Melissa Bishop IS the ideal values of the Olympics
Melissa Bishop, photographed at the family cottage in Eganville, just after returning home with her silver medal from the World Athletics Championships in Beijing last year.
The unity we see the Olympics bring to our families, workplaces and communities as we gather around our TVs and cheer together is a microcosm of the “ideal” the IOC would like you to believe the games bring to the world. So let’s leave doping, scandals, and corruption allegations at the door, and just follow me on this one for a minute.
Olympism, according to its own charter, is supposed to be, ideally, a philosophy of life, exalting and combining the best qualities of body, will and mind. It is about respect, and fundamental ethical principles.
At the core of the Olympics are three values meant to inspire – and while higher, faster, stronger may apply – they are not the only or even the main values. Instead, they are excellence (so okay higher, faster, stronger) but also friendship and respect. Those are the three actual values at the core of the Olympic movement.
So in the context of the Olympics, ask any good Valley person you meet, what or who comes immediately to mind when you think of excellence, friendship and respect.
Only two words and one person should come to mind.
Melissa and Bishop. Let me bring you up to 800m speed.
The 28 year old from Eganville has been making the Valley proud already for years. Bish, as she is known, certainly covers off ‘excellence.’ She placed 2nd in the 800m event at the World Championships in Beijing in 2015, took home the gold medal at the Pan Am Games last summer in Toronto, and in qualifying for the Rio Summer Olympics, posted a Canadian record of 1:57.43 in Edmonton, on July 16. Bish has had her sights firmly set on the Olympics since her Pembroke optometrist and soccer coach Michael O’Grady remarked on her incredible speed as a youth and suggested she had a chance.
I’ll lump the values of friendship and respect together. One need look no further than Bish’s relationship with her coach, the man she lovingly calls, “Big Dawg.”
A coaching icon in Canada, Dennis Fairall has been named either CIS or OUA coach of the year 65 times in track and field and cross-country. But three years ago, he was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a deterioration of cells in the brain that control body movement and thinking. It is incurable. Did Bish dump him and look for a new coach? Not this Valley girl. Mutual support all the way.
Big Dawg’s words: “She has become like one of our own kids. I am dedicated to her development and progress and she remains loyal to our collective effort.
“Many would have looked elsewhere when times got tough, but there seems to be a reciprocal dedication to seeing each other through.”
For Bishop, she credits her coach with making her dreams come true and making her a two-time Olympian. Even though communication is becoming more challenging because of Fairall’s battle with PSP, Bishop’s loyalty has never wavered. She says simply that he has brought her this far, why would she go somewhere else. That is loyalty, class and dedication - not just to winning, but to a person that’s very special to her, that she admires and respects.
So maybe if the IOC wants to actually attempt to embody some of the ideals it preaches – maybe it should look towards the Ottawa Valley.
This is where Melissa Bishop is from – and she IS your three Olympic core values.
Go Melissa Go! The Valley and Canada are behind you – and no matter what happens tonight, you’ve already won our hearts.