Party talk from Canada Olympic House I love good food and the wine (no doubt about that) but the litmus test of a party's success, for me, is my recall a couple days later of great one-liners and memorable who-said-what moments. And while I did chow down on a great buffet at the Procter and Gamble bash at Canada Olympic House the other night, it was the casual chatting with Canadian Olympians and their families that stuck most in my mind the morning after. What started with a touching tribute from Olympic kayaker Adam van Koeverden to his mom, Beata, for her help in getting him (several times) to the Olympic podium, ended in a laid-back, informal gab-fest. And the lovely thing about our Canadian Olympians, so I've learned since arriving in London last week, is their uncanny ability to share of themselves. Here are some of the personal touches and everyday insights into our Olympians and their families: #1. Boxer Mary Spencer: "My mom plays the accordion" [caption id="attachment_12794" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Boxer Mary Spencer, her mom, Ruth Spencer, and Canadian Living's Doug O'Neill"] [/caption]
•••I watched boxer Mary Spencer , ambassador for CoverGirl, fight a very tight bout earlier in the week. She's won Gold at the 2011 Pan American Games and not once but three times she's taken the gold at the Women’s World Championships (in 2005, 2008, 2010).
Three everyday things I learned about Mary and her mom: • Mary is a gentle lamb in person, ditto for her mother. • In context of the Thank You Mom campaign, I asked Mary if there was anything people didn't know about her mother, Ruth: "Yes," said Mary with a devilish grin, "She plays the accordion!" • Post-Olympic plans? "I'm going to keep training, which is something I always do, but I hope to get a bit of down time, a good break this time, and do some reading. I realized from a recent conversation with a friend that I don't know much about the Second World War so I'm going to read some historical books."#2. Simon Whitfield: "I love good food!" [caption id="attachment_12795" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Olympian triathlete Simon Whitfield and Canadian Living's Doug O'Neill at Canada Olympic House, London"] [/caption]
•••Team Canada's Opening Ceremony flag-bearer Simon Whitfield has been to the Olympic podium multiple times throughout his career.
A few things about Simon: • Throughout my entire conversation, which started with me stealing Simon away from his cheese cake, he spoke about "we," not "me." Clearly, his profession as a triathlete is a family venture, each decision involving his wife and two young daughters. • He loves good food. Simon says his wife is an excellent cook. They love trying new foods all the time. (He got excited when I offered to send him a couple Canadian Living cook-books.) •"Will you encourage your two young daughters to embrace sports?" "My wife and I aren't going to push them consciously into sports," says Simon. "My youngest girl is a little monkey, constantly active, so I wouldn't be surprised if she becomes athletic. My other girl is into dressing up. We want to let them grow into their own interests. It must happen naturally."#3. Adam van Koeverden: "Talking is hugely important. You can't keep it all in." [caption id="attachment_12796" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Olympic medalist Adam van Koeverden at Canada Olympic House, London"] [/caption]
•••Adam van Koeverden won another silver medal at the London Summer Games to add to his burgeoning collection of previous Olympic medals and World Championship wins.
A little more insight into Adam: •"Talking is important. You can't keep it all in," said Adam. "I'm a firm believer in talking, opening up, sharing what's on your mind. Whether it's a problem, or an emotional hurdle, you can't keep it in. It only makes sense to talk about it." •"I come from a good divorced family." Adam shared this in his opening remarks to the gathering at Canada Olympic House and I asked him about it later. "Why wouldn't I share that? I have a great mom, and a great dad who's always been there for me. In fact, we're all staying together in one house on the outskirts of London for the duration of the Olympics. My mom and dad haven't been married for 25 years. But we're all here together. Just last night, my dad, Joe, did all the cooking. My mom is with us. My Aunt Theresa is here as well, and my brother. Why would I gloss over anythng? That's the family we are, and it works." • "As a society, we must put the fun back into fitness. The two must go together," said Adam. "Being active is important. It's your health. It's your responsibility - but it doesn't necessarily have to be an organized sport. And you don't have to do anything dramatic. Being fit is an accumulation of taking the stairs for instance, instead of the elevators, decisions that will benefit your body." •Fitness minded teachers and role models: "PhysEd and fitness programs in schools across Canada are only good if you have good teachers, good role models. Fitness programs don't work if you've got a teacher who's really not into it."[caption id="attachment_12807" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Adam' van Koeverden's Aunt Theresa and super supportive dad, Joe van Koeverden"] [/caption]
•••#4. Olympic moms Sheila Findlay and Beata Bokrossy: "It's our job." [caption id="attachment_12800" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Close chums Beata Bokrossy (Adam van Koeverden's mom) and Sheila Findlay (mother of triathlete Paula Findlay) kick back at P&G party at Canada Olympic House (Photo: Doug O'Neill)"] [/caption]
•••I've met and blogged about Beata Bokrossy (mother to kayaker Adam van Koeverden) and Sheila Findlay (mom to triathlete Paula Findlay) a few times already. I wasn't surprised to see them hanging out together on the sofa at the Canada House Party. They're chummy - and there's a definite mischievous side to them when they're together!
Two insightful quotes, from Sheila Findlay and Beata van Koeverden: • From Sheila Findlay: "It's my job." It's only recently that I've heard the mom's role in an aspiring athlete's life expressed that way. But, yes, it totally makes sense. "Supporting Paula is what I do right now. I take it seriously. I have to. I want to. Paula takes her 'job' as a triathlete very seriously and you can see that. For me, being there for my daughter has always been important, not just from chauffeuring her when she was younger before she could drive, but right now. There's a lot that has to be done. Of course I worry about her, I'm her mom. And sometimes I have to pull back. That part is tough. Occasionally I'll be on the verge of asking her, "'Did you pack your running shoes, did you brush your teeth?' She'll kill me for saying that!" • Beata Bokrossy: "Adrenaline, it's what enables moms to lift cars off children." Beata actually spoke those powerful words earlier in the week, on Wednesday right after Adam won his silver. Beata had suffered some back trouble earlier in the week, she was in great discomfort. But she got some help -- but also, according to Beata, the adrenaline of the week leading up to Adam's race had a healing effect on her as well. The back pain was gone. Perhaps she said that expression half-jokingly, overstated maybe, but the message was clear: This woman would - and will - do anything for her boys.
•••5. Marina and Tony Weinberger: Humour is the best policy. [caption id="attachment_12804" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Tony and Marina Weinberger, proud (and hilarious) Dad and Mom of Olympic swimmer Richard Weinberger, who won a bronze this past week at the London Games"] [/caption]
•••Richard Weinberg won the bronze medal in the Men's Marathon Swimming last Friday. The 22-year-old from Victoria, the youngest swimmer in a race dominated by older, seasoned swimmers, is the first Canadian to win an Olympic marathon swim medal. "Training is hard and this is like Christmas morning," said Richard Weinberger said in one news interview. "I'm still working and gaining speed and endurance (to) get my 'old-man strength. "That's what I call it," referring to his youthful status in the stable of older swimmers. Marina and Tony's pride in their son's Olympic achievement is obvious with one glance at the backs of their T-shirts. [caption id="attachment_12836" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Richard Weinberger's parents, Tony and Marina, celebrated their son's bronze medal on the backs of their T-shirts, at the P&G party at Canada Olympic House"] [/caption]
•••Meeting and chatting with Richard's parents, Marina and Tony, I have a good idea where their son's punchiness comes from.
Best (funny) lines from Marina and Tony Weinberger: • Tony Weinberger: Butt of the joke: Before I formally introduced myself to Tony, I spotted his T-shirt, tapped him on the shoulder and asked if I could photograph the back of his customized T-shirt. Snap, took the pic. Then he turns around and says to me: "Did you just take a photograph of my butt? Is it going on the Internet? Cool." Turning to his wife, "Honey, my butt is going on the Internet." • Marina Weinberger: "You're going to photoshop that photo of me before using it, right? Make me pretty!" This is one funny couple. I've heard from several parents of Olympic athletes over the past week that the experience leading up to the Games, and throughout, can be intense. With all that pressure on the athletes, a little laughter helps. Those two ingredients of pride and humour? The Weinbergers have them both in spades.So, what do you think is the most important skill in parenting an active, healthy child? Post your answer below and you could win a Procter and Gamble Olympic personal care kit - just like the one every athlete in Olympic Village received upon arrival in London. (Only one answer per post. Enter as many times as you like.) Enjoy the remainder of the 2012 London Olympics! And stay tuned. I will be attending the Closing Ceremony tonight. Follow me on Twitter @dougoneill