Category Archives: Olympics

Winter Olympics Reflection

So my prediction of an epic faceoff in the men’s hockey gold medal game turned out to be prophetic, with Canada winning 3-2 on a Sidney Crosby game winner in overtime.  For me, sudden death playoff hockey, whether it’s in the NHL or the Olympics, is one of the most thrilling formats in all of sport.   So to see Canada’s poster boy athlete slot home the championship winning goal was incredible on its own merit, but I can imagine for Canadians it was one of the greatest moments in their Olympic history.  As much as I was rooting for the modern day Cinderella USA team to win it all, I was thoroughly satisfied with the final result.  Echoing my previous comments, Canada preserved its national pride with the win, as a loss to USA would have been much more damaging to their somewhat fragile confidence than the loss was for us.  It’s still our continent and it’s still their sport, for now.

As if things couldn’t get any better for Canada, their men’s curling team also took home gold in the final on Saturday night.  A part of what makes curling so entertaining is watching the intense focus the competitors exude as they’re about to throw the stone down the ice.  I am confused, however, by all the yelling that goes on as the stone is sliding down the ice, it sounds like a bunch of jabber, but I assume it all means something specific and has a purpose.  My friend Cleve brilliantly suggested that if drinking was made mandatory during a match, we could have some entertainment gold on our hands.  Could you imagine a curler trying to throw a stone during the tenth end and just keeling over while sliding down the ice?  This is why I need to be a sports commissioner, my primary focus would be to put out an entertaining product for the fans.  Another unique aspect about curling is the absolute lack of athleticism required to play, besides being able to slide on ice and sweep, and this lack of emphasis on athletic ability is what makes the women’s game as equally enjoyable to watch as the men’s side.  Before you accuse of me being a male chauvinist, which I’m not, what I mean by that is exactly what I wrote: the lack of emphasis on size, strength, or speed means the women can play the game just as well as the men, which is really the point I’m trying to make(And if you honestly believe that other women’s sports, like basketball, hockey or numerous others, are as entertaining or anywhere near the same level as their male equivalents, then we’ll just have to agree to disagree).  But that doesn’t necessarily mean the women of the Olympics aren’t exceptional talents; They are all elite athletes in their respective sports, and many of the womens’ events, in particular the alpine skiing ones, provided drama, thrills, and spills to boot.  And need I mention again Queen Yu Na?

In the past, for some odd reason I would feel a momentary sense of sadness and separation whenever a sporting event like the Olympics or the World Cup came to their conclusion.  I think part of it was knowing that it would be another four years before they returned, which is a significant amount of time.  Part of it could also be attributed to my enthusiasm, and perhaps borderline fanaticism, for sport.  But times have changed, and now you can find tv coverage on many of the Olympic sports year round practically, with channels like Universal Sports dedicating their programming to showcasing Olympic sports in non Olympic years.  And four years just doesn’t seem quite as long as it used to, maybe it’s because I’m getting older and a year in my life seems less significant.  My law school peeps can attest that the past three years seemed to fly by, at least that’s how it felt for me.  BTW, the Green Day song “Time of Your Life” is stuck in my head right now, sorry if the same happens to you after reading this.  “It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right…”

Another observation that came to me as I was watching all the Olympic programming was the giant leap forward in the viewing experience because of the now widespread use of HD cameras and modern rigging equipment.  HD has been around for awhile now, but some of the new visuals NBC concocted, like watching a replay of two skiers’ runs superimposed on the screen at the same time, created a uniquely insightful dimension for the viewer.  Instant replay is so yesterday.  Although HD slow motion replay is pretty sick.  Here’s a slideshow of some of the memorable moments from these Games…

All in all, I give the Vancouver Games a solid 9.0 for the events and storylines, but a 6.5 for NBC’s television coverage and production.  Keep Bob Costas, but ditch the football broadcasting duo of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, who for the most part failed to accentuate the high and low moments of the Games with any verve.  Personally, I would love to see Marv Albert return to NBC, his signature “YES!” and high energy commentary would be be a welcome addition to the tepid collection of announcers and analysts NBC trotted out.

Not to end on a somber note, but I feel compelled to briefly mention the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died from a crash during a practice run that flung him off the course and into a steel beam.  His death is a sobering reminder of the fragility of life, and highlights the inherent risks many of the athletes take to compete at the highest level.  Unfortunately his death will be remembered as a dark cloud of sorrow that will be permanently associated with the Vancouver Games.  But even in the face of death, the important thing in life is to take something ugly and create something beautiful.  The Olympics is about more than just sport; It is a universal link that brings the world together, it reminds us that we are all human, and that even in our finest hour we are capable of faltering, and that athletes will come and go like waves in the sea, but the Olympic spirit will endure forever.  I’ll remember Shaun White’s victory lap, Lindsay Vonn’s downhill run, Bode Miller’s comeback and redemption, Apolo Ohno’s lack of dominance(HAHA, sweet sweet validation!), the men’s hockey final, Queen Yu Na’s virtuoso performances, all of my favorite female curling beauties, and many more.  What will you remember from these Games?

See you again hopefully in four years for the next Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.  Babushka!

MP

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Winter Olympics Review – Week 2

“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.

http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/assetid=e554cf17-5d3c-4531-9dc6-c9a9cf5eec06.html#queen+yu+na+crowned+kim+wins+gold

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.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/johnnygweir.

Hockey

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.

Bobsledding

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.”

http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/assetid=6e5f6ff1-1f78-4161-84ee-116bc58fe95c.html#day+germanys+martini+crashes+fourth

Curling

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.

MP

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Winter Olympics Review – Week 1

Given I’m a fan of sport in general, my friend Scott aptly pointed out that F4D is entirely my own forum and has no restrictions, and that my lack of commentary on the Winter Olympics was a glaring omission.  A post on the Olympics would be a welcome reprieve from my recent posts focused entirely on F1, so without further adieu…

Alpine Skiing

So Bode Miller does a big bellyflop at the Turin Games back in 2006, goes into semi-retirement and uses the time off to recharge his batteries and is reinvigorated to ski again?  Sounds like a dozen athlete pseudo-retirement stories, but at the same time, Miller is not exactly a conventional athlete.  He embodies the spirit of the label “maverick”; Raised in a log cabin with no electricity or plumbing for most of his childhood, Miller stated that his goals in skiing is not to win medals, but rather to ski “as fast as the natural universe will allow.”  He eventually parlayed that penchant for going fast into two World Cup titles, and a pair of silver medals back at the Salt Lake City Olympics, including a memorable moment where he hiked back up the slalom course to finish his run after he missed a gate.  But his performance at the Turin Games, both on and off the slopes, will always stand out as one of the most disappointing demonstrations of what an athlete shouldn’t do at the highest level of competition.  He failed to win a medal, claiming the expectations were unrealistic(Really? You’re one of the best in the world at what you do, you had five chances to show it and came up short every time).  And yet he had the audacity to say that despite his failures on the slopes, his Olympic experience was a success and it had “been an awesome two weeks,” and that he “got to party and socialize at an Olympic level.”  Understandably since then Miller has sub silentio retracted some of his comments, stating “My actions are not always consistent. I’m super-mellow and laid back, but I’m always thinking and running 100,000 scenarios through my head. Sometimes I’m disciplined, but I like to be a total slacker, too. I party hard, but I train hard. People are going to try and figure me out and figure out my motivations, and it’s going to be a circus.”  To be fair, Miller has always been mercurial and enigmatic, which also makes him highly intriguing.  But the hypocrisy in his personal philosophy is evident when he speaks of his accomplishments, e.g. After his 2006 Olympic performance, he stated that he didn’t set out any specific goals for the Olympics, that winning medals didn’t motivate him, and that winning the World Cup title was more important than any medal.  See the inherent conflict?  Medals or trophies don’t motivate you, but winning the World Cup does?  But that’s all in the past, and watching him perform in the downhill and super-g at Whistler, you could see he was genuinely determined to do well.  Perhaps Miller finally got what the Olympics are about, or maybe this is all just a well designed PR ploy to restore his somewhat tarnished image.  Nonetheless, it’s to safe to say he at least achieved his one goal in life of going fast, just not the fastest.

Update: Miller won his first Olympic gold medal in the super combined sunday evening after blitzing the slalom course after a lackluster downhill run.  It seems Miller has wholeheartedly drank the Olympic kool-aid, but it doesn’t necessarily invalidate my prior comments.

On the women’s side, it’s clear there’s Lindsey Vonn, and then the rest of them.  Her gold medal winning downhill run wasn’t exactly perfect, which highlights just how much better she is than her competitors.  It’s a safe bet to say she’s poised to become the next skiing megastar, she has pretty much the whole package.  On another note, how exciting was the women’s downhill event as a whole?  It showcased the entire spectrum of emotions and sensations an athlete experiences, from the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat.  In case you missed it, here’s a short clip of the crashes from the event.

http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/assetid=ef1ea57d-0b12-4751-ab95-c3c2cff6f6de.html#crashes

While Marion Rolland’s crash thirty feet out of the starting gate was the most tragic and embarrassing, I found Daniela Merighetti’s crash to be the most poignant of all of them.  While her fall looked the least spectacular and painful, her reaction stood out as one of genuine disappointment, and in the same moment she was humanized as an athlete, and I applaud her honesty and candor.  It’s at the 1:05 mark in the link.

Speed Skating

Now I normally strive to be objective as possible in general, and I’ll do my best in this circumstance, but it’s not going to be easy.  It’s undeniable that Team USA and the media are at full throttle in promoting Apolo Ohno as the greatest(more appropriately prolific) American Winter Olympian.  Really?!  When I think of the greatest Olympians, names like Jesse Owens, Mark Spitz, Carl Lewis, Hermann Maier, and of course Michael Phelps come to mind.  Now I have to lump in that d-bag Ohno with sporting royalty?  Before I continue, I feel obligated to disclose that my Korean descent is naturally going to predispose my attitude towards Ohno; the South Korean speed skating program is one of the strongest in the world, and there’s been plenty of controversy between Ohno and the Koreans.  In 2002, Ohno was essentially gifted a gold medal in the 1500m event after he complained he was impeded by Kim Dong-Sung.  The officials ruled in Ohno’s favor, and sparked a firestorm of controversy among the speed skating community and the American and South Korean press.  To illustrate how much vitriol we felt towards Ohno, he was voted in 2003 as the most hated athlete and fourth most hated personality in the world in South Korea.  I will concede, however, that Ohno is one of the best short-track speedskaters of his era, but I will not acknowledge that he is the definitively the best.  Michael Phelps didn’t establish his legacy by winning silver and bronzes, he was all about the gold.  Ohno’s track record reflects a consistency that is laudable, but he is far from dominant.  And as proof of my position, look no further than his performance so far in Vancouver: A silver in the 1500m, but with a huge asterisk considering that two Koreans in 2nd and 3rd place inexplicably took each other out on the last turn of the final lap, gifting the silver medal to Ohno, and a bronze in the 1000m, this time getting beat by two Lees.  Greatest Winter Olympic Champion?  A champion?  Begrudgingly yes.  The Greatest?  Hardly not.  And judging from my observations the universal dislike towards Ohno only helps to solidify my stance towards him.  If you’re not convinced, I submit as evidence Exhibit A.

I rest my case.

On another note, shout out to Shani Davis, the American long track speedskater and two time gold medalist in the 1000m.  As the first African American athlete from any country to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics, he isn’t just a champion, but a champion and a trailblazer, which in my book makes him extra special.  Davis didn’t necessarily have to break the same barriers Jackie Robinson did, but he channels the same grace and humility when he competes.

Snowboarding

It’s Shaun White’s world, and we all witnesses.  When it’s evident you’re competing at a level several notches higher than your competitors, is it even a competition?  His level of performance echos one of my favorite quotes from my old tennis coach: Endurance is when all your opponents have quit, and you are only in competition with yourself.  Double Mctwist 1260?  As visually impressive as it sounds delicious, unless it’s an item at McD’s. On the women’s side, despite the American double duo of Hannah Teter and Gretchen Bleiler, Australian Torah Bright took the top prize, and I foresee multiple magazine covers and endorsements in her future.

She pretty much nailed the slightly snarky yet seductive runway model look, not to mention the switch backside rooster 720.

Curling

Speaking of attractive female Olympians, have you seen some of the members of the Russian curling team?  Despite having watched curling events during Olympic years in the past, I never noticed female curlers for their physical attractiveness the same way I did for another Olympic sport like pole-vaulting or volleyball.  But Lydmila Privivkova and Ekaterina Galkina have forced me to reconsider my Olympic viewing priorities.  Take a look for yourself, I took these pictures with my iPhone on my tv so that my friend Charles wasn’t in the dark.


The brunette resembles Rachel Leigh Cook, and in the curling realm, she’s all that.

The scantily clad female in this picture is apparently a member of the Polish curling team, but unfortunately they didn’t qualify for the Olympics this time around.  Oh well, there’s always Sochi in 2014.

All in all, it’s been an entertaining first week, stay tuned for a wrap up post probably at the end of next week.  Peace!

MP

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