Olympic Tidbits

Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 by Travis Cody in
7

I think Apolo Anton Ohno is a tremendous athlete. He's won six Olympic medals...two gold, two silver (one of them came in the 1500m just over the weekend), and two bronze. That ties him as the most decorated US Winter Olympian. And he's still got three more chances to win another medal or two.

I also think that the color of the medal doesn't matter. You win medals...you don't settle for silver or bronze if you miss out on gold. So Ohno's achievement should be applauded and I'll be rooting for his continued success. However, whether he wins a couple more medals or not, he's certainly in the conversation of greatest US Olympic athletes. As are two other speed skaters.

Bonnie Blair won six medals over three Winter Olympic games. She's got a bronze, and five gold medals as a long track speed skater.

Eric Heiden won five gold medals in long track speed skating, all at Lake Placid in 1980. He won every individual event, setting four Olympic and one world record. No skater has ever duplicated that achievement. It's on a par with Michael Phelps' eight gold medals in swimming at Beijing in 2008, five of which came in individual events and in which he set four individual world records and an Olympic record. All three of Phelps' relay gold medals were also won in world record time.

Apolo Ohno is the first athlete to win six medals in short track speed skating.

I've been looking forward to these Olympic Games from Vancouver ever since they were awarded to the Canadian city on the west coast. I thought that an Olympics held in my time zone was a terrific thing.

Would you believe that everything I've watched so far as been "taped from an earlier live broadcast"? Even on the weekend! I haven't seen a legitimate live event, not evening the opening ceremonies, which NBC didn't bother to start airing until 9pm on Friday night. We were barely able to stay awake for all of it! In fact, I dozed a bit just before the lighting of the cauldron. I jerked awake and thought I missed it.

Wait...I do remember that I watched a live broadcast of the woman's hockey game between Sweden and Switzerland on Saturday. That was on CNBC.

Still, this means that I have the same problem I have with every other Olympic Games. I have to be aware when I'm on the internet or watching the news, because they'll report results that I may not want to hear until I get to watch the event. In fact, while watching the basketball game between Tennessee and Kentucky on Saturday evening before the Olympics, the result of the men's 1500m short track speed skating race scrolled across the bottom of the screen on the ESPN ticker.

Bummer.

I enjoy watching so many sports that I don't follow outside of the Olympics, particularly the Nordic ski events. And it was terrific to see three Americans challenge in the Nordic combined, which is ski jumping with cross country skiing. Johnny Spillane won silver, the first medal of any kind for an American in this event. Two other Americans finished fourth and sixth, Todd Lodwick and Billy Dumong.

The Americans used strong finishes in the jumps to set themselves up for the cross country. The sprint to the finish was exciting. Spillane kicked free with about a kilometer left in the race, but he got caught right at the end by gold medalist Jason Lamy-Chappuis from France.

This first event was on what is called the normal hill, where the start line is a shorter distance up the run. Flyers can reach distances of 360 feet on their jumps. There are two more events in Nordic combined, from the larger hill for individual competition and then a team event. So the Americans are in pretty good shape to potentially win more medals.

Of course my focus is on American athletes. I'm from the USA. But I'm not completely nationalistic when it comes to the Olympics. I got a lump in my throat when Alex Bilodeau won Canada's first Olympic gold medal on home ground. He broke the golden drought in men's moguls, beating out the defending Olympic champion to take the top spot on the podium.

And how stirring was it to listen to Canadians sing their national anthem at the top of their voices during the medal ceremony? (The photo credit here goes to Mark J Terrill, AP)

And as happy as I was for American Hannah Kearney, I was heart-broken for Jenn Heil. She missed out on her chance to be Canada's first gold medalist when Kearney took a nearly flawless drop down the mogul course.

And I gasped when the two Korean short track speed skaters wiped out in front of Apolo Ohno, allowing him to slip past them for his silver medal in the 1500 meter race. The Koreans were headed for a medal sweep of the event before the crash. Instead, Jung-Su Lee got the gold while Ohno took silver and American JR Celski got the bronze.

Watching snowboard cross last night, Pam and I both exclaimed "oh no" every time a rider went down. American Seth Wescott overcame a mistake during speed qualifying, hung in, and then took advantage of some errors by other riders to edge out Canadian Mike Robertson for gold. Tony Ramoin of France took bronze behind Robertson.

And we were both so moved by the performance of Chinese figure skating pair Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo. At 31 and 36 respectively, they are the oldest pair at the games and gold medal favorites. Their short program on Sunday evening was breath-taking.

The pair followed that performance with a passionate and dramatic long program, earning them a gold medal, the only trophy missing from a distinguished career. This is the first time since Squaw Valley in 1960 that a country other than the Soviet Union/Russia has won the pairs competition.

So while I cheer for each positive performance by an American athlete, I'm not indifferent to the triumphs of athletes from around the world. I feel for the athletes who come up short of their goals, and I love to see their joy when they exceed their personal expectations.

Citius. Altius. Fortius.

Swifter. Higher. Stronger.

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well." Pierre de Coubertin, 1908.

All photos are Yahoo, Google, or AP images unless otherwise noted.

7 comments:

  1. Akelamalu says:

    Well you've seen a darn sight more than me Trav, I haven't seen anything but the highlights on the news!

  1. Jeni says:

    Like you, I too have been following the Olympics this year -more than I have done in previous years I must say. I love the Winter Games! They are my all-time favorite events. And, I watched the same events as you mentioned here -with the same reactions too as you had to the winners, the other participants too, regardless of what country they were from. Sure, I root for the American athletes but I shed tears for Jen Heil, cried as I watched various skiers and skaters take a tumble, wipe out. It's all about the effort they each have put forth and winning -while great -is not the whole enchilada either. I'm even excited because my best friend's husband is up in Vancouver, having been sent there by the bus company where he works, to shuttle people around from one venue to another! I find that to be pretty exciting too as I never figured I'd ever know anyone who was able to be even near to an Olympic event! And I'll keep my eyes glued to the TV screen over the time the Olympics are showing too.

  1. Bond says:

    I have been watching off and on since the opening ceremony, which I watched start to end.

    I always root for good competition and tight times. I tend to like the sports where scoring or time is the determining factor and not those sports where some panel of judges decides what is good and what is not...

    I have seen too many contests taken away because some judge from some country does not like the country performing...

  1. Marsha says:

    The Winter Olympics are by far my favorite over the summer version. And with DWTS, I got to 'know' Apollo a bit more, so I feel like I'm cheering for someone I know as opposed to the general 'USA' cheering. What really helps are the stories behind the athletes that they share. What a story J.R. Celski has.....that he's even able to compete...but gets a metal too....WOW.

  1. How how how did I miss the ice skating? It is my favorite.
    I am obviously not paying attention.

  1. Travis says:

    Akelamalu: Well then you've seen some good high lights!

    Jeni: The winter games always seem more intimate than the summer games.

    V: Judged sports can be tough, but the governing bodies have started to take that kind of favoritism out of the results. They can't remove all of the subjectivity in those judged events, but they have tried.

    Marsha: He does seem more accessible than he did back in 2006.

    Mimi: Well, it's on pretty late. The final pairs didn't skate until after 11:30pm and we barely made it to the end.

  1. Linda says:

    I'm afraid I've only seen bits and pieces of the Games. On Sunday we watched a little bit of the ski jumping which always amazes me as I can't even imagine flying off the end of a ramp and flying through the air before landing on two little strips of wood. They all should get a medal for guts alone!

    I'm sorry I missed the figure skating, that's always been one of my very favorites.

    Sorry that the scheduling isn't working out for you even being in the "right time zone". That stinks! I guess hardly anything is broadcast live anymore.