“I remember those cheers, They still ring in my ears, So gimme a stage, Where this bull can rage, And though I can fight, I’d much rather recite, That’s entertainment! That’s entertainment.”
– Jake La Motta, aka Raging Bull
Are you not entertained?! As the Vancouver Games nears its conclusion, I was still waiting for the “golden moment” of these games, and it finally arrived on Thursday night. In the evening’s(and the Games) marquee event, Kim Yu-Na’s flawless performance in the women’s figure skating free skate signaled her accession as the new Queen of the figure skating universe and in her(and mine) native country of South Korea. Kim was the prohibitive favorite going into the Games; she arrived in Vancouver with the weight and eyes of an entire country fixed upon her, and despite the immense pressure and expectations, she rose to the occasion and delivered a performance that many commentators unanimously agreed was one of the greatest of all time. The moment she finished her routine the emotion started flowing instantly; tears of joy and relief started to stream down her face, and she knew that her lifelong dream was now a reality. The women’s event was already ripe with drama and emotion; bronze medalist Joannie Rochette skated only four days after her mother passed away, and she stole the of hearts her countrymen with a routine that was as much as a eulogy as it was performance art. So the question is where does Queen Yu-Na go from here? She is undoubtedly a mega-celebrity back in Korea, and at 19 years of age, she’s still just a kid. Will we see her in 4 years at Sochi? She’s already accomplished everything that’s possible in her sport, and personally I think this is the perfect opportunity for her to soak in the limelight, take a bow and move on with the rest of her life. But if she does decide to come back to compete in 2014, who, if any, will attempt to challenge her reign? All hail the Queen. In case you missed it, here’s the link to her coronation.
Speaking of queens, I have to mention the ongoing real life soap opera taking place in the men’s figure skating world, with American divo Johnny Weir taking front and center stage. Now I’m not sure if this makes me sexist, but I will acknowledge that while I do watch women’s figure skating, I don’t have much interest in the men’s side of the sport. But I will occasionally tune in to see what over the top outfits the men are sporting, and silver medalist and former Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko’s persona is a bizarre yet intriguing amalgam of steely cold-hearted Russian resolve combined with the graceful elegance of Baryshnikov. But the skater I want to address is Weir, whose flair for the dramatic and in your face flamboyance sparked a controversy when two Canadian commentators, Claude Mailhot and Alain Goldberg made some despicable remarks about Weir’s outfit for the competition, accused him of being a bad example for young male skaters, and even called for a gender test. Weir in response held a conference to respond to the comments, and his humility and grace masked what I think he and alot of other people really felt, which was “Fuck you, you fake Frenchies.” If you’re not familiar with Johnny Weir, here’s a sample of his work:
All I can say is WOW.
Face glitter and high heels aside, there is something about Weir’s demeanor that you have to admire and applaud. He managed in his press conference to emphatically discredit and denounce the comments made about him without coming off as bitter or vindictive. And contrary to the belief of his critics, he demonstrated that he is in fact a positive role model for his fans, while still asserting his individuality and indifference towards any misguided public perception of him. Here’s a clip of the conference.
And if you’re not convinced, I submit one last piece of evidence on behalf of his defense.
There are no words. Speechless. The sad part is Weir came in 6th place in the men’s event, so he won’t be invited to skate in the exhibition gala on Saturday, and we won’t get to see Weir and his performance to Poker Face. What’s even sadder is Lady Gaga promised she would attend the gala if Weir was going to perform. And anytime the world is deprived of Gaga, we all lose. But I digress…
A petition was started to have Weir perform on Saturday, here’s the link.
USA! USA! It’s not quite the Miracle On Ice, but Team USA’s 5-3 win over Canada earlier this week was the Olympic shock heard round the world, or at least in North America. The American men’s team is chock full of youth and energy, as a new generation of young American stars have taken over the reins, with young talents like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Patrick Kane, Ryan Malone, goalkeeper Ryan Miller all asserting their place on the team, with veterans Chris Drury, Brian Rafalski, and Jamie Langenbrunner all providing a steady presence on the ice and in the locker room. The feel good vibe this team exudes is in stark contrast to the 1998 team that trashed their rooms in the Olympic Village. The 1998 games were significant because for the first time in the modern Games era the NHL took a break in their season to allow the top players to play in the Olympics, and as a result the Canadian and American teams were filled with top-tier stars. Surprisingly neither team medaled in the 1998 Games, as the Czech Republic, anchored by perennial NHL superstars Jaromir Jagr and “The Dominator” Dominik Hasek, won the gold. The US team came off as underachieving prima donnas, and Team Canada fell flat and was beaten by Finland in the bronze medal game. Since then, Team USA underwent a gradual transition away from a team filled with the old establishment of NHL veterans to the next generation of talent, while still preserving a few essential pieces. USA just secured their rematch with Canada in the gold medal game after trouncing Finland 6-1 earlier today. One has to feel that Team USA has the mental edge going into the final game, having beaten Canada already once before. The “Dream Team” like aura the Canadian team once exuded is now gone, and I expect one of the best gold medal games ever. If USA can pull it off, don’t call it a fluke. Sorry Canada, hockey may be your national sport, but this is our continent.
I’ve come to the conclusion that bobsledding is less of a sport and more of a circus act. Whoever came up with the idea of driving a five hundred pound sled down an icy tunnel without any substantial steering control must have been on something real good. What makes the sport even more ridiculous is the “expert” commentators who often get egg on their face, as it seems they can’t really distinguish a good run from a bad one, or a fast run from a slow run to be more accurate. I lost count how many times the result of a run was the opposite outcome of what a commentator predicted from their observations. But it does seem like a lot of fun, and at speeds up to 95 mph the g-forces a bobsledder feels is equivalent to an extreme roller coaster ride. And I love g’s. Although if this happened to me, as it did to the German women’s team during their final run, I would probably reconsider my commitment to the “sport.”
Update: So my beloved Russian women’s team is out, and I’m watching the Canada/Sweden gold medal final as I’m writing this post. Considering how much I enjoy watching curling on tv oddly enough, I discovered there are three curling facilities in the Bay Area, although none are in SF. Anyone care for a match? I’ll even settle for a game of shuffleboard. On second thought, no, I will not settle.