The start of the 2010 Vancouver Games couldn't have been more ignominious.
The tragic death of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili cast a dark pall over what should have been a celebratory opening ceremony - which itself was marred by an embarrassing technical glitch during the cauldron lighting.
The underwhelming opening party was panned coast-to-coast by Canadians, who launched barbs on the Internet aimed at the hokey ceremony. They hated the reworked rendition of "O Canada." There was too much lip-synching by the performers. There were too many dated stereotypes. There wasn't enough cultural diversity represented.
The "celebration" stumbled to a close, with hockey icon Wayne Gretzky standing awkwardly atop a truck in the pouring rain for several minutes as he was driven to the external cauldron.
The uncooperative weather continued through the first few days, sparking numerous rain delays and ticket cancellations en masse.
Long line-ups for services and a fenced-off outdoor cauldron only fermented public anger.
If that weren't enough, critics around the world attacked the 2010 Winter Olympics before they even properly got off the ground, questioning Canada's ability to host an international event of this scale.
The multitude of setbacks threatened to derail these Olympics completely. "Worst Games Ever?" was the question posed on the front page of London's The Guardian.
But then came a shift.
Alexandre Bilodeau captured gold in freestyle skiing, giving Canada its first gold medal on home soil. With the biggest monkey off our backs, we let out a huge collective sigh of relief and finally began to cheer.
A slew of others followed in Bilodeau's footsteps.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir wowed audiences and made history with a flawless ice dance performance that garnered Canada's first ever gold medal in the event. They also became the first North American ice dancers to win Olympic gold.
Skeleton star Jon Montgomery showed the rest of the world not all Canadians are prudes as he took a victory stroll with a pitcher of beer in hand after his gold-medal run. The show of unfettered exuberance was enough to land him on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
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The resounding victories confirmed that we were finally champions.
And then there was Joannie Rochette, the Canadian figure skater who suffered the loss of her mother Therese, who suffered a massive, fatal heart attack just days before she was to watch her daughter perform.
Joannie could have packed it in then and nobody would have blamed her. But there she was, two days after her mother's untimely death and barely holding it together, skating her heart out and inspiring millions through her brave performance.
Her show of mettle that day seemed to spur on her fellow Canadian athletes in the latter part of these Games.
A veritable Canadian gold rush followed in the final weekend, with medals in speed-skating, curling, snowboarding and men's ice hockey.
The final push put Canada over the top as the nation finished the Games with a record-setting 14 gold medals, 26 in total (seven silver, five bronze). While Canada didn't own the podium - a lofty goal set before the Olympics - the dominance in first-place finishes was a resounding success and sets the bar high for the next host country, Russia.
The biggest triumph, Team Canada's thrilling hockey win, was a suitable finish to these Games - the exclamation mark on the host nation's remarkable Olympic turnaround.
And if Canadians seemed understandably subdued at the start of these Games, there was no stopping the show of national joy after Sidney Crosby secured gold for Canada.
"Before this, Canada only seemed patriotic when there was a beer commercial on TV," said Tony Sam, 41, who drove to Vancouver with friends from Chilliwack, B.C., to watch Canada defeat the U.S. 3-2 in overtime.
"This is the most exciting thing that's happened in Canada, maybe ever."
An Olympics that had been prematurely written off earlier this month has more than redeemed itself.
The last 17 days have been a showcase of national pride, perseverance, and triumph over tragedy - a watershed Games for a long-suffering country.
With files from the Canadian Press