Funny, the people you run into on the bus at the Olympics.
The other day, I boarded and saw a woman with a nifty-looking ski hat. It had a great design and colors. So I said so.
Turns out, the woman is a Canadian cross-country ski athlete. She missed making the 2010 Olympic team, she said, "by this much," and held her thumb and forefinger a half-inch apart.
Shayla Swanson is here because, she said, family and friends already had bought lodging and tickets. They thought they'd be at Whistler to watch her compete. Instead, she's here, riding the bus like a regular person, watching along with them.
The day we met, she was headed to Whistler Olympic Park for the cross-country individual sprint event. That's where I was headed too. Having never covered the sprints before, I had done some studying, but asked her to explain a few things. Nothing like getting information from a knowledgable source.
Swanson found out she didn't make the team after a series of races in December. Two months later, you can tell it still hurts. But she's trying to make the best of it.
We live in the same "neighborhood" in Whistler Village, so I bumped into her a couple times on the commuter bus. We talked hats. She was pleased I liked hers, because she made it. She and another skier founded and run Sauce Headwear (www.sauceheadwear.com), which makes these cool cross-country hats.
They've gotten pretty popular in Canada. Canadian star Clara Hughes, the only person to win multiple Olympic medals in Summer and Winter Games (speedskating and cycling), has one and wears it when she's off the ice. Can't beat advertising like that.
On the bus, I asked Swanson if she was retiring from competition. She said she wasn't sure, that she was still deciding. Maybe it was time to direct her energies into a career, doing hats full-time.
But she looked wistful. It must be hard to devote your life to something, barely fall short, then try to decide what's next.
Hard to make that kind of decision at the Olympics, feeling the buzz and watching her almost-teammates compete. I wish her luck in the future. (A Sauce Headwear hat, or toque, as they say in Canadian. Photo/Sauce Headwear)