Home > olympics, sports > The Den Mother’s Olympic Update: Part 5

The Den Mother’s Olympic Update: Part 5

Thursday, February 16, 2006, 23:04 EST Leave a comment Go to comments

Torino 2006I love the Olympics. I really do. I enjoy the variety, the internationality, the immediacy. I like the fact that for two weeks out of every 200 or so, the planet’s best athletes in so many different sports come to the same place and compete for the chance to partake of the same ritual, the medal ceremony. I love watching a Chinese champion, whose life in a less than free society may not be all she would like it to be, make a victory lap with her flag. I love watching a tough-as-nails Norwegian athlete brought to tears as he watches his national flag raised. I love listening to the stirring strains of the Russian anthem and knowing it is as meaningful to that country’s athletes as the Star Spangled Banner is to me. I love the ideals.

The controversy, that I don’t like so much. I’m not talking about Bode Miller or Johnny Weir spouting off or the occasional questionable judging. It’s the stuff the athletes drag onto the field of play that sullies it that I could do without. It isn’t that I think these athletes are perfect flawless beings. But I wonder why, for just a few days every four years, some of them couldn’t just try.

Doping

First it was American skeleton slider Zach Lund who was banned for a year for taking a hair loss drug (albeit one he had disclosed to the sports authorities) that can double as a steroid masking agent. Then nine skiers were given five-day suspensions for having higher than normal hemoglobin levels, which can be the result of prohibited drug use. Now we have Olga Pyleva, the first athlete disqualified after the start of the games for testing positive for a “banned stimulant”.

Russian biathlete Olga Pyleva, has been thrown out of the Torino Winter Games after the International Olympic Committee confirmed a positive doping test.

She will also be stripped of the silver medal she won in the 15km individual event after she was caught with a banned stimulant in her system.

Germany’s Martina Glagow has been lifted from bronze to silver and Pyleva’s fellow Russian Albina Akhatova promoted from fourth to the bronze medal position.

Not only has Pyleva damaged her own reputation (and, possibly, her health), shamed her sport and country, and deprived Akhatova the opportunity to stand atop the podium to receive the medal she will now get, but she also embittered Glasgow, who declared, “I don’t want the silver medal. If I didn’t win it on the track it’s useless.”

The excuse that the athlete didn’t know what she was taking, purportedly for a medical condition, was banned doesn’t wash in this day and age, when athletes and their coaches and trainers should know enough to check before they put something into their bodies. You would think they would understand that by now.

The Den Mother’s Day 5 Viewing

It didn’t take NBC long last night to show us why Chad Hedrick won’t get his five speed skating gold medals. The quarterfinal of the men’s pursuit was the first event shown on the prime time schedule, but all they showed was the U.S. losing to Italy. There is no shame in losing, of course, but there is a bit more to the story than simply a team that wasn’t quite as good as its competitor. The men’s pursuit team was supposed to include Shani Davis, but he reportedly notified U.S. speed skating team four days prior to the race that he would not join the pursuit team because he was focusing instead on his individual events. That’s his prerogative, but couldn’t he have made that known earlier, so the team had more time to prepare? Hedrick, for one, doesn’t understand Davis’ decision.

“If you work really hard at what you do, every chance to represent your country, you should do it,” Hedrick said in a hastily called teleconference after he blew off reporters in the interview area. “Other people might think differently.”

Italian men's speed skating pursuit teamAt least the U.S. elimination led to some celebrating for the hometown crowd, as the Italian team ended up taking top honors. Now Enrico Fabris has a gold medal to go with his 5000m bronze.

The women’s downhill was won by Austrian (surprise!) Michaela Dorfmeister by just one-third of a second in what she has said will be her final season. “The elusive medal was probably the thing that has kept me skiing,” Dorfmeister admitted. Silver and bronze went to a Swiss and a Swede. Victorious in their own way were American Lindsey Kildow and Frenchwoman Carole Montillet-Carles who competed in pain after training crashes earlier in the week. They may not have gotten the glory, but they proved they had the guts.

For some reason, I found the men’s freestyle moguls to be interminable, impressive as the performances were. Millionaire Australian businessman Dale Begg-Smith won with the most effortless-looking run imaginable. As I mother, I had a blast watching American Toby Dawson‘s mom in a frenzy of delight over her son’s bronze medal. Deborah Dawson hopes Toby’s success will help improve the image of adoption, which is how she built her family.

“Toby winning a medal is an especially wonderful thing for adoption, because I think sometimes adoption gets a bad rap. It’s a wonderful thing. There are lots of wonderful families who come together and love each other.”

What I expected to be more bored by but wasn’t was the men’s short track relay semifinal. I had never watched a short track relay, but I’ll sure watch again. Because of the size of the rink, not everyone can be on the track at the same time, so those who aren’t participating in the current lap are skating around the middle. Then, when it’s time to switch off, they dart out in front of the oncoming skaters and get the push-off that begins their lap. Timing is everything. It was an event that I thought really showcased the athletic ability of Apolo Anton Ohno, whose U.S. team was one of two to advance from that heat after a collision that resulted in the disqualification of the Japanese team. Meanwhile, the women’s short track 500m race brought gold to China’s Wang Meng as well as medals for Bulgaria and Canada. I hope my reader’s won’t consider me rude for pointing out that the female skaters have big glutei (that’s Latin for backsides).

I thought the men’s luge doubles final was supposed to be shown, but I didn’t see it. Perhaps the coverage touched on it while I was modifying my fantasy baseball roster in an effort to fend off the boredom brought on by the mogul competition. But if I had watched it, I would have seen Austria, Germany, and Italy get the medals. I’m finding out that luge is very big in Italy.

See all of Wednesday’s results at the official Torino web site.

What to Watch on Day 6

It’s something old, something new, and something scary for my viewing pleasure tonight. The men’s figure skating final is on, and barring death or meteor strike, Evgeni Plushenko of Russia is going to win and win big. Will American Johnny Weir be able to prove he isn’t just a pretty face with a great big loud mouth? It should be fun to watch unless the costumes make my eyes bleed. The one hope for sanity in attire lies with Matt Savoie, who hasn’t allowed any possessed designers with sequin fetishes to make his outfits.

If figure skating is the “something old”, then what’s new is men’s snowboard cross. I’ve never heard of it, but I’m not the only one since it’s brand new to the Olympics. I deliberately haven’t read anything about it because I want to be surprised. Is it a relay? Are there multiple boarders on a course at once, like in short track speed skating? To several boards hit a halfpipe simultaneously and “cross” each other? I’m open to any and all possibilities.

Finally, I get to watch the only Olympic athletes more insane than the lugers. Women’s skeleton—that’s sort of like luge except instead of going down on your back feet first, you’re going down on your stomach head first—rounds out the evening lineup. I watched a bit of men’s skeleton during the Salt Lake Games, but had to change the channel when they showed one of those slider’s eye views of going down the track. It was either stop watching or upchuck.

Other Olympic News

News will have to wait today. It’s been a hectic one. I promise a double dose tomorrow.

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