It's no cliché when you hear Olympic athletes talk about drawing strength from their supporters back home, say Meagan Duhamel and Rebecca Johnston.
And they ought to know: both won medals at the Sochi Olympics -- and both said the boost they got from Sudburians cheering for them helped them succeed.
“It's real,” said Duhamel, addressing about 100 people Wednesday morning at the Grace Hartman Amphitheatre. “It really happens. We could feel that energy.”
Duhamel, a silver medallist in team figure skating, spoke with a raspy voice, a result of many recent speaking engagements. She and Johnston – gold-medal winner in women's hockey – were honoured with a community celebration, as were skiers Devon Kershaw and Chris Del Bosco, who were unable to attend.
Years and years of work and overcoming obstacles came before she got a silver medal, Duhamel said.
“For me, it's a reminder of the journey I've been on for the last 25 years.”
Johnston said she was lucky to be on the stage, just as she was luck to grow up in Sudbury, where she tried several sports, including soccer and basketball.
“My true passion was always hockey,” she said. And Sudbury “is an especially great place to play hockey.”
Johnston and the Canadian women's team won gold with a dramatic comeback victory over the rival U.S. that electrified the nation. She said support from Sudbury and across Canada poured in from social media and helped energize them, she said.
“The type of support I received from Sudbury made me feel like I was playing in my own backyard, with home-ice advantage,” Johnston said.
“Dreams rarely come true, but sometimes that improbable moment happens.”
Duhamel and Johnston were given bouquets of flowers and sat in Adirondack chairs decked out with the Canadian flag. Representatives from the local sports clubs the athletes were part of growing up were also present, along with their families and several officials from the city. The event began with a rousing rendition of "O Canada," sung by Katie Stadder Wise, a young singer with a booming voice.
Mayor Marianne Matichuk gave them each a special pen – to use when signing autographs, she said – and praised their families for the sacrifices they made on their Olympic journey.
“It's a team that gets everybody here,” Matichuk said. “With or without medals, the athletes being honoured today inspire pride.”
Ward 5 Coun. Ron Dupuis praised Johnston and Duhamel for being so giving of their time since their victory, allowing everyone a look at their medals and talking about their Olympic experiences.
“They're always willing to share their medals with kids and adults,” Dupuis said. “You both are amazing ambassadors.”