Olympic athletes invest so much time into such fleeting moments. They trust that years of practice, training and discipline will save them a few hundredths of a second when they need them most.
Spectators and supporters of these athletes make smaller investments of their own. They use up vacation days, spring for airfare and accommodations. They leave their hotels early, take a bus to a shuttle to a security checkpoint, and ultimately to their seats. And they await that same fleeting moment.
When Manuel Osborne-Paradis left the gate for his run in the men’s downhill, it felt as though a current of energy was running through the maple-leaf wearers and wavers at the finish line. “Another day,” someone screamed, “another gold medal!”
At the first split, Osborne-Paradis was a quarter of a second behind the leader. The crowd roared. This was the moment. This was the moment that he and we had been waiting for.
The second interval: still close. Still within reach. Cowbells rang out. Shouting. Screaming. When Bode Miller began his run earlier in the day, a voice with him at the starting gate was heard to holler, “Hammer down!” As Osborne-Paradis descended, Canadian fans were hammer down.
And then the penultimate split, and Manuel Osborne-Paradis was a full second behind. In a fraction of an instant, the air at the finish line went silent and still.
In the crowd at Whistler Creekside, there were pockets of supporters for Swiss skiers, for Americans, for Austrians, Italians and others. They had had their moments. This was Canada’s moment, and it was gone.