It was a good run.
My high school and hometown friend Martin Reader and Ontarioís Josh Binstock who were playing beach volleyball for Canada at the London 2012 Olympics were eliminated Thursday afternoon by Italy.
To most it will just be another disappointment at the Olympics amidst a torrent of athletic action, losses and wins, but for me it was a lot more than that.
I donít think there was one emotion I didnít feel while watching Martin and Josh play their four games at Horse Guards Parade in London. I went through them all.
It was the first time Iíve ever known an Olympian, and the thrill of seeing Martin in London on TV playing the game he loves, a game Iíve played with him, was something Iíll never forget for the rest of my life.
To watch him yell with happiness after a major block or hit or celebrate with his teammate Josh after a point, I felt like I was right there down on the court with him and in a lot of ways I was.
Our whole hometown was.
I felt it all with him, the rush, the happiness, the frustration over lousy calls and of course disappointment when they lost.
I screamed at the TV during his games like I was watching playoffs hockey, but even more intensely because Martinís a friend, albeit one Iíve only seen here and there since graduating. He was just a tall, skinny kid back in high school, one who loved to play volleyball with any free time he had. He was always smiling, always polite, always keen to do more and do better, so is it surprising that he made it all the way to the Olympics?
Not at all.
Heís living proof that a small-town skinny kid can grow into a 6í7Ē Olympian playing in front of crowd in London thatís four times the population of Comox itself. Itís amazing, quite frankly.
Undoubtedly Martinís the hero of our little harbour town of Comox on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Itís not everyday that Comox sends off athletes to compete in the Olympics Ė in fact as far as I remember they never have, although Pam Anderson and Cam Neely came out of that small town, too.
It was tough to watch Martin and Josh lose on Thursday, knowing how disappointed and frustrated they must be, but they and all the athletes representing Canada should know how proud our country is of everything theyíre doing and all the hard work and struggles it took to get them where they are today.
The average person canít begin to understand the sacrifices they make.
It was just over Christmas when I went home to Comox and attended a semi-formal Christmas bash. In walked Martin Reader, looking like he walked off the pages of a GQ magazine in his sleek dark blue suit.
While everyone else was drinking wine and beer, Martin was holding onto a bottle of water.
When I saw him, I gave him a big hug and asked him what heís been up to, remembering how we used to play volleyball with each other on the sidelines during tournaments and cheer each otherís teams on for years. I hadnít seen him in almost 10 years at that point and he told me he was living in Toronto and training everyday with Josh.
I looked at the bottle of water in his hand and said, ďWhatís up with that?Ē laughing.
ďIím training,Ē he answered, ďWeíre trying to get to the Olympics, so no alcohol for me.Ē
I remembered my jaw dropped when he mentioned the Olympics.
ďThe Olympics?! Really, Martin?! Thatís insane!Ē
Then he grinned, which had a couple of nearby girls swooning in their high heels, and we made small talk throughout the rest of the evening, but that was the last time I saw Martin until he showed up on my TV last week playing for Canada.
Itís all so surreal to me, and even though they didnít make it to the podium, that doesnít take away how proud I am of him, how proud Comox is or the country that just got introduced to him.
Itís crazy really, thinking back to how heís grown and how far heís come.
Iím privileged to have been able to watch the rise of an Olympian.