Dear Mellisa Hollingsworth:
I have a message from all Canadian sports fans: We still love you.
We know you did not win a gold medal in your skeleton race at Whistler and that you ended up fifth.
But we think you, and a lot of other Canadian athletes, are being way too hard on yourselves.
You broke our hearts when you told CTV after the final race: "I feel like I've let my entire country down."
Actually, it's quite the opposite.
You lifted us up.
You see, you made us care.
We cared enough to sit on the edge of our seats as you raced down the sliding track. We cared enough to wince when you wobbled during your final run because, yes, we have learned enough about skeleton now to know what that means -- a slower time, a lost medal chance. We were excited and thrilled. Our hearts pounded.
We felt disappointed, sure, but disappointed for you, not because of you.
We did not always care.
Some of us are old enough to remember when watching the Winter Olympics merely involved following the exploits of athletes we had never heard of from other countries, and hoping Canada did well in figure skating.
Now we watch a crop of Canadian athletes like you who are at or near the top of the world in your sports. We care how you do. We know your names. We want you to win and it hurts when you lose because we know how good you are.
Remember Calgary in 1988? Okay, you were seven, and probably not following it much.
But believe me, it was not the same for Canadian fans.
The only Canadian competitors most of us had heard of were Brian Orser, a figure skater who lost the Battle of the Brians and got a silver medal, and Gaetan Boucher, a superb speedskater who was the Cindy Klassen of his day -- his best Olympics came four years before he competed at home.
We were over the moon when Elizabeth Manley won a surprise silver in figure skating.
In the end, Canada didn't even crack the top 10 in the medal count, finishing 13th with two silvers and three bronze.
But we did not care that much because we did not expect much.
All that has changed. You and your fellow athletes have made Canada a winter sports power. While we turn off our TVs at the end of the Olympics, you go back to the hard slog of training, competing and getting better. You win world championships, break records and set a wonderful example for our children.
And when we watch you now we look on with knowledge, admiration and pride. We know you can win. You have proven it. You have made us all winners and winners hate to lose.
That's why it hurts -- in a way that feels so good.
Because it didn't used to hurt.
So don't apologize to us.
We care, and for that we all want to thank you.
Bob Cox is the publisher
of the Winnipeg Free Press.