Home > olympics, sports > The Den Mother’s Olympic Update: Part 8

The Den Mother’s Olympic Update: Part 8

Sunday, February 19, 2006, 21:40 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Torino 2006Saturday began in bed, catching up on sleep after week one. I arose just in time to begin a marathon 13-hour session in front of the television, interrupted only by light meals, occasional usage of the facilities, a quick shower, and a drive up the street in the late afternoon to the home of the Den Parents.

There was so much on broadcast television that I didn’t bother watching any of the cable coverage, with the exception of an hour of curling before the prime time schedule got underway. All Olympics, all day, lots of fun.

Where is Torino?

NBC hasn’t shown much of the city of Torino (Turin) or the surrounding area. Before the Games began, I read Torino described as the Detroit of Italy, once an established industrial center that has fallen on hard times lately. That may be, but the area must be fascinating, situated in the country’s Piedmont region which is bordered by France to the west and Switzerland to the north.

Like much of Italy, the region has a rich artistic heritage. Like other European cities, Torino‘s edge over the cities of North America lies in the history, which far predates our own, and the value Europeans place on what is old. In the United States, very few of our older buildings remain, usually only if they are considered sufficiently historical to escape the wrecking ball that we think will give way to something new and better. The problem is that new isn’t always better. American architecture generally isn’t revered for its historical value, but rather for its innovation. By that standard, the new replaces the old rather than complementing it.

From what little I have read about the city online, it seems like a worthwhile destination. Accommodations appear to be reasonably priced, public transit easily available, and attractions ready to greet visitors of all tastes.

The Den Mother’s Day 8 Viewing

Saturday’s viewing began with the women’s 10km biathlon pursuit, which got me wondering why “pursuit” is an individual event in cross country and snowboarding but a team event in speed skating. The even bigger question is how those skiers learned to shoot so well. Did you know that the targets, set at a distance of 50m, are only the size of a silver dollar (for targets shot from a prone position) or the size of a saucer (for targets shot from the standing position)? Having never so much as held a gun much less shot one, I can’t imagine having that kind of accuracy. Conditions for this particular race were snowy and windy. The event was won by Germany’s Kati Wilhelm, with a German and a Russian getting the other two medals. The analogous men’s event, a 12.5km race, took place under better conditions and brought a gold medal to France’s Vincent DeFrasne, who beat out a Norwegian and a German. For reasons I haven’t figured out, the men begin the race staggered, with each skier getting a head start of several seconds over the next one to start.

Nordic events were the order of the afternoon, with the women’s 4 x 5km relay coming up next. The race began somewhat predictably, with usual suspects Norway and Finland figuring in the top three after the first two laps. By the end of the third lap, Finland was behind with Norway still hanging on. But the medals ultimately went to Russia, Germany, and Italy. The TV commentators pointed out that in nine cross country events to that point, the heavily favored Norwegians had yet to grab gold and only had five medals out of 27 awarded. They must feel a little like Americans feel about our alpine skiers.

I watched the first men’s hockey game televised when I wasn’t working, and it wasn’t pretty. Slovakia beat the United States 2-1, with former Boston Bruin Brian Rolston scoring the only American goal on a power play to tie the score late in the second period. Sadly, Peter Bondra broke that tie in the third period, and that was all she wrote. The U.S. outshot their opponents and won most of the face-offs, but none of that matters if they don’t put the puck into the net. The game brought the U.S. tournamet record to one win, one tie, and one loss. I have adopted as my favorite player Chris Chelios the defenseman who is not only two and a half years older than I am, but also two years older than Team USA’s head coach.

On to short track speed skating, I saw some of the women’s 1500m heats. It wasn’t a medal race, but it’s noteworthy because of the South Korean skater whose name I missed who came from teh back of the pack in the final lap and a half to finish first and advance to the next race. Later in the final, Korean Sun-Yu Jin beat one of her teammates and a Chinese skater for the gold.

The evening’s programming gave me the first look at bobsled competition, this of the two-man variety. One of the German teams set a track record with a run in which they hit speeds of 82 mph, which I’m not sure I’ve ever done in my car.

There were no big surprises in the women’s alpine combined, the downhill of which was completed after having been postponed for snow and wind. The fresh snowfall made the course slower; alpine skiers prefer icier, faster conditions. But all competitors faced the same conditions, and Croatian Janica Kostelic won the downhill and the gold ahead of an Austrian and a Swede. Kostelic’s brother is also an alpine racer, so the talent and determination clearly run in the family.

The men’s super-G was a different story, with surprises abounding. The race began in heavy snowfall and was suspended after 17 racers to allow for settling of the weather and grooming of the course. With the course then in much better condition, those who had already run had their results scratched and had to go again. That might have been an advantage, giving those guys a training run the others didn’t have, but it also took some of their energy. The previous frontrunner actually missed a gate in his second run; another skier ran off the side of the course into softer snow and finished several seconds off the pace. Then came American Bode Miller, who had a shaky sloppy run—which was the good part. The bad part was when he came into a corner too tight and appeared to pull his left ski in to avoid hooking the gate. Miller lost his footing and executed some herculean acrobatics to keep from twisting his left leg off. He didn’t finish the race. The race was won by Norwegian Kjetil Andre Aamodt (no, I can’t pronounce that), with phenomenal Austrian Hermann Maier getting silver and Swiss Ambrosi Hoffmann bronze, all with great clean runs. Seventh place Scott McCartney was the highest U.S. finisher, with Daron Rahlves a disappointing ninth.

In long track speed skating, American Shani Davis had his big race, the 1000m that he pulled out of the men’s team pursuit over. It paid off because Davis took gold, with teammate and 500m winner Joey Cheek silver and Dutchman Erben Wennemars bronze. Cheek and Wennemars were among the final four skaters who all topped Chad Hedrick, who held the lead until Davis skated and finished sixth. It was Hedrick’s shortest race of the Games and one he isn’t particularly experienced in, which was evident in his choppy start and turns. But he was more gracious in defeat that Davis was in victory; the champion was curt and borderline in his post-race interview and seemed annoyed until the end of the interview, when he finally cracked a smile. Evidently he isn’t a popular guy with the other Americans, and from what little I’ve seen I can’t say I blame them.

A better example of good sportsmanship would be the men’s 1000m short track skater Apolo Anton Ohno, who took bronze behind two Koreans who couldn’t wait to take him out, Ahn Hyun-Soo and Lee Ho-Suk. The Ahn-vs.-Ohno feud, which has escalated to Korea-vs.-Ohno since Salt Lake in 2002, prompted some speculation among the commentators that the Koreans would team up to keep Ohno back, something evidently illegal in short track but hard to prove. In the end, there was no hint of anything improper, just two outstanding skaters who were better and faster than their American opponent. It was a great race of which all medalists can be proud.

The evening capped off with men’s large hill ski jumping, one of the most spectacular events in the Games. Remember the old ABC Wide World of Sports opening, “the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat”? For years and years, “the agony of defeat” was depicted by a horrific tumble off a ski jumping hill, and to this day that’s what enters my mind when I watch ski jumping. Fortunately, there were no such disasters yesterday. Austrians took the top two medals, with Thomas Morgenstern winning gold with a gargantuan jump. Norway got bronze.

And thus ended my all-day Olympic TV fest. See all of Saturday’s results at the official Torino web site.

What to Watch on Day 9

The day is mostly over, so I’ve already watched U.S. vs Sweden in men’s hockey, and some of Canada vs. Finland. Tonight’s viewing will be limited because I’m attending a church coffeehouse at which my son is performing. When I get home, I will catch what I can of NBC’s prime time broadcast, which is scheduled to include ice dancing’s original dance, women’s super-G, women’s 1000m speed skating final, men’s 4 x 10km cross country relay, two-man bobsled final, and women’s freestyle aerial skiing. I briefly considered video-taping during the time I’m out, but when would I watch it? This week will be like last week—evenings packed with whatever they’re showing on television after work.

Other Olympic News

With very few exceptions, I haven’t mentioned the status of the ice hockey or curling tournaments. There are so many games that it’s hard to keep up. But I will point out that that the women’s medals will be decided tomorrow, with Canada facing Sweden to decide gold and silver, and the U.S. playing Finland for the bronze. Also in contention for gold is the U.S. men’s curling team, which has qualified for the medal round.

Categories: olympics, sports
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