Vancouver memories and Canada dreams

I miss the Winter Olympics already.

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations from the 21st Winter Games in Vancouver…

The start of the Games was overshadowed by the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, a luger from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, in a crash during a pre-Games training run on the day of the opening ceremonies. All of the sliding events (luge, bobsleigh, and skeleton) were subsequently altered, with the men starting from the (lower) women’s launch point and the women starting at the junior-level gate. Even with these adjustments, we saw a higher-than-usual number of wipeouts in these events, even among the most skilled competitors.

The Canadian women’s curling team had a member who was five months pregnant. Seriously, if you can do it at a world-class level when you’re heavily gravid, it’s really not much of a sport.

Speaking of curling, a shout-out to local Sonoma County company Loudmouth Golf, suppliers of wackily patterned pants for the Norwegian men’s curling squad. Seriously, if you can do it at a world-class level wearing ludicrous trousers, it’s really not much of a sport.

Canadian Joannie Rochette skated the short program of her life, less than three days after her mother’s sudden death from a heart attack. Joannie’s free skate was equally dazzling, netting her a bronze medal and the adulation of millions.

Bode Miller skiied home with a complete set of medals — a gold in super-combined, a silver in super-giant slalom, and bronze in the downhill. In so doing, he actually managed to seem slightly less full of himself than he did four years ago in Torino, where he was a total bust.

Memo to NBC’s Bob Costas: Put. The Just for Men. Down. Although, to Bob’s credit, his dye jobs looked better in Vancouver than they did two years ago at the Summer Games in Beijing.

Shaun “The Flying Tomato” White and Jeret “Speedy” Peterson busted out impossible-seeming aerial moves in the snowboard halfpipe and freestyle skiing, respectively, proving that if you want to be really good at anything, you need a snappy nickname.

Women’s halfpipe starred its own pair of tomatoes — silver medalist Hannah Teter and bronze medalist Kelly Clark.

Thanks to Bill Demong, Johnny Spillane, and their Nordic Combined teammates, Team USA won three medals in a class of events where no American had so much as sniffed the podium in, like, forever.

Has there ever been a more amazing female figure skater than South Korea’s Kim Yu-Na? If so, I must have missed seeing her. In technique, in artistry, and in power, Yu-Na was so many light-years ahead of the rest of the competitors that I almost felt embarrassed for the field.

Lost amid the highly deserved excitement over Apolo Ohno’s becoming the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian ever was the fact that his close friend Shani Davis won Team USA’s only speed-skating gold, in the men’s 1000 meters. Shani added a silver in the 1500. The most heart-warming story in speed skating came via J.R. Celski, who earned a bronze in 1500 meter short-track (thanks to a spectacular wipeout involving two Korean competitors) in his first competition after a horrific injury last fall.

We love Steve Holcomb and the Night Train, the gold-winning team in men’s four-man bobsleigh (and yes, that’s how they spell it at the Olympics). Steve’s celebratory “Holkie Dance”? Not so much.

Smackdown of the Games: Evan Lysacek’s win over the Ivan Drago of figure skating, Evgeni Plushenko.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was so incensed by his country’s lack of gold medals in Vancouver that he called for the ouster of Russia’s sports ministry. Tough sledding (pun intended) since that Soviet machine went away, eh, Vlad?

Proving that she does, in fact, know her shin from Shinola, Lindsay Vonn overcame a much-publicized injury to bag gold in the downhill and bronze in the super-G. Her teammate Julia Mancuso took home a pair of silver medals, in the downhill and super-combined.

Seth Wescott repeated as the only man ever to win gold in Olympic snowboard cross, a sport that I am convinced recruits its participants from insane asylums.

Halfpipe bronze medalist Scott Lago was sent home by the U.S. Olympic Committee, after photos appeared on the Internet showing Scott and a female companion engaging in risque business with his medal.

Memo to NBC’s makeup department: The technician who worked on the broadcast crew at the figure skating events needs to be fired.

Hannah Kearney and pink-tressed Shannon Bahrke displayed knees of steel as they pounded to gold and bronze, respectively, in women’s moguls. Bryon Wilson notched a bronze in the men’s version. How anyone could stand up after that event is beyond me.

Silver was the color of the season for Team USA hockey, with both the men’s and women’s teams coming in second to the homestanding Canadian squads. The USA men drove the Maple Leafers to overtime in the gold-medal game, with a last-minute goal by Zach Parise of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. Buffalo Sabres goalkeeper Ryan Miller battled valiantly between the pipes, earning recognition as the hockey tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

Perhaps the most shocking moment of the Games — aside from the Kumaritashvili and Rochette tragedies — occurred in the men’s 10,000-meter speed skating event. Dutch skater Sven Kramer lost the gold medal following his disqualification after the Netherlands’ coach, Gerard Kemkers, directed Kramer into the incorrect lane for the race’s final lap. An understandably angry Kramer appeared inconsolable after the race. If the Dutch have an equivalent to the witness protection program, Kemkers is probably in it right now.

I don’t believe ice dancing is really a sport — it’s more of a competitive exhibition — but silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White did us proud nonetheless, as did fourth-place finishers Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto.

Neither of our teenage figure skaters, Mirai Nagasu and Rachael Flatt, came home with a medal (they finished fourth and seventh), but both gave their finest performances to date. Watch out for Mirai in 2014 — she’ll be on the podium for sure.

Will we ever forget the image of the malfunctioning hydraulics on the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremonies? Good on the Canadians for poking fun at themselves by revisiting the misfire at the end of the Games.

And oh yeah… how did we ever watch the Olympics before HDTV?

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4 Comments on “Vancouver memories and Canada dreams”

  1. Sank Says:

    Brillant as usual Uncle Swan. Curling is a game. Seriously, even here in America’s Curling Capital (kid you knot) curling is a sport that requires membership in a curling “club” and guess what.. they serve beer at avery respectable curling club because beer is just part of the deal.

    Ice Dancing.. I’m 100% with you, also.. not as sport, just an exhibition.

    BTW, the more I think about it the more I like my idea that figure skaters should be required to wear uniforms of some kind that put them all on the same plane. Lets dump the outlandish costumes that take away from athleticism.. (no spell check on this Computer).

    ONe other add from Dear old Mr Sank.. I’ve think I’m done with Scott Hamilton for another 4 years, and not a moment to soon. He whines. A lot. And crys, and is elated and crys again and.. I’m just kinda done with him.

    Oh.. and lastly, Kudo’s to my ex fav Detroit Red Wing Stevie Yzerman and the job he did with Team Canada in the ice. Nice work, and I’m happy they were able to win on their own ice, in front of their own fans.

    ANd, just to show how far we’ve come.. congrts to team USA Men for not destroying their hotel roomm after they lost, like they did in Nagano. Maybe it was good that they made to the final day.. the NHL could get them out of the area before they started thinking about trouble.

    Finall, and I’m running over my alloted space here.. The NHL is making noise about not allowing their players to participate in the Olympics.. because it disrupts their season.. becuase in markets like Atlanta and Nashville the teams lose their fans.. to them, a pox. If it weren’t for the Olympics and Olympic hockey.. they would have 0, zero, nada fans in those markets.

    Sank out.

    • SwanShadow Says:

      Sank: Any activity in which beer is served to the participants is not a sport. (See: Bowling.)

      What I don’t understand about figure skating: Everyone skates a short program, but usually only the women wear shorts. Not that I’m advocating for anything different. Just saying.

      I have to go easy on Scott Hamilton, as he and I are of the same faith. (He was baptized at my alma mater, Pepperdine U.) From what I hear from people who know him, he’s actually a pretty cool guy. But yeah, I hear you — a little of that style of commentary goes a long way.

      I thought both men’s hockey teams that contested for the gold medal conducted themselves admirably. Great game, and great sportsmanship. (The Canadian women’s hockey team, on the other hand…)

      And I’m with you 100% re the NHL. If they make it difficult for their players to participate in the Olympics, shame on them. It’s a couple of weeks once every four seasons. Suck it up and deal.

  2. FirstTimeLongTime Says:

    Senior SS: Have to respectfully disagree with you about curling. If you are judging its sports worthiness on pure physical exertion like, say, running a marathon, it is never going to match up, obviously. But if you look at it from a strategy and executing-in-the-crunch point of view, it is a sport in spades.

    The comment about beer being served/not a sport is more than a little disingenuous. It is not like the elite curlers are downing brews during games. How many people golf just for the suds and the socializing? Is golf not a sport?

    Otherwise, keep up the good work.

    • SwanShadow Says:

      FTLT: If strategy and executing under pressure make an activity a sport, then chess is a sport. So is horseshoes. So is Jeopardy!, for that matter — something I know more than a little about. I’d call all three games instead. Curling goes in that same category.

      And no, in my opinion, golf is not a sport. It too is a game. Competitive yes, athletic no. Again, if you can do it in loud pants while drinking beer, it’s not a sport, as I define same.

      YMMV.


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