There’s a line in Canada’s national anthem about “true, patriot love,” and Amy Gough felt that unique brand of affection in all its intensity during the Olympic Games last week.
The 32-year-old skeleton slider from Abbotsford felt it when she marched in the opening ceremonies with the rest of the Canadian team, and the cheering crowd threatened to blow the roof off B.C. Place.
She felt it again at the top of the track at the Whistler Sliding Centre last Thursday and Friday, as fans chanted her name. So powerful was the adrenaline rush, Gough may have asked her body for more than it was capable of.
“My hamstrings are still sore,” she marveled during a phone interview from the athletes’ village in Whistler on Tuesday. “I gave it all I had out there.”
There is satisfaction in being able to say that. Make no mistake, Gough would have dearly loved to leave Whistler with a medal around her neck. She was in second place following the first Olympic run last Thursday, trailing only eventual gold medallist Amy Williams of Great Britain. A slow second run knocked Gough down to seventh, though, and that’s where she ended up after four trips down the track – just 0.65 seconds out of a podium spot.
“If we could throw out one run, that would be phenomenal,” Gough joked. “But it just doesn’t work that way.
“Obviously (seventh place) wasn’t the goal that I came to accomplish, so it was a bit of a disappointment. But within those disappointments, there were some goals that I met. I had a really great second day (Friday).”
Gough’s immediate future includes a much-needed vacation in New Zealand. Beyond that, she’s not sure whether she’ll continue in the sport of skeleton, or pursue a “real job,” as she calls it.
“To be honest, I haven’t quite decided, and that’s what I think a relaxing trip away is going to help with,” she said. “It’s been seven-and-a-half years of huge dedication.”
Whether or not the Olympics were her skeleton swan song, Gough will always remember the Games.
“Walking into the opening ceremonies was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life,” she said. “It was amazing to see how many people were there to support us, and they were going crazy. It was so cool, and the lighting of the torches was quite emotional for me.
“A lot of my friends came out (to Whistler) on Thursday – some people I hadn’t seen since high school. That was really neat, and it was really touching to have them come out to watch.”
In recent days, the Canadian Olympic Committee’s “Own the Podium” program has been a lightning rod for criticism as it’s become increasingly clear that Canada will not finish atop the medal count. While the program funded elite athletes’ training to the tune of $110 million over the past five years, critics are charging that the ambitious podium-or-bust mentality put undue stress on the Canadian athletes.
Gough, for her part, said that the Own the Podium program didn’t add any pressure that she didn’t already put on herself.
“As athletes, I think we’re the toughest ones on ourselves,” she said. “I had expectations of coming in one-two-three, because I knew it was absolutely possible.
“I do think Own the Podium is a good program, because it’s paid the bills for us to do a lot of things that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.”