic coverage and apologize to the Canadian people for the many negative productions done .

    I, a Canadian, currently in Hanoi during the Olympics, could only receive reports through your network.
    Unfortunately, these were very wrong and intentionally anti-Vancouver .
    In 1988, when the Games were in Calgary, there was no such bias. Canada failed to earn a gold medal, but the Games were enjoyed by all.

    A program was funded to increase Canada's level of coaching so that we would be more competitive. The results were amazing! Canada won more medals than ever before, and more gold than any country in the history of winter sport.

    America's noticeable decrease of the dynamic spirit that has made it a great friend and neighbour, might have been caused by the media's concentration on the negative. The emerging nations of the Far East appear far more vibrant than your post- recession "malaise". Where is your zest for life gone? Fix the banking system; fix your health care system; lessen the lobbies and retake the lead.

    You need not put your neighbours down. Canada is enjoying the fruits of a great Olympic Games. Perhaps America, with its great young hockey team would have been better served by winning that final game; but, you, the media, must do your part to restore your nation's great spirit! You have been knocked to the canvass, but the world wants you to get up and fight again.

    March 3, 2010 at 9:34 am | Reply

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