The Den Mother’s Olympic Update: Part 4
When my nephew turned 7, I took him to the book store so we could buy the books of his choice for his birthday gift. As I approached the rack of age-appropriate books, he said, “No, Auntie Den, I want chapter books.” Since he is a fairly advanced reader, we began to browse some more advanced books but found nothing he seemed to like. Finally he said, “Are there any with pictures?”
As interesting as the written word can be, some people—even we adults”like pictures too. So I’ve decided to begin including photos in my daily updates. If I have time, I’ll even go back and add a few to previous posts, but that might take a few days. Will they be pics of athletes, events, or places around Torino? We’ll have to wait and see.
Curling! I Finally Got to Watch Curling!
Thanks to CNBC and the kindness of the Den Parents for giving me the opportunity to watch most of a U.S. vs. Japan women’s curling match after work yesterday. After a half hour of being unable to figure out how the scoring works, I did a little on-line research at the World Curling Federation web site and Wikipedia, I learned the basic rules and was able to understand the rest of the match. In a nutshell, a match is comprised of 10 periods (“ends”) in which several stones are slid, one at a time, down the ice (the “sheet”). Members of the team use broom-like implements to affect the surface of the ice so as to cause the moving stone to “curl” slightly to the left or right. At the conclusion of each end (the end of the end?), the team with the stone closest to the center of the “house” (the concentric rings at one end of the sheet) gets one point for each of their stones at least partially within the house that is closer to the center than the opponent’s closest stone. Got it?
Except for the fact that the U.S. lost the game I watched 6-5, it was fun stuff. If I manage to get to Vancouver in 2010, I plan to get some curling tickets.
The Den Mother’s Day 4 Viewing
Remember how I was looking forward to watching the women’s 500m speed skating? NBC gave me my second GRRRR! moment of the Games with their paltry coverage last night. They showed a few pairings from the first heat early in last night’s telecast, then didn’t bother getting back to it until 11:15, when they showed the last two pairings from the second heat. By then, I felt so disconnected from what I had seen earlier that the excitement was lost. Would they have spent more time on it if an American had medaled? Probably. At least they bothered to show both races by the ultimate champion, Svetlana Zhurova, a 34-year-old who was the first Russian to win the event in 38 years.
The rest of the evening’s coverage was of skiing and figure skating, both on the men’s side. The men’s alpine combined, a composite event won by the skier with the best combined times of one downhill and two slalom runs, was won in an upset by American Ted Ligety. The 21-year-old was just over three seconds behind the lead after the downhill leg but more than made up for it with perfect slalom legs. Meanwhile, his teammate Bode Miller was disqualified in the second slalom run when he straddled a gate. For those less familiar with alpine ski racing, a “gate” consists of two poles (in slalom) or double-poles with a flag in between (in giant slalom, super G, and downhill) that the skier must pass between with both skis on his or way down the course. Downhill courses have very few gates spaced far apart; they get closer together in the super-G, the giant slalom, and finally in the slalom, in which the gates are quite close together. “Straddling a gate” means one of the skier’s skis went outside the gate and the pole basically goes between his or her legs. In the old days when the poles were bamboo, straddling a gate injured something you might need later in life, but it’s possible to straddle one of today’s very flexible poles at high speed and not notice. That’s what Miller did, a judge on the course noticed it, and it resulted in a disqualification from that race and consequently the entire event. None of which takes away from the tremendous job Ligety did in earning his first and very unexpected Olympic gold medal.
The less rough-and-tumble guys, i.e. the figure skaters, were elsewhere in the Torino area doing their short program last night, and included among them is the only athlete in these Games with a bigger mouth and a bigger attitude that Bode Miller. American Johnny Weir, who sits in second place going into the final, makes Bode look about as egotistical as Mohandas Gandhi. But the man can skate (Weir, not Gandhi) and the only thing standing between him and a gold medal is a Russian whose name, Evgeni Plushenko, makes him sound more like a stuffed animal than a world class contender. The rest of the field struck me as a combination in varying degrees of awkward, sloppy, and just plain not as good. And I’m sorry, but someone needs to do something about the horrible costumes these men insist on wearing, the worst of which last night was Frenchman Brian Joubert‘s stylized lycra tuxedo with “007” sequined across the back (he skated to music from a James Bond film). Gag me.
See all of Tuesday’s results at the official Torino web site.
What to Watch on Day 5
Men’s hockey finally starts today, but you’ll need cable or satellite to see it, as all the games are on USA Network, MSNBC, or Universal HD until the broadcast network finally gets around to carrying a game on Saturday. If I make it over to Mom and Dad’s after work, I’ll check out some more curling on CNBC before heading home for tonight’s prime time lineup which is loaded with coverage of the greatest number of events yet. Unfortunately, that means less detail, which I will probably find aggravating.
I will be on the edge of my seat watching Lindsey Kildow, injured in a training run a couple days ago, drag her battered body up the mountain to compete in the women’s downhill. Elsewhere on the slopes, the men will compete in freestyle moguls, an event I thought was a blast when I watched the women do it. Freestyle skiing is like the tamer version of snowboarding, semi-extreme sports if you will. But none of it is as perilous or heart-pounding as a good, fast downhill.
Speed is the order of the day, with men’s doubles luge on tap. Please pray that we aren’t subjected to the spectacle that this morning’s Today show viewers got: Al Roker and Matt Lauer, together on a luge sled, bouncing down the track for all the world to see.
We’ll also see lots of speed skating, both long track and short track. The former is where in-liner turned long track speed skater Chad Hedrick tries for his second gold of Torino, this time in the brand new men’s team pursuit. The latter is where Apolo Anton Ohno tries to avoid pulling a Bode and blowing his second big chance for hardware. In addition to competing in the men’s 1000m individual, Ohno will also compete in the 5000m relay semifinal. On the women’s side of short track is the 500m final.
Other Olympic News
The Olympics involve simultaneous competition in several different sports all day and evening for more than two weeks, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the few hours we get to watch on television are just the tip of the iceberg. Taking place below the surface yesterday was the men’s 10km sprint biathlon, won by German Sven Fischer ahead of two Norwegians. Other Scandinavian athletes also fared well, with Swedes and Finns taking gold and bronze in women’s team sprint cross country, and Swedes and Norwegians going 1-2 in the men’s version. The Norwegians now lead the medal standings by a considerable margin, but that isn’t a shock considering there isn’t much to do in the winter in Norway besides play sports, sleep, and do some other things I shouldn’t mention on a family blog.
Incidentally, between Sven Fischer and Russian speed skater Svetlana Zhurova, people whose first names start with “Sv” did very well yesterday.
Back on the luge run, Germany swept the women’s singles medals with Sylke Otto leading the way. The highest finishing American was Courtney Zablocki, whose countrywoman Samantha Retrosi was released from the hospital in the morning.
I suppose I can no longer avoid the fact that the Americans are lying at the bottom of the barrel in curling. The women’s team didn’t have a win in three attempts through Tuesday, which puts them dead last in the standings, far behind the undefeated Norwegian team. The men are in the middle of the pack, with two wins and a loss going into today, still theoretically within striking distance of co-leaders Canada, Great Britain, and Sweden.
Women’s hockey brought big victories for Russia over Italy, Canada over Sweden, and the United States over Finland. Germany edged out Switzerland in the fourth game of the day. The U.S. and Canada remain undefeated in their respective groups, but Canada holds a big lead in the goals for and against category, 36-1 compared to 18-3 for the Americans. Not surprisingly, Canadian players are leading the pack in individual goal and assist totals. Is it too early to mention that the women’s gold medal game is scheduled for February 20?
Olympic Boyfriend Update
Chad goes for his second gold medal today, but this time his success depends in part on that of his teammates. The men’s pursuit speed skating is race #2 for the adorable Mr. Hedrick, and while as of yet I have no idea what this event actually is, apparently it isn’t a relay, based on reports of the results. As usual, this is a spoiler-free zone, so I can’t say whether I wish I were in Turino to kiss him in celebration or consolation.
But really, does the reason matter? I mean, look at that face…