Archive for the ‘olympics’ Category

Olympic Boyfriend Update

Tuesday, August 16, 2016, 16:35 EDT Leave a comment

Samir Ait SaidTen days after breaking his leg in horrific fashion landing a vault in Rio, French gymnast Samir Ait Said is reportedly on the road to recovery.

Ait Said had surgery the night of the injury and posted a video on Facebook the next day, thanking well-wishers for their support and offering words of encouragement to his Olympic teammates (according to a partial translation provided by Yahoo Sports). Yesterday he attended the rings final as a spectator.

Because I’m not an avid gymnastics fan, I didn’t realize that this wasn’t the first injury to keep Ait Said from Olympic competition. Another leg injury prior to the 2012 Games in London kept him off the team entirely. Last year, he declared his desire to medal twice in Rio to make up for what he couldn’t do in London. No one would blame him for being bitter for being denied yet again.

But he isn’t bitter, telling French sports daily L’Équipe (as quoted in the Guardian article linked above) that he is really quite fortunate:

There are worse things in life. I’m in good health, that’s the main thing. You have to put it in context. You know, people died in the Paris terrorist attacks, some people lost their children. I’ve missed out on the chance to make the Olympic final, that’s all. I’m still alive, I have my friends, my parents are here with me.

Ait Said says he plans to compete in Tokyo in 2020. I, for one, will be rooting for him to win big.

Categories: olympics

Olympic Boyfriend Winner Declared

Saturday, August 6, 2016, 22:38 EDT Leave a comment

Samir Ait SaidIt’s only day 2 of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, but we already have a winner for The Den Mother’s Olympic Boyfriend of 2016.

French gymnast Samir Ait Saif gets the nod not only because he’s gorgeous, but also because this happened to him and he didn’t throw up on international television. He didn’t even yell. (WARNING: Disturbing video at the link.)

If you’re squeamish and would rather not watch the video, here’s USA Today‘s description of the incident:

Ait Said’s left leg snapped on his vault landing, the sharp crack heard throughout the arena. As he rolled over, clutching his leg just below the knee, his foot and the lower half of his shin dangled in the opposite direction of the rest of his leg.

It was not a compound fracture (in other words, the bone did not puncture the skin), but there might still be internal soft tissue damage.

The Den Mother joins many others around the world who send Ait Said heartfelt wishes for a fast and full recovery.

Categories: olympics, sports

Bode Miller, Christin Cooper, and NBC’s Olympic Coverage Suckitude

Monday, February 17, 2014, 18:22 EDT 1 comment

While the last part of this title could launch a whole series of articles, my target today is last night’s Christin Cooper interview of American skier Bode Miller after the Super-G event which was his final chance to get a medal. Miller’s rather interesting story includes significant competitive achievements. It also includes a recent personal loss, the death of his younger brother.

Throughout their coverage so far, NBC has presented personal information about Olympic athletes as a way to elicit greater interest among viewers (and, by extension, enhance the television ratings). After all competitors had finished yesterday’s race, Miller was left tied for third place, thus becoming the oldest alpine skier ever to win an Olympic medal.

Cooper approached Miller and initiated the following on-camera exchange:

NBC [Christin Cooper]: For a guy who says that medals don’t really matter, that they aren’t the thing, you’ve amassed quite a collection. What does this one mean to you in terms of all the others.

Miller: This was a little different. You know with my brother passing away, I really wanted to come back here and race the way he sensed it. This one is different.

NBC: Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here, what’s going through your mind?

Miller: [pause] Um, I mean, a lot. Obviously just a long struggle coming in here. And … it’s just a tough year.

NBC: I know you wanted to be here with Chilly, really experiencing these games. How much does this mean to you to come up with this great performance for him? And was it for him?

Miller: I mean, I don’t know if it’s really for him but I wanted to come here and … I don’t know, I guess make myself proud, but…

NBC: When you’re looking up in the sky at the start, we see you there and it just looks like you’re talking to somebody. What’s going on there?

Miller: [breaks down crying]

Awful, right? But it gets worse. Because of the time difference between the U.S. and western Russia, the NBC production team had 20 hours to either edit the interview before televising it or decide not to use it at all. They did neither.

The viewing audience was horrified, as indicated by comments on Twitter.

Then, to add stupidity to both insult and injury, the networked doubled down. According to the New York Times, an NBC spokesperson issued a statement in defense of the interview itself and the decision to air it later.

“Our intent was to convey the emotion that Bode Miller was feeling after winning his bronze medal,” a spokesman for the network said. “We understand how some viewers thought the line of questioning went too far, but it was our judgment that his answers were a necessary part of the story. We’re gratified that Bode has been publicly supportive of Christin Cooper and the overall interview.”

How nice that Miller, who apparently has been friends with Cooper for years, is willing to forgive. That doesn’t mean that it was the right thing for NBC to do.

How and why did this sordid episode suck? Let me count the ways.

  1. Even if Miller’s grief over his brother’s death was “a necessary part of the story,” it was addressed very clearly by Miller in his response to Cooper’s first question. Hammering him about it afterward was redundant, unnecessary, and ultimately mean.
  2. NBC is supposed to be presenting Olympic coverage, not a gossip rag. Giving some background on the athletes adds a human interest aspect to the coverage, but it shouldn’t be the focus over the results of the competition. NBC chose to make it the focus.
  3. Cooper had obviously decided in advance that she would go for the most gut-wrenching display she could evoke. That she didn’t stop until he was sobbing is proof of her intent.
  4. Once she got the tears she wanted and in full view of the camera, Cooper attempted to comfort Miller by laying her hand on his shoulder. If she were really concerned for his comfort, she wouldn’t have badgered him.
  5. The decision, hours after the fact, to air the entire exchange shows how far American media have descended into the “reality TV” pit. Someone, or more likely several people, deliberately decided that the ratings were worth exposing someone in a vulnerable moment to a voyeuristic public that, thankfully, was horrified by it.
  6. “How much does this mean to you?” (like its close cousin, “How special is this to you?”) isn’t an interview question. It’s a crutch used by reporters who are too incompetent to ask relevant questions about the event at issue and/or too lazy to come up with a real question. Just once, I want the interviewee to reply, “It’s not special to me at all, dumbass,” and then walk away. Extra points if it’s done on live television.

Over at today’s Wall Street Journal, Kwame Dawes has an “Ode to Bode Miller’s Tearful Interview with Christin Cooper” which I won’t excerpt only because you really should read the whole thing. All I’ll add is that it made me think of rocker Don Henley’s 1982 single “Dirty Laundry,” which is as accurate an indictment of major media today as it was then.

We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blonde
Comes on at five
She can tell you ’bout the plane crash
With a gleam in her eye
It’s interesting when people die
Give us dirty laundry

Can we film the operation?
Is the head dead yet?
You know, the boys in the newsroom
Got a running bet
Get the widow on the set
We need dirty laundry

Kick ’em when they’re up
Kick ’em when they’re down
Kick ’em when they’re up
Kick ’em all around

Categories: family, media, olympics, sports

Fun with Numbers, Olympic Edition

Sunday, August 12, 2012, 22:59 EDT Leave a comment

2012 Olympic gold medalWho has spent the last two weeks following the Olympics? (The Den Mother raises her hand.) There were many opportunities for me to blog about the games, but life has gotten in the way. Now that the festivities have concluded, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to look at London 2012 by the numbers.

What most people follow is the medal count, and it tells some interesting stories. Of the 200+ countries that sent athletes to London, 85 got medals, with the top five countries ended up with more than half of all medals awarded. The United States led all around, winning more total medals (104) and more of each color than any other country. Rounding out the top five countries were China (87 total), Russia (82), Great Britain (65), and Germany (44), with the host country eclipsing Russia in golds. Compare that to the other end of the spectrum, where 18 nations took but a single medal each.

As an American, I am understandably proud of the success of my countrymen and women. We’re a populous and prosperous nation, which goes a long way toward explaining why we’re the all-time leader in medals won in the modern Olympics. But I’m equally interested in the smaller countries that have notable Olympic success. And if you look at medals won compared to population, the United States didn’t even make the top half in London. Team USA brought home one medal for every 3,020,000 people in the country, but doing even better were Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Great Britain, most European nations, and several former Soviet republics. The runaway leader in medals per capita was the tiny Caribbean nation of Grenada, which won only one medal—a gold—but has a population of just 105,000. Compare that to the world’s most population nation, China, which came in 12th from the bottom, with one medal for every 15.5 million people.

The gold medal picture shapes up about the same, where the United States (one gold medal for every 6.8 million people) was 28th out of 54 nations that won at least one gold. At the top of the list after Grenada were the Bahamas (one gold per 353,658), Jamaica (1 per 675,457), New Zealand (1 per 886,898), and Hungary (1 per 1.25 million). Our North American neighbors didn’t do as well: Canada (a single gold for its population of almost 35 million) was 8th lowest and Mexico (one gold for the country of 16 million) brought up the rear.

But for all the emphasis some of us put on medal counts, it’s worth remembering that most of the countries that sent athletes to London won not a single medal of any color. In fact, the vast majority of competitors went in knowing they had not a snowball’s chance in hell of getting near the medal podium. Their successes were measured differently, perhaps by making it out of a qualifying round or achieving a personal best, but for most merely by participating. With the occasional exception (think Eddie the Eagle or the Jamaican bobsleigh team), we won’t hear about them, and they will go about the rest of their lives in obscurity. But they will come away from their Olympic experiences much happier than the soccer team that lost in the gold medal match or the world champion diver who “only” got silver, because they recognize what an honor it is to be able to say what the rest of us never will: that they are Olympians.

The Olympics are all about numbers. The number of participating countries. The number of events. The number of spectators. The number of volunteers. The number of points awarded by a judge. The number of centimeters or milliseconds by which a race was lost. The number of dollars or euros or pounds or pesos or yen spent by the host city. The number of corporate sponsors. The number of athletes suspended for doping. The number of scandals among IOC officials. Strip away those numbers and you’re left with the only number that makes the Olympics worth all the trouble: the people who get nothing but joy from competing or cheering or watching on TV, the ones for whom the ideals of Olympism really mean something.

Those numbers are immeasurable.

Categories: olympics

So Many Topics, So Little Time

Tuesday, July 24, 2012, 17:12 EDT Leave a comment

Recent lack of blogging here at Musings hasn’t been for lack of subject matter. On the contrary, my brain currently contains the seeds of posts about the following topics:

  • The Sandusky/Penn State scandal, the Freeh report, and the NCAA sanctions
  • International Olympic Committee refusal to honor the victims of the 1972 Olympic massacre at this week’s opening ceremony
  • President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” remarks and campaign claims that he didn’t actually say what the video shows him saying
  • Egypt’s new government and the country’s descent into Islamic intolerance
  • The Colorado movie theater shooting and Brian Ross’s wishful thinking

Check in over the next week for the Den Mother’s unique perspective on those issues and more.

The Den Mother’s Olympic Recap: Dénouement

Thursday, March 4, 2010, 12:25 EDT Leave a comment

Every Olympics has its own memorable moments, and Vancouver is no exception. There was drama, conflict, elation, devastation, fun. There were many emotional situations. Speaking strictly of sports, there were also several breakthroughs.

The closing ceremony was light and fun. In a brilliant stroke of self-deprecation that also put the closing parenthesis on the Games, the ceremony began with a worker repairing the fourth tower to the Olympic cauldron, the one that a mechanical malfunction prevented from rising at the opening ceremony. Catriona LeMay Doan reprised her opening ceremony appearance, finally getting to do what the glitch prevented her from doing two weeks ago. The Canadian celebrities who headlined the ceremony were funny and irreverent. Most of all, the ceremony was exactly what it should have been: an end to a remarkable 17 days of sports.

In my (almost) daily recaps, I have written about some of the mosts, firsts, firsts-in-a-long-time, etc. in some of those sports. A few events provided dramatic surprises, a few athletes set records, a few nations rose to new prominence in certain sports. Each fan has his or her favorite stories. I have neither the space nor the time to write about them all. Instead, I’ll write about the tangible measure of Olympic success, the medal count.

The United States led all countries in total medals for only the second time in Winter Olympic history, the first being way back in 1932 when Lake Placid first hosted the Games. If that isn’t impressive enough, Team USA’s 37 medals are a new Winter Olympic record. It’s worth noting that there are multiples more events than there were when the Winter Olympics started 86 years ago, but then again there are also many more countries fielding teams. Without comparing apples to oranges, it is still safe to say that a total of 37 medals is a remarkable achievement.

Canada, the gracious hose, also set a Winter Olympic record. The country that had never won a gold medal either of the previous two times it hosted the Olympics picked up 14 of them in Vancouver, more than any country in the history of the winter Games. Considering that Canada has about one-tenth of the population of the United States, the achievement is even more remarkable.

Way back on day 7, I took a look at how countries were doing in terms of the ratio of medals to population. The U.S. may have won the most medals and Canada the most gold, but Norway won more medals per capita than any other nation. Here are the final calculations, based on population figures obtained from multiple online sources.

Country Medals Population Medals per
10mil people
Norway 23 4,644,457 49.521
Austria 16 8,344,319 19.175
Slovenia 3 2,039,400 14.710
Sweden 11 9,220,986 11.929
Switzerland 9 7,581,520 11.871
Finland 5 5,244,749 9.533
Latvia 2 2,266,013 8.826
Canada 26 33,212,696 7.828
Estonia 1 1,340,638 7.459
Croatia 3 4,491,543 6.679
Czech Republic 6 10,220,911 5.870
Slovakia 3 5,406,030 5.549
Netherlands 8 16,645,313 4.806
Germany 30 82,140,043 3.652
Belarus 3 9,850,000 3.046
South Korea 14 48,607,000 2.880
France 11 62,048,473 1.773
Poland 6 38,122,972 1.574
Australia 3 21,007,310 1.428
United States 37 304,059,724 1.217
Russia 15 141,800,000 1.058
Italy 5 58,145,320 0.860
Kazakhstan 1 15,340,533 0.652
Japan 5 127,704,000 0.392
Great Britain 1 61,399,118 0.163
China 11 1,330,044,544 0.083

Most participating countries won no medals at all. That’s always the case, but it’s always worth mentioning because it is part of what makes the Olympics the greatest collective sporting event. Of 92 countries that sent teams to Vancouver, 65 won not a single medal. The huge majority of athletes participate with no expectation of success, but they come nonetheless. Instead of medals, what they get is the right to forever call themselves Olympians.

Click to view largerSpeaking of medals, the ones handed out in Vancouver were distinctive, to say the least. I liked them, but I suppose not everyone did. That most trusted of news sources, The Onion, did a short article about a couple medalists’ reactions. As always with The Onion, a grain of salt is warranted.

And that concludes my Olympic commentary this time around. I’ll be back at it in 2012, when I hope to be blogging from London rather than my living room. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Musings from the Den Mother.

Categories: olympics

Top Ten Ugliest Olympic Ice Dancing Costumes

Wednesday, March 3, 2010, 22:07 EDT Leave a comment

Before I wrap up the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, I wanted to make good on my promise to write about the awful figure skating costumes. OK, most of them weren’t awful, at least not where the pairs and individuals were concerned (Johnny Weir aside). Ice dancing, however, was another story. Is there some kind of hideous-costume requirement I don’t know about, or do ice dancers just feel the need to make up for the lack of jumps and lifts by making spectators’ eyes bleed?

Whatever the reason, there were so many bad costumes that I found it impossible to whittle it down to my originally intended top three. In fact, I was lucky to get it down to ten.

To understand the reasoning behind ice dancing costumes, you have to know a couple basic things about the sport. Ice dancers must complete three distinct kinds of programs. In the first kind, called the compulsory dance, each pair skates the same dance, the same sequence of steps, to music provided for them in advance by the International Skating Union. Most pairs chose costumes that go with the music they must skate to, which in this Olympics was the Tango Romantica. The second program of the competition is the original dance, which used to be called the original set pattern dance. The ISU chooses the general theme, which this year was folk dance, and stipulates certain steps that must be performed. Within the established theme, selection of music and choreography are up to each pair. As with the compulsories, the skaters often choose costumes that fit the established theme of the original dance. The third program is the free dance, which as the name implies gives each pair maximum freedom in choosing the theme, music, and choreography of their dance.

This year it was the original dance produced the most hideous costuming, but that particular program didn’t have a monopoly on ugliness.

For the brave of heart and those not prone to seizures brought on by harsh colors and gaudy ornamentation, here is the gallery of…

The Den Mother’s Top Ten Ugliest Costumes Seen in the 2010 Winter Olympic Ice Dancing Competition

10. Sinead and John Kerr, Great Britain, original dance. Brits (or, like the Kerrs, Scots) can almost get away with the country hoedown theme. But that hat has to go. So do the short-shorts. You aren’t skating at Hooters.

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9. Cathy and Chris Reed, Japan, original dance. They are Japanese on their mother’s side, so they are entitled to go with the Japanese theme. But a kimono-as-skating-dress just looks like a summer bathrobe.

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8. Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, Italy, original dance. I can’t be the only person who thought they looked exactly like Hodel and Perchik dancing in the field in Fiddler on the Roof. And dear God, I hope Federica’s face doesn’t freeze that way.

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7. Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski, Russia, original dance. OK, the really shiny boots are cool. I’ll even let the ruffled skirt slide. But green and teal don’t belong together, ever. And Sergei? Get a hair cut.

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6. Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, France, original dance. Whatever made two French people think that dressing as cowboys was a good idea? Here’s a hint for next time: if you aren’t from Texas, Calgary, or the Australian outback, it won’t work.

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5. Christina and William Beier, Germany, original dance. Besides the fact that the leis look like something from Oriental Trading Company, Germans skating a Hawaiian dance makes as much sense as Polynesians wearing lederhosen.

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4. Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, Russia, original dance. I think I had dolls like this when I was six. But seriously, are you identical twins? No? Then you have no business dressing alike. Please stop.

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3. Tanith Belbin and Agosto Benjamin, United States, original dance. Their theme was a Moldavian folk dance. I doubt very much that Moldavians are really this tacky, or that the women wear bright red suede boots.

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2. Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski, Russia, free dance. There should be a special place in hell for anyone who makes this list twice. What’s Jana supposed to be, some kind of schizophrenic parrot?

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And the number one ugliest costumes seen at the 2010 Winter Olympic ice dancing competition:

1. Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, Russia, original dance. This was supposed to be an aboriginal dance, but I was too busy trying to gouge out my eyes to hear from where. All I could think of was Adam and Eve on crack.

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Categories: olympics

The Den Mother’s Olympic Recap: Days 15-17

Wednesday, March 3, 2010, 19:08 EDT Leave a comment

Better late than never, I bring you a rundown of the last three days of the Vancouver Olympics, which were a mad dash to grab up the medals awarded in the remaining 16 events.

Click to view image largerFriday featured lots of speed skating, including medal races in three short track events. Canadians took gold in the men’s 5000 m relay, as well as individual gold and bronze by Charles Hamelin and Francois-Louis Tremblay in men’s 500 m. South Korea also won three short track medals: silver in both those events, plus a bronze in the women’s 1000 m, which was won by China’s Wang Meng. American Apolo Ohno was disqualified in the 500 m after bumping Tremblay in the final lap and later complained about it. But that’s the nature of short track, which has a sort of “no harm, no foul” attitude. If the contact hadn’t disrupted Tremblay, Ohno probably wouldn’t have been disqualified. Ohno himself has benefited from similar calls in the past and, for that reason as well as basic good form, should have kept his mouth shut.

On the snow, Norway won yet another Nordic skiing medal, this one gold inthen men’s 7.5 km biathlon relay. Austria got silver in that event, as well as a silver later in the day in women’s alpine slalom and a bronze in snowboard parallel giant slalom, which were won respectively by Germany’s Maria Riesch and the Netherlands’ Nicolien Sauerbreij. Reisch had previously won gold in the super combined and is a phenomenal slalom racer. If you haven’t watched much slalom racing, the next time you do, notice how the skiers’ heads and upper bodies barely move; all the back-and-forth action is from the hips down. It’s a wonder to behold.

Women’s curling wound down Friday with medals going to Sweden (gold), Canada (silver), and China (bronze). And on Saturday, the men got their medals: gold for Canada, silver for Norway, and bronze for Switzerland. My father is now suffering from curling withdrawal despite his protestations that his daily viewing was no indication of his interest in the event.

Saturday brought a pleasant surprise for Team USA when the four man bobsleigh team led by Stephen Holcomb won gold for the first American win in that Olympic sport since 1948. Holcomb’s team, known as the “Night Train,” included two Bay Staters. Americans also medaled in men’s team pursuit speed skating behind Canada. Women’s team pursuit medals were awarded to Germany, Japan, and Poland, something I found interesting because they none of those countries medaled in the men’s event.

The hosts, in the person of Jasey Jay Anderson, won gold in men’s parallel giant slalom snowboard, ahead of Austria’s Benjamin Karl and Mathieu Bozzetto of France. Europe fared well in snowboarding, which should put to rest the cynical complaints of years past that snowboarding wasn’t a legitimate sport outside North America. In other snow events, Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland won her third medal of the games, half her country’s total, by beating Norwegian Marit Bjoergen by 0.3 seconds in the women’s 30 km cross country classic. That is an astonishingly close finish for such a long race; the bronze medalist, Finland’s Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, was more than a minute behind.

Finally, serving as a prelude to the final event of the Games, Finland beat Slovakia 5-3 for the men’s hockey bronze medal. Which brings us to Sunday.

The day started with the longest cross country event of the Olympics, the men’s 50 km classic, which was even more of a nail-biter than the women’s 30 km a day earlier. Norway’s Petter Northug, like Kowalczyk, took gold by 0.3 seconds, but he was one of five skiers who crossed the line within 1.6 seconds of each other. Think of the last time you saw that happen in a marathon and you’ll have an idea of how unusual it is.

But the big event of the day, and the traditional final Winter Olympic contest, was the men’s hockey final. The United States and Canada had dutifully won their semi-final games on Friday, setting up the match-up I wanted. Ominous shades of the women’s final crept in when Canada scored twice in the first half of the game. The U.S. kept the heat on and cut the deficit in half on a Ryan Kesler goal a little more than five minutes later. Hopes were high for the third period, which was scoreless until the final minute, when Zach Parise tied the game with 25 seconds remaining and celebrated by flinging himself into the plexiglass. I had predicted that morning that the game would end with a shoot-out, but I was wrong; Sidney Crosby ended it with the game winner 7:40 into overtime. And there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Despite the loss, U.S. goalie Ryan Miller was named the tournament’s most valuable player. He played more minutes (355:07) than any other Olympic goalie and allowed fewer goals per game (1.35) than all except Sweden’s Henrik Lundqvist (1.34), Finland’s Niklas Backstrom (1.09), both of whom played a fraction of the minutes Miller did.

For reasons I cannot fathom, only the gold and silver medals were awarded post-game. The Finns had gotten their bronzes the previous evening. I hope someone nixes that bad idea in time for Sochi. All medalists should be there together.

The Vancouver 2010 web site has more details about results and medals. Stay tuned later today for an Olympic wrap-up post or two.

Categories: olympics, sports

Olympic Recap Is Forthcoming

Monday, March 1, 2010, 16:56 EDT Leave a comment

It’s taking me a little longer than usual to write the last recap. For some reason, I can’t seem to get more than two or three sentences written before the words “F*ck Sidney Crosby,” “Sidney Crosby looks goofy,” or “Sidney Crosby’s mother wears army boots” creep in.

Categories: olympics

The Den Mother’s Olympic Recap: Days 13-14

Friday, February 26, 2010, 20:50 EDT Leave a comment

Sleep…..I need sleep…….ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz…………..

Huh…What? Oh, sorry about that. Let me just wipe the drool off the corner of my mouth. There, I’m fine now.

We’re in the home stretch, people! Heading into the final three days of the 2010 Winter Olympics, a few trends are developing: First, the United States, which has already broken its own record for medals in a Winter Olympics we didn’t host, appears to be breaking away in the overall medal count, now leading Germany by six. Second, Canada, while falling short of their stated goal to lead in overall medals, is tied with the U.S. and Germany for gold with eight. And third, Vancouver 2010 may very well be remembered as the Olympics in which a few countries broke out in certain events. So without further ado, let’s recap the last two days of competition.

The men’s hockey quarterfinals all book place on Wednesday, with the U.S., Canada, Finland, and Slovakia advancing. Team USA and Finland are playing as I post this (no spoilers), followed by Canada and Slovakia at 6:00 9:30.

German bobsleigh crashCanadian women did well Wednsday, taking four medals, including gold and silver in women’s bobsleigh. The two Canadian teams, as well as the American bronze medal winning team, tamed a run that saw three crashes, including one in which a German brakewoman Romy Logsch was ejected from her sled and hurtled out of control down the track. There were no serious injuries in any of the crashes. The American medalists were Nutmegger Erin Pac and her brakewoman Elana Meyers.

Canada’s other medals went to speed skater Clara Hughes in the women’s 5000m, who nearly five seconds behind Czech winner Martina Sablikova. Germany won the silver medal. Later in the day, Canada won silver in the women’s short track 3000m relay, edging out the United States but falling short of China. The Chinese, for their part, did pretty well Wednesday as well, winning silver and bronze in women’s freestyle aerial skiing, behind Australian Lydia Lassila.

Foggy conditions at Whistler postponed the women’s giant slalom after the first run, but one run was enough to end hopes of another medal for Lindsey Vonn. The battered American, one of 17 skiers who failed to finish, crashed into the fencing at the edge of the course, breaking a finger in the process. The second run was rescheduled for Thursday.

Ah, Thursday. A day packed with seven medal events. When women’s giant slalom resumed, the victor was Austrian Victoria Rebensburg, trailed closely by Slovenian Tina Maze and Austrian Elisabeth Goergl. As an aside, notice that the events determined by the combined times of two runs can be interesting in that the medalists may not have won either run. In this alpine event, for example, only Goergl actually won a run (the first). It’s not an uncommon occurrence, but I thought it warranted mentioning since I’m not sure how many viewers have never noticed it.

Spillane, DemongOver at Nordic skiing, the women’s cross country 5km relay was won by the prodigious Norwegians, ahead of Germany and Finland. Speaking of Germany, American spectators may have noticed that Germany has been on our tail in the medal hunt, but we managed to put a little distance between them and us with gold and silver in men’s individual Nordic combined (large hill ski jump, 10km cross country). Bill Demong and Johnny Spillane will forever have the distinction of winning the first Nordic combined medals for the U.S. since the Winter Olympics began in 1924. That’s not a bad way to be remembered.

Team USA also notched another silver in men’s freestyle aerials with an outstanding performance by Jeret Peterson. “Speedy” narrowly lost the gold to Alexei Grishin of Belarus. Another Chinese, Liu Zjongqing, got the bronze.

Team CanadaThe two big events of the night were the women’s hockey final and the women’s figure skating long program. First, the hockey game. There isn’t much to say except that Team Canada’s goalie, Shannon Szabados, might as well have been a stone wall for all the damage the Americans were able to do against her. In a game in which the two teams matched each other virtually shot-for-shot and penalty-for-penalty, the deciding factor was two goals by Marie-Philip Poulin within three minutes in the last half of the first period. USA goalie Jessie Vetter got her shit together after that and was solid from then on, but the damage was done. It was an aggressively played, well-skated game, but one team has to come out on the short end and unfortunately we were it. Canada won 2-0, giving millions of Canadians a good excuse to have another beer.

Speaking of adult beverages, the winners stirred the ire of the International Olympic Committee with their on-ice consumption of alcohol and tobacco in celebration of their victory. The spectacle wasn’t quite consistent with the Olympic image, but let’s cut the young women, even those who are too young to drink, some slack. They were happy; they celebrated. If anyone is going to take heat, it should be the coaches who allowed the stuff to be carted out in the first place. Note to the Canadian grown-ups: next time, keep the bubbly and the smokes under lock and key until everyone gets back to the locker room.

KimThe highlight of the evening for everyone not residing in the Great White North was the women’s free skate featuring some exceptional young talent. To say that South Korea’s Kim Yu-Na won the gold medal is a gross understatement. She blew everyone else out of the water with a record-shattering score (150.06 for the free skate, 228.56 total) that left silver medalist Mao Asada of Japan more than 20 points behind. Besides excellent jumps, spins, and footwork, Kim also had superior speed, and this being figure skating, fast skating should count for something. The noticable price of her coach, Canada’s Brian Orser, prompted NBC commentator Scott Hamilton to comment, “Brian finally has his gold medal.” Orser was a two-time Olympic silver medalist who lost out both times to Americans, Hamilton in 1984 and Brian Boitano in 1988.

Asada’s silver medal performance was remarkable in its own way. She became the first woman ever to land multiple triple axels in the Olympics, two last night and one in Tuesday’s short program. (By way of explanation to the uninitiated, a triple axel is the most difficult of the triple jumps because it is the only one where the skater takes off facing forward, requiring 3½ rotations instead of only three.)

Turning in a solid bronze medal performance was the grieving Canadian Joannei Rochette, only four days removed from the unexpected death of her mother. Rochette was calm and composed, executing all components of her difficult program cleanly with the exception of two jumps she stepped out of slighlty. It was clear the crowd was behind her, as were most people watching from home.

The top U.S. finisher in fourth place was 16-year-old Mirai Nagasu, who scored a personal best and will be a gold medal contender in Sochi. Thus ends a remarkable streak of American women’s Olympic medalists going back to 1968. Who were all those medal winners, you may ask? And I would answer: Peggy Fleming (gold 1968), Janet Lynn (bronze 1972), Dorothy Hamill (gold 1976), Linda Fratianne (silver 1980), Rosalynn Sumners (silver 1984), Debi Thomas (bronze 1988), Kristi Yamaguchi (gold 1992), Nancy Kerrigan (bronze 1992, silver 1994), Tara Lipinski (gold 1998), Michelle Kwan (silver 1998, bronze 2002), Sarah Hughes (gold 2002), and Sasha Cohen (silver 2006). The streak almost certainly would have gone all the way back another 16 years if not for the 1961 plane crash that killed the entire United States figure skating team and their coaches, including 16-year-old Laurence Owen, considered the heir apparent to Carol Heiss for Olympic gold in 1964. Even so, of the 69 women’s figure skating medals handed out in the Olympics, Americans have won 23, fully one-third.

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

Categories: olympics, sports