Still riding the Olympic Games wave

Well, it’s all over for another four years. After all of the concerns about the Zika virus, violence, a lack of security in general, polluted water in the adjacent waterways – the list seemed endless – the Rio Olympics seemed to go quite smoothly.

There were of course bumps along the way, but there is with virtually any Olympic Games. In Vancouver, there wasn’t enough snow – or barely enough for some events during those winter Games back in 2010. In Beijing’s 2008 Games, horrendous air pollution threatened to cloud the event in the weeks and months prior. And with thousands of visitors, there are of course things that can’t be foreseen.

But thankfully, the crowds were safe from acts of terrorism, which sadly seems to be in the back of everyone’s minds these days when a multitude of people gather for a massive public event. And finally, the glittering closing ceremonies were indeed something that Rio and Brazil at large can be very proud of.

Organizers pulled out the stops and crafted a spectacular send-off to these games – which ultimately are so successful at really bringing people together to celebrate the world of athleticism. It’s two weeks where at least some differences can be laid aside and we can focus on something that at least to some degree promotes unity and celebration. The torch has now been passed to Japan for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

Tokyo was announced in September 2012 as the host for the next Summer Olympic Games.

As for the Olympic Games earlier this month, Canadian athletes walked away with 22 medals – four gold, three silver and 15 bronze.

Locally, we also had much to be proud of. It was the culmination of years of hard work and practice for Red Deer’s Chaim Schalk, as the 30-year-old beach volleyball player had the opportunity to compete in his first Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“The trip was pretty awesome. It was a pretty amazing experience. Everything involved was really cool and we felt so much support from everyone back home and everyone that was there with us. Just competing on that stage was really, really cool,” said Schalk, who grew up playing beach volleyball in his backyard at his family’s acreage near Red Deer.

He decided to officially pursue this side of the game in 2009, making the national team that year. He partnered with Saxton from Calgary in 2013, and the teammates moved to California to train when not competing on the world tour.

Over the years, the men have been absolutely committed to perfecting their performances on the courts.

“We worked super hard to do it and (teammate) Ben (Saxton) and I teamed up four years ago and we made it clear that we wanted to go and continue to progress. Obviously the end goal was to make it and to give ourselves a chance to be a medal contending team at the Olympics. And we did all of that.”

Schalk and Saxton fought their way through to the quarterfinals of the men’s beach volleyball tournament before being eliminated in straight sets by the duo of Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen from the Netherlands last week.

As for the Olympics as a whole, it is always a much anticipated event. It brings hope, positivity, and it is a nice distraction from the calamities that take up so much of the airwaves in today’s society.

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