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Huynh from Hazelton wins Gold for Canada

August 17, 2008

Anyone out there regularly follow women’s wrestling? Ah, me neither. But this weekend, as a determined non-Olympics watcher (gasp), I was lured to live streaming on the internet to see “the little dynamo” (e.g. the incredibly strong supple) Carol Huynh from Hazelton, BC win big.

As everyone now knows, Huynh, 27, won Canada’s first gold medal this summer in the 48-kilogram freestyle (did i get that right? Somebody please send in stats!)

Carol Huynh’s story is one tailored made for this column: born and bred in Canada, she paid tribute to her home town, her family and her country : “I was just thinking how proud I am to be Canadian and just thinking about the road to how I got here.” Her parents fled Vietnam in the 1970’s. Huynh’s mother, according to press reports, was born in Vietnam and her father, in China. They met in Ho Chi Minh City and like so many Vietnamese in Canada, came here sponsored by a local Hazelton United Church group.

Carol’s story resonates: a woman, working hard, not giving up: she was a bronze medalist at the 2005 world championships and “stayed with the sport after failing to qualify” for the 2004 Olympics. Okay, I admit, somewhat sheepishly, that her personal story – an asian woman totally embracing “Canada,” and her parents – “they did everything” – waitress, marketer, dock worker, sawmill worker – impressed and motivated me to put on a happy face, darn it! (there’s a set of questions, i think, to be raised about how we define “good” immigrants and um, “not so good” and how the quality of gratitude, and the need to adhere to certain standards – e.g. “hard work” – plays a big part in how “the other” gets defined.)

Huynh’s win defeated three time world champion “Icho”. Check out various news sites and their comment sections on reader reaction re: whether we should focus on Huynh as a “Canadian”. Period. Or as a “Vietnamese-Canadian” success story. I’m eager for reader thoughts…

Little postscript: Hazelton, New Hazelton, and South Hazelton – nestle deep in a majestic valley carved out by the confluence of the Bulkley and Skeena Rivers. Woven into the place, for centuries, is the history of the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en peoples – has anyone out there stepped into the ‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum? It’s one of my top ten places to visit in BC. And yes, Hazelton has struggled with social and economic issues, some of them traumatic and severe – but it keeps drawing from its community heritage to embrace both difference and an outward look to the world. Did you know that Hazelton was home to one of Canada’s first “First Nations/French Immersion” programs – where students learned English, Gitxsan and French – how cool is that?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. d'wayne marsonis permalink
    August 22, 2008 10:32 pm

    I agree with Amy. Carol can identify herself in whatever way she likes and we should respect that.

    Lots of people in Canada continue to associate themselves with the countries that they or their ancestors came from and they usually do it when something good has happened to them or they wish to associate themselves with something good from the “old” country e.g. a winning non-Canadian soccer team, tasty Italian food, etc. Canadian culture seems to one which defines itself via other countries.

    I also agree with Amy that if something bad happens to a Canadian or if a Canadian does something bad like be part of a gang, society, especially the media, starts “hyphenating” their nationality. I guess it’s a way of distancing ourselves from the badness i.e. the bad thing exists with the ones we consider “others” and not amongst real Canadians.

  2. Adrian permalink
    August 19, 2008 6:42 pm

    It really could not be a more amazing story – a really Canadian one. Hazelton BC, a unique wrestling program that accepted all comers, a family sponsored by the United Church and a great athlete winning at the highest level (now, now we are in Week 2 of the Olympics and can call that part Canadian too). This would be a great subject for one of those CBC bio-pics which Canadians in the ratings like more than the insider Toronto series television that the CBC wants to give us. Way to go Carol!

  3. Amy Hoang permalink
    August 18, 2008 9:16 pm

    I think Carol Huynh is a “Canadian. Period.” because she was born in Canada. She is of Canada and belong to Canada.

    We should, instead, say that this is another successful immigrant story, like other successful immigrant stories in the past from both Western and Eastern regions.

    As Maragret Artwoods once said: “we are all immigrants to this land.” Canada is a land of immigrants and we are thankful that the indigenous people had opened their arms to welcome the first wave of immigrants and explorers, and that generations after generations have continued this tradition.

    Well, if we want to put an hyphen in front of the word Canadian then we should put “Chinese-Canadian” because Carol Huynh claimed that her parents are Chinese, and identified herself as a Chinese descendant. We should respect her choice.

    I, however, agree with a person who wrote on CBC website under a name, “Befair Please”**, that if Carol Huynh is a marijuana grower or a gangster then there is no doubt that she is a Vietnamese-Canadian. Lucky for her, and how sad for us, Canadians, who are so proud of our Human Rights and Multiculturism which are entrenched in our Constitutional Act of 1982.

    Like China, we, Canadians, still have a lot of rooms which need to be improved, on Human Rights issue.

    **Comment from CBC website:

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