Home > olympics, sports > The Den Mother’s Olympic Recap: Day 4

The Den Mother’s Olympic Recap: Day 4

Tuesday, February 16, 2010, 17:07 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Today’s recap is more of a few cursory observations and two big rants. First, the brief recap.

Medals were awarded in six more events yesterday. Switzerland was the day’s big winner with two golds, in men’s downhill and men’s 15km cross country. China won gold and silver in pairs figure skating. The United States got gold in men’s snowboarding cross and bronze in men’s downhill. The totals now stand at eight total medals for the U.S., five for Germany, and four each for Canada and France.

Among yesterday’s medalists was American Bode Miller, who seems more settled than he was in Turin four years ago. I hope that means he won’t be out drinking the night before a race.

In another women’s hockey rout, Canada defeated Switzerland 10-1. The men’s tournament starts today, with the U.S. vs. Switzerland, Canada vs. Norway, and Russia vs. Latvia.

Which brings me to a rant about Olympic hockey. No, not the “unbalanced” women’s field. I’m talking about the practice of allowing professionals from the NHL (and European pro leagues) to participate. I hate it. The National Hockey League played through this past Sunday before their so-called Olympic break. Presuming the players participating on Olympic teams were able to be in Vancouver and ready to skate by Monday morning, that leaves a grand total of as little as one day for teams to practice together. That’s fine if the goal is to field essentially a bunch of all-star squads, but to do more than that is impossible. When is the last time you saw an Olympic hockey team that was anything more than the sum of its parts? The success of the 1980 U.S. team may have been a once-in-a-lifetime occurrance, but they defined what a real team is. Even the paid Soviet teams of that era were cohesive teams who trained and practiced together.

Besides, it’s just weird for me as a Bruins fan to have to root against five of my guys: Zdeno Chara and Miroskav Satan (Slovakia), David Krecji (Czech Republic), Marco Sturm (Germany), and Patrice Bergeron (Canada).

And while I’m complaining, let me get a word about figure skating. I used to be a fairly serious follower of competitive skating. I was also something of a purist and still am, which I realize makes me an anachronism. I enjoyed watching, on the rare occasions they were televised, the school figures section of the competition. School figures were the foundation of the sport, the “figure” in figure skating. If you weren’t any good at those, it didn’t matter how pretty you looked gliding around the ice.

1990 was the last year in which compulsory figures were included in international senior competition. Apparently, someone in the International Skating Union, the federation that governs competitive figure skating and speed skating, decided that the figures had to be replaced by some other element that would demonstrate skill. So so-called free skating, competitors are encouraged to add variety to their routines. That’s where all the blade-grabbing and bizarre combination spins you see now came from.

Frankly, it’s distracting. Sometimes it’s just ugly. I understand that under the current scoring system, about which I admit knowing nothing, all that crap is worth more points. If the goal is to do a lot of stuff, then mission accomplished. But more often than not, if the pairs competition in Vancouver was any indication, all it does is turn the routines into choppy collection of elements devoid of the smooth transitions and attractive choreography that used to characterize figure skating every bit as much as athletic throws, jumps, and spins do.

Think gymnastics, but on steel blades. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s an entirely different sport.

All that said, I was happy to see China’s Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, the 2006 bronze medalists, do a very nice job in the long program and win their country’s first figure skating gold medal. It was also a pleasant revelation to figure out that their coach, Yao Bin, was half of the pair I saw compete at the 1981 World Championship. Yao and his partner, Luan Bo, became the first Chinese pair to compete internationally in 1980. It was obvious that they had not had the benefit of top training and coaching, but someone has to be first and they did it. It must have been quite satisfying for him to see his students so dramatically exceed what he and his partner were able to do less than 30 years ago.

Now, on to today’s events. The effects of the unfavorable weather in the Vancouver area has forced postponement of the men’s super combined Downhill and slalom races. But on the upside, round one of the curling competition has begun. Today’s Google doodle is two curling stones for the O’s.

The Vancouver 2010 web site has more details about results, medals, and schedules.

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Categories: olympics, sports
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