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Games ‘really humbles you’

Jimmy Van Ostrand passes the flame to Rick Hansen Tuesday for the final stretch of the relay in Richmond. - Jon Benjamin / City of Richmond photo
Jimmy Van Ostrand passes the flame to Rick Hansen Tuesday for the final stretch of the relay in Richmond.
— image credit: Jon Benjamin / City of Richmond photo

Jimmy Van Ostrand made a pretty big impression during a brief homecoming this week.

A top prospect of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros, the 25-year-old outfielder was one of the Olympic torchbearers Tuesday as the flame for the 2010 Winter Games wound its way through Richmond. And he was happily signing autographs and posing for pictures at the Richmond O Zone celebration that evening before jetting back to California to prepare for spring training.

But while he may be back in the Golden State, Van Ostrand’s heart will remain in Richmond during the Games.

“I guarantee I will be spending my fair share of time checking things out on TV and over the Internet,” he said. “I hope that Canada has a great showing and my national pride will definitely be on display south of the border.”

Van Ostrand played for Canada’s men’s baseball team at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, helping the squad to a sixth-place finish.

“I have so many memories and experiences from my time over in Beijing that will stay with me forever,” he said.

“Some of the highlights were the parade of athletes at the opening ceremonies, beating China in front of a packed stadium to open the tournament, watching Usain Bolt break the 100-metre world record and spending time in the Olympic village interacting with so many world-class athletes.”

Van Ostrand said there are always going to be ups and downs during your career if you want to progress to the highest level, which is what the Olympics represent. He said being able to be part of such a special event gave him an opportunity to reflect on how far he’d come and how hard he had to work.

“There are so many people who have helped me get to where I am today, and attending the Olympics made me realize how fortunate I have been,” he said.

“The magnitude of the Games is something that really humbles you as an athlete and at the same time gives validation to all the sacrifices that have been made.”

Van Ostrand “couldn’t be happier” that Vancouver is hosting these Olympics. He said the Games magnify the significance of what sports means to people aside from the athletic contest itself. It is about the athletes’ stories, the sacrifices and the competition as well as the business of sport.

What will come of Vancouver hosting the Games? Van Ostrand is optimistic they’ll help provide a lasting legacy for sport.

“If you open up your mind there is nothing more entertaining than the Olympics, and kids will get that,” he said.

“I think it will impact them in a positive way. I know I grew up watching the opening ceremonies on TV and being glued to all the different events for the duration of the games. It motivates you because it comes across how hard these people have worked by the emotion you see during the competitions.

“I know some of the images I saw on TV stuck with me, and for people in Vancouver and Richmond and all over the area being able to witness these things first-hand will be a real boost to local athletics.”

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