Winter Olympic Thoughts (the Games close)
In the last event of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Sidney Crosby scored an overtime goal for Team Canada to beat USA in the gold medal hockey match. Well, that just makes sense. Sid the Kid didn’t actually get on the scoresheet much in the tournament, as his coaches had trouble finding the proper linemates. (How can you have trouble finding linemates for Sidney frickin’ Crosby?) Still, Crosby has as great a sense of the moment as any athlete I’ve ever seen.
Canada played pretty well in the final, but I wasn’t as impressed as I was with their play in the 7-3 quarterfinal victory over the Russians. That was the unstoppable forechecking juggernaut that we all imagined when they first announced the names of the players on the squad. The Canadians went up against a skilled, confident, motivated Russian team and simply reduced it to ashes. They weren’t as overwhelming in the semis against Slovakia or the finals because in both cases they got conservative in the third period. The Americans outplayed Canada rather decisively in that last frame, as Canada’s only real opportunity was a breakaway by Crosby. I think the message here is that you can’t sit on a one-goal lead for an entire period. Your best bet is to try to add to your lead unless you’re a women’s team that can get the margin into double digits.
The Americans can console themselves with the play of Ryan Miller and Zach Parise (who has a pretty good sense of the moment his own self, as witnessed by the goal that tied the gold-medal match with 24 seconds left). I was glad to see that aging Slovak team get to the medal round after disappointments in each of the previous Games. I just wish they’d taken the bronze. We likely won’t see that generation of Pavol Demitra, Ziggy Palffy, Jozef Stumpel, et al. again at the Olympics. There’s serious talk that the NHL won’t be going to the Olympics at all in the future, which raises the question, “Are they insane?” The league needs the Games way more than the Games need the NHL.
In a related note, the Canadian women’s hockey team also won gold and then drew some controversy for sipping champagne and beer on the ice afterwards. The IOC promised an investigation, which is more than they’re doing about the death of that Georgian luger. That brings me to a point I’ve made before: IOC president Jacques Rogge is a sheltered, amoral idiot who looked away from China’s human rights abuses two years ago and then got all worked up about Usain Bolt celebrating during the 100 meter dash. Click here for a fuller detailing of his failures of leadership. Meanwhile, the New York Times reported Canadian sports columnist Cam Cole as expressing outrage that the women weren’t drinking Canadian beer, saying, “If you drink Coors Light, the terrorists have won.” I hope Cole was joking, because that’s pretty funny.
Noticed a couple more uniform quirks. The Canadian short-track speed skating outfits had this weird black design on the back of the legs reaching up to the thighs, which had the unfortunate effect of making the skaters look like they’d soiled themselves. Not the most intimidating look, there. The bobsledding competitions feature sleds with different colors and designs, even the ones from the same countries. I liked Germany-1 in the women’s side, which featured maple leafs with the colors of Germany’s flag.
Speaking of bobsledding, you probably heard about USA-1 and driver Steve Holcomb breaking a six-decade medal drought for us in that sport. There was less play given to NASCAR driver Geoff Bodine and his role in the renaissance of the American bobsled program. The Americans went from doormats to champions in bobsledding in a relatively short time.
NBC’s coverage of Lindsey Vonn was schizophrenic. First they tried to turn the rivalry between her and fellow American skier Julia Mancuso into some sort of catfight, then they went the other way and played up Vonn’s friendship with German skier Maria Riesch. I wonder if they ran that segment because by that time they knew that Riesch had outperformed Vonn (two gold medals to Vonn’s one gold and one bronze). It was really strange.
This name will appeal to anyone with a juvenile sense of humor: German skier Andreas Wank. Sadly, the “w” is pronounced like a “v”. I wish I’d had the chance to form this guy’s cheering section. American short-track speedskater Katherine Reutter had her own cheering section called the “Reutter Rooters.” Three guesses as to what Andreas Wank’s fans should be called.
On a more highbrow note, the classical music fan in me noticed both gold medal-winning figure skaters performing to Gershwin’s Concerto in F. Kim Yu-na won the gold with her routine, while Evan Lysacek skated to music from both the concerto and Rhapsody in Blue during the post-competition gala. I always thought the Gershwin concerto was one of his underrated pieces, so it’s nice to see the figure skaters give that some exposure.
While we’re on the subject of Kim, NBC gave some play to her career as an ad pitchwoman in South Korea, but they didn’t unearth this YouTube clip of her sidelight as a pop singer.
Canada’s Own the Podium campaign was taking some hits in the first week of the Games, with the Canadians lagging behind in the medal count and having missed out on several medals they seemed to have an inside track on. Now that all the competitions are over, Canada wound up a very healthy third in the overall medal count with more gold medals than anybody else. It’s possible that the campaign still wasn’t worth the expense — countries typically get a big boost in medals when they host the Olympics — but it should quiet down most of the complaints up north. (On the other hand, the Russians fell way short of the medal haul that they were hoping for. There will be repercussions for the country hosting the next Winter Games.) By all accounts, the Canadian citizenry were gracious hosts regardless of the failings of the Games’ organizers. They can be proud of more than just their hockey gold.