Asian Canadian Olympic Athletes: Women's Ice Skaters mix cultural themes just like Canada's interculturalism


Asian Canadian Olympic Athletes: Women's Ice Skaters mix cultural themes

Watching the Women's figure skating is one of my favorite Olympic
events.  It was a special treat to watch Michelle Kwan skate (if
only in practice) during the World Championships in Vancouver back in
2001.  There is a special balance of grace and power, beauty and
athleticism.

But most of all, today I was struck by the intermixing of ethnic
musical themes…  American Sasha Cohen skated to the Russian folk
theme of “Dark Eyes” for her short program, then to the Italian
composer Nino Rota's score for the movie “Romeo & Juliet” for her
long program.  Russian Irina Slutskaya skated to a Spanish
flamenco soundtrack, and Japanese gold medal winner Shizuka Arakawa
skated to Italian Puccini's Turandot opera music, which was set in
China.

I have always enjoyed watching atheletes such as Kristi Yamaguchi, Michelle Kwan and pairs skater Megan Wing
because they represent Asian-North Americans, that have been accepted
to represent their country.  It has taken a long time for Asian-Canadians
to be more accepted in professional and amateur sports.  Size
doesn't seem to be as much of an issue as it is in hockey or
football.  But football hall-of-famer Normie Kwong and hockey star Paul Kariya,
certainly have given little Asian-Canadian boys sports heros to look up
to, where they can go out and compete and feel like they too can
accomplish, compete and belong. 

Canada's first Member of Parliament of Chinese descent was Douglas Jung,
born in Canada and a WW 2 veteran.  He told a story about becoming
Canada's representative to the United Nations and being told that he
was in the wrong seat (marked Canada) and that the seat for China was
elsewhere.  This is not dissimilar to Kristi Yamguchi being
misidentified by media broadcasters as “skating for Japan”, or Michelle
Kwan being misidentified as “a Chinese skater.”

As a young Asian Canadian, I grew up not being encouraged to go for
sports, even though I did fairly well on my highschool wrestling and
badminton teams.  I do believe that my brother and I missed our
athletic calling in the then-new sport of freestyle skiing as we easily
out-moguled and performed ski ballet tricks better than our friends,
and generally most other people on the mountain.  It helped that we had pictures of premier freestyle skier Wayne Wong on our walls. 

For any ethnic minority, sometimes just feeling like you fit in, is the
hardest thing to find.  This is one of the positives of having
government supported and endorsed multicultural programs.  It has
filtered into many aspects of society.  More immigrants to Canada
have also broadened our concepts of multiculturalism, and inter-racial
and inter-cultural marriages have produced younger generations of
children who can claim many ancestral ethnic heritages – but still have challenges
feeling like they fit in.

And now there is a new generation of Olympic Asian-Canadians that include medal winning Women's hocky player Vicky Sunohara, figure skater Mira Leung, and hopefully soon… snowboarder Alexa Loo.  As well as American speed skater Apollo Ohno.  Seeing athletes like Indo-Italian-Canadian figure skater Emanuel Sandhu
and the half-Japanese Karyia hockey brothers, speaks to our sense of a
nation that can value all races and cultures equally. 
Inter-racial marriage is accepted especially in a city like Vancouver,
which has the highest ratio of inter-racial couples in Canada. 
This is the message of racial and cultural harmony that Vancouver 2010
can give to the world at the next winter Olympics.  The World is
Welcome in Vancouver!

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