Fourth try the silver charm for Olympian
Speedskating: MD councillor has 2006
Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 06:00 am
An MD of Foothills councillor knows that if at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again.
Jason Parker tried three times to make the Canadian Olympic speedskating team and on his fourth attempt, he ended up on the podium with a silver medal in team pursuit at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turino, Italy.
“I missed the Olympic team in 1994, again in 1998, both times I had gotten really sick prior to the trials,” the 38-year-old Parker said. “In 2002, I missed it again. Over those three attempts I was an alternate for four different events, but they don’t send alternates to the Olympics.
“Over that 12-year time frame, anytime someone heard I was on the Canadian team, the first question I was asked was: ‘Have you been to the Olympics?’ For 12 years I had to say no.”
Parker began skating in 1986 when his hometown Yorkton hosted the Saskatchewan Winter Games. He was too young to participate, but he had the bug. He went on to become a two-time recipient of the Saskatchewan Male Athlete of the Year.
Finally in 2006, he could say yes to earning a spot on the Olympic team.
“Even though I made the team I was a little conservative in my emotions until the opening ceremonies, because I thought I might get hit by a truck or break my leg, because I seemed to have the Olympic curse,” he said with a laugh. “I have never been so excited than just before they opened the doors to walk into the opening ceremonies.
“The anticipation, the electricity was so emotional — to represent my country was the biggest sense of pride I had ever had in my life.”
He made the team pursuit team along with Arne Dankers, Steven Elm, Justin Warsylewicz and Denny Morrison. Team pursuit has three-man teams competing against each other head-to-head through eight-laps around the 400m track. The two teams start at the same time, on opposite sides of the oval.
The race has team members skating together, changing positions to take advantage of drafting and to keep one another fresh. The official time is when the final member crosses the finish line.
Canada advanced to the quarterfinals due to its results in qualifying heats.
Parker laced up the skates for Team Canada in the quarterfinal, going against Japan.
“There is a sense of excitement and the sense of fear, knowing that if something happens or if you fall, you are done,” Parker said. “I tried as best as possible to focus on our game plan and the outcome we wanted to have.”
Team Canada skated flawlessly against Japan, beating them by a second-and-a-half.
It would be the last time he would skate at the 2010 Olympics. Parker was not selected to skate in the semifinal or the final.
“I was still on the ice for the warm-up because you never know if there is going to be an injury — I prepared as if I was going to be in the semi or final,” Parker said. “Plus I wanted to be there for support, to help them relax and feel prepared. Obviously, I was disappointed I wasn’t in the final, but that was out of my control.”
The Canadians beat Norway in the semifinal, and met Italy for the gold.
Watching was hard on Parker’s nerves. He stood beside the ice yelling and cheering for his teammates at the final.
It’s a real feeling of helplessness — I found it more nerve-wracking watching than when I did race because it is out of my control,” Parker said. “You want to be out there because then you have some control on the outcome.”
Parker watched as one of Canada’s skater nearly fell early in the race when the ice broke away and it was catch-up for the rest of the race. They finished nearly three seconds behind Italy.
“The guy behind him actually grabbed him so he didn’t fall,” Parker said. “It was tough watching it… There was nothing he could have done. The ice just broke.”
Parker, the elder statesman on the team at 30, put his arm around his devastated teammate and told him: “Hey, man we just won a silver medal at the Olympics which has been our dream our whole lives.”
Parker and his teammates then stood beside Team Italy on the podium.
“It was an amazing experience. They were the host country, it was their first gold medal of the games and their first gold medal in speedskating history,” Parker said. “I actually begin to shutter again just talking about it. I had a sense of peace in my life and a sense of pride for representing my country. It was the last time I ever skated.”