It was so nice that the Smiths of Edmonton and the Windsors of London finally met, especially since both are First Families and both rose to their present station through water power. When Graham, second son of Canada’s swimming Smiths, shook the hand of Andrew, second son of
England’s Royal House of Windsor, on Wednesday afternoon, August 9, they also held in common the focus of the Commonwealth Games’ television cameras. And when the prince draped the gold medal for the 100-metre breaststroke over the bulldoggish Smith—his fifth such medal—it marked the 25th first-place finish for Canada, the country’s best showing in the 48year history of the Games, with three days still to go. Then, with Andrew standing appropriately to the side, Smith stood with his barrel chest pointing proudly toward the pool named after his late father and belted out the Canadian national anthem.
Truly it was something to sing about. Smith went on to win an unprecedented sixth gold medal, a royal performance in its own right, and dominated a spotlight that danced magnanimously over a number of Canadian heads. In swimming alone, Canadian athletes won 15 of the 29 events, with Bill Sawchuck’s seven medals outshone only by Smith’s six golds. In track, Diane Jones-Konihowski’s 4,768 points in the pentathlon was a remarkable 129 points over her own Commonwealth record. Other impressive victories came in women’s discus (Carmen Ionesco), high jump (Claude Ferragne), weight lifting (Russ Prior and Marc Cardinal), cycling (three golds by Jocelyn Lovell) and shooting (Jules Sobrian, with two golds). Canada also fared well in diving, gymnastics and wrestling, and had surprisingly good
showings in badminton, boxing and, particularly, lawn bowling, where the country hadn’t seen a medal since 1954. Any shadows that fell, fell among competitors from another arena: the politicians. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was initially accused of snubbing the Queen by being in the Mediterranean when she arrived in Canada, but a rumored rift between the two was later dismissed as “absolute and total rubbish” by a Buckingham Palace official. Alberta’s own Peter Lougheed received most of the bad press—particularly in Britain—by appearing to be electioneering on the Queen’s skirt tails. Despite protocol’s insistence on only one open car (the Queen’s) in any parade, the premier appeared directly behind the royal car in his own convertible, standing and waving as if he’d just won the Stanley Cup.
But all that had nothing to do with the actual Games. The weather deserved a medal itself, as did the CBC coverage. And there were also the remarkable performances from other countries: England’s Daley Thompson in the decathlon: Jamaica’s Donald Quarrie winning his third successive victory in the 100-metre dash; and the lazy, laughing way Kenya’s Henry
Rono—who holds four world records— demonstrated why he is very likely the finest runner in history.
Nor were these Games, as so many athletic events are, a celebration of youth. At the same time as people were saying British Columbia’s Karen Kelsall might be washed up as a gymnast at age 15—she came fourth, behind three other Canadians—there was New Zealand’s Precious McKenzie, at 42, winning his fourth gold medal in weight lifting. Admittedly, he did announce his retirement immediately afterward—but only from weight lifting. Next time, he says, he’ll be back as a lawn bowler. ROY MACGREGOR
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