Wetzel: Olympic Athlete on the Spirit of the Games

  • Tue Jan 12th, 2010 9:00am
  • Sports

A 2008 Olympic gold medalist is returning home to discuss the spirit of the Olympic games.

Jake Wetzel, a three-time Olympian, will be visiting schools, attending Torch-Relay events and participating in an upcoming club night at Mount 7 Recplex on January 20.

During his extensive and celebrated Olympic career, Wetzel has competed in Sydney, Athens and Beijing as part of the Canadian eight-man rowing team. During the 2004 Athens games, Wetzel’s team battled to a silver medal, after being just edged out in an epic photo finish with Britain. At the 2008 Beijing games, Wetzel and the Canadian team proved victorious, defeating the competition and taking home the gold.

“After losing in Athens when victory was close, and winning in Beijing four years later, there was a moment when I was standing on the podium and the weight of the world was lifted. I was free. All my life’s work to that point had paid off,” says Wetzel.

Wetzel moved to Golden in 2000 after embarking on a two-month ski touring mission with a friend. Upon hitting the backcountry and seeing what the area has to offer, Wetzel was impressed and decided to plant some roots. These days, Wetzel spends most of his time outside of town pursuing a PhD in Finance and Urban Land Economics from the University of British Columbia. Aside from Athletics and Academia, he also pursues a business career and is currently in the process of developing two housing units in town.

Wetzel reports that his experiences in town have been very positive, and he appreciates the sense of community and optimism that permeates in Golden. He hopes that the upcoming Torch Relay events will help the town appreciate and support local sports programs and excellence at the community level.

“What the Olympics means, for many people, does not feel very tangible. There are a lot of negative criticisms from anti-Olympic groups about how much the games cost and how corporate it has become, which takes away from the true spirit of the games. Having seen the games from an athlete’s point of view, I’m hoping I can share what that experience is all about and change the mindset of what is about to happen. I’d like to share why the Olympics is a good thing.”

“I can’t emphasize enough how sports helps shape people’s identity, deal with uncertainty and hone competition and life skills. It helps people determine an objective that is uncertain, where there are no guarantees, just like life. Olympics or not, it’s easy to get stuck in the world of gratification, it’s important that young people have the opportunity to escape this pattern.”

“Human beings are made to move. They are not made to sit around driving their vehicles and watching TV. The Olympics reminds people there are other things to do.”

Wetzel says the spirit of the games comes in many forms, each time the games are held in a different city around the world the Olympics embody a slightly different character.

“In recent years, Athens was probably the most successful Olympics in terms of displaying the true nature of sport and competitiveness. The entire country, almost every single person, was 100 percent behind it. There were no detractors taking away from its meaning. It was also momentous in that it was the 100th Anniversary celebrating the origin of the games. Sydney was extremely successful as well, in terms of embodying the true spirit of sport. The whole country is all about sports.”

Wetzel says the Torch Relay events provide a wonderful opportunity for Golden to become inspired about bringing sports and excellence to the next level. He reports being very impressed with a number of the athletic developments in town.

“It’s easy to get bummed out and say, I’m from Golden and will never be able to compete in the Olympics. But the growth of the facilities like the ski and bike trails is extremely encouraging.”

In fact, Wetzel provides a three step formula for raising the calibre of local sports excellence.

“In order for a town to produce Olympic champions, you need three things: the facilities to train, support from the community for local athletes, and excellent coaching. The signs I see in Golden today are very encouraging, there’s no reason to say that people from Golden can’t do it.”