The Den Mother’s Olympic Update: Part 12
Sometimes too much of a good thing can be too much. So it was last evening, when instead of watching the entire prime time Olympic telecast, I spent an hour at Barnes & Noble and went to bed early. In between those two thins, I managed to watch an hour and a half of coverage, which as usual I enjoyed very much. I’m ready for the home stretch. Only four more days of competition left before the Games close.
The Might Have Fallen, Again
Who would have believed just two weeks ago that neither the United States nor Canada would win a men’s hockey medal in Torino? Not I, that’s for sure. Yet here we are, the day after the quarterfinal games, looking at the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, and Sweden contending for those three medals.
The best known information tells us that hockey as we know it today, though having its roots in Europe, was born in Quebec and Nova Scotia in the 19th century and soon spread to other Canadian cities. When the National Hockey League was founded in 1917, it was comprised of only Canadian teams. But over the next few decades, hockey moved south and became increasingly popular in the northern United States. The NHL solidified its franchise lineup with six teams, four of them in American cities. Today’s NHL consists of six teams in Canada and 24 in the United States, including franchises in southern California, the Arizona desert, Texas, and Florida. Young adult amateurs aspiring to professional hockey careers typically skate for collegiate teams in the United States and for junior hockey teams in Canada. Both countries have extensive youth hockey programs for boys and girls as young as kindergarten age.
Hockey was already being played in Europe early in the 20th century, but North America virtually dominated Olympic competition until the 1960’s. Of 27 medals awarded through the 1960 Games in Squaw Valley, nine were won by Canada, seven by the United States, and 11 by everyone else combined. From 1964 through 2002, Canada and the U.S. won only four medals each, with the Soviet Union and the so-called “Unified Team” of former Soviet republics dominating with eight medals (mostly gold). The nine Olympic medals awarded in men’s hockey since then, have been awarded to six different countries including four European nations. The prevalence of European players in the NHL is further evidence that hockey at the highest levels is more truly international than ever.
The Den Mother’s Day 12 Viewing
Didn’t watch hockey (which was on while I was at work). Didn’t watch curling (which was on while I was at the book store). Didn’t see men’s snowboarding or short track speed skating (which were evidently on either before or after I tuned in).
What I did watch was the women’s slalom, won by Sweden’s Anja Paerson. Paerson controlled the course, winning the first run and placing second in the second run, the opposite of what Austria’s Nicole Hosp did. But slalom medals are determined by the combined time of both runs, and Paerson had the edge. Austria also won the bronze medal, edging out Croatian Janica Kostelic. The only American I saw race was Lindsey Kildow, who finished in 14th place.
Women’s freestyle skiers finished the aerials competition, which was won by Evelyne Leu of Switzerland ahead of China’s Li Nina. Australian Jacqui Camplin, who won the bronze medal, made a tremendous first jump that looked perfect until she caught an edge after landing and tumbled down the rest of the hill. She was unhurt.
Over at the speed skating oval, Canadian women topped the podium in the 1500m final. Cindy Klassen blew away the field, taking gold by almost a second and a half ahead of her teammate Kristina Groves. The victory gave Klassen a medal in every color, having also medaled in the 3000m and 1000m. Dutch favorite and 3000m gold medalist Ireen Wust won the bronze.
See all of Wednesday’s results at the official Torino web site.
What to Watch on Day 13
NBC is devoting most of tonight’s broadcast coverage to figure skating, as the women skate their long program. American Sasha Cohen and Russian Irina Slutskaya are so close in the scoring after the short program that the gold medal will be won by whomever leaves everything on the ice and doesn’t make any mistakes, which should have all U.S. fans holding their breath. Only if both of them screw up will Japan’s Shizuka Arakawa have a shot.
The men’s freestyle aerials will be decided tonight, and the word is that American Jeret Peterson will do a jump called the “hurricane“. It’s a move that involves taking off, making five rotations in the air while also doing three backflips, and then landing on both skis without breaking any bones. I have the sudden urge grab my rosary beads and start praying for Mr. Peterson.
Other Olympic News
In addition to Finland’s 4-3 defeat of the United States and Sweden’s 6-2 victory over Switzerland in the men’s hockey quarterfinals, Russia shut out Canada 2-0 and the Czecks beat the Slovak’s 3-1. Semifinal games are tomorrow, the bronze medal game is on Saturday, and the gold medal will be decided Sunday in what is traditionally the Games’ final event.
Women’s cross country sprint brought a gold medal to Chandra Crawford of Canada, with Germany and Russia finishing second and third. Sweden came in big on the men’s side, with Bjoern Lind winning gold and Thobias Fredriksson taking bronze. France took the silver.
Korea continued to do well in short track speed skating, capturing gold in the women’s 3000m relay. Canada won wilver and Italy took bronze. I was very disappointed to have missed this event on television, having found the men’s relay so exciting. The fast pace, small track, and frenzied hand-offs guarantee an edge-of-the-seat experience.
The medal matchups in curling were set when both men and women played their semi-final matches. The U.S. men, trailing 11-5 after the ninth end, conceded to Canada, while Finland edged Great Britain 4-3. Gold and bronze medal matches are scheduled for tomorrow. The women’s tournament proceeded with Sweden’s 5-4 victory over Norway and Switzerland’s 7-5 defeat of Canada. Final and consolation matches are today.