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March 2, 2018

Some reflections, thoughts and middle-depth musings from the XXIII Olympic Winter Games of PyeongChang, while I continue to nurse my post-Olympics hangover …

  • I’ll admit it: Once Canada went up 2-1 on the USA in the Women’s Hockey Gold Medal Final, the next 25 minutes of game time ticked by agonizingly, an all-too-familiar snakebit feeling creeping into the pit of my stomach. That is, until Monique Lamoureux-Morando caught Canada on a bad line change and tied it up with a breakaway goal at 6:21 in the 3rd. Someone needs to sync up Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson’s “Oops I Did It Again” move that scored the winning shootout goal for USA to Britney Spears’ “Oops I Did It Again” chorus. So catchy. Canada’s netminder definitely got lost in the game.
  • Ester Ledecka might have resolved the eternal war between the skiing and snowboarding cultures with her historic double Gold in the Alpine Super G (video therein from the World feed) and Snowboarding Parallel Giant Slalom. I was always a “Can’t we all just get along?” guy back in my skiing days, but snowboarding has always been frowned upon by the skiing establishment. Heck, even NBC’s live coverage of the Alpine Super G frowned upon the idea of a snowboarder upsetting the existing order, declaring Austria’s Anna Veith the winner with 26 skiers left (including the moonlighting Ledecka) and “had switched coverage to a simulcast of NBC Sports Network’s men’s figure skating free skate broadcast”, before breaking back in with a replay of Ledecka’s golden run that won by 0.01 seconds. Is it time for skiers and snowboarders to gather together and sing “Kumbaya” yet?
  • Anyone else think the “Miracurl On Ice” will lead to an explosion of “Curling Pubs” across the United States, like frozen new age bowling alleys, with wings, beer and poutine? I can see it now: “The 8th End”, “Five-Spot”, “CUUURRRLLLL!!” Sign me up!
  • Were these Olympics held 24 years ago, the USA would have only won two (2) Gold Medals: Mikaela Shiffrin’s Gold in the Women’s Alpine Giant Slalom, and Jessie Diggans and Kikkan Randall’s Gold in the Women’s Cross Country Team Sprint Free relay. Snowboarding, where USA won five (5) Golds, Curling, and Women’s Hockey didn’t appear in the Olympics until the 1998 Nagano games.
  • I’m curious, if you were to ask several Canadians whether Canada was successful in these games, what their answer would be? No team Curling medals (albeit Gold in the Mixed Doubles event debut), no Hockey Gold, and yet … 29 medals & 11 Gold, their largest medal haul ever (only 2010 Vancouver was more “Golden”). Dominated Freestyle Skiing with Gold in four (4) of the 10 events. Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir lept straight out of a naughty Dudley Do-Right cartoon to lead Canada to Gold in the Team Figure Skating event, then won Gold in Ice Dancing (although if I ever hear the Moulin Rouge soundtrack during a skate again, it’ll be too soon). Spreading some Medal love through Bobsleigh, Luge, Short Track Speed Skating, Snowboarding, and Speed Skating, I would argue Canada was a resounding success at these Olympics. Even if they didn’t win team Gold in either of their “national” sports.
  • Elsewhere, south of the Canadian Border, we have various media outlets such as Time (via The Associated Press), The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic (via CityLab), and even The San Jose Mercury News counting the ways USA underachieved in these Winter Games. It was USA’s lowest medal count – 23 total, 9 Gold – since the 1998 Nagano Games (13 total, 6 Gold). I mean, Lindsay Vonn somehow had to defend her Bronze in the Alpine Women’s Downhill, despite becoming the oldest woman to win an Olympic Alpine medal. Nonetheless, I believe the explanations are rather simple and obvious, between over-projections of medals by the USOC (37? C’mon now), and several near-misses. USA athletes finished 4th or 5th a total of 26 times (!) in PyeongChang (and 6th in another 9 events). One of those was Nathan Chen, who, after being anointed one of the faces of these Games by NBC in their preview coverage, suffered a disastrous short program that left him in 17th place. Yet Chen found redemption in the free skate with an Olympic Record score (215.08) that is the 5th highest of all time to contend for a medal, finishing 5th while becoming the first Olympian to land five quadruple jumps. A clear short program, and we’re talking about a different Gold Medalist and probably an all-time skating performance. Another was Jessie Diggins, the USA flagbearer for the Closing Ceremonies, who had finishes of 5th, 5th, 5th, 6th, and 7th in her other five Cross Country events. Yet it was her and Randall’s historic Gold in the Team Sprint Free by half the length of a ski that not only provided my favorite moment of these games – USA’s 1st Cross Country Skiing medal in 42 years since Bill Koch took Silver in the Men’s 30K in 1976 Innsbruck  – but THE announcing call of these Olympics, and one I dare say rivals any since Al Michaels’ “Do You Believe In Miracles?”. Yes indeed Chad Salmela! In other words, there is both success and beauty in each Olympic moment, and I flatly reject this media-driven thesis.
  • I tend to agree with Christine Brennan, as I’m not convinced the right Russian won Gold in Ladies Figure Skating. I thought Evgenia Medyvvedvedyyevva (I think that’s how you spell and say her name, I’m not sure, I’ve given up on learning Russian, it’s hard) put down a better performance than Alina Zagitovadespite having the same exact free skate score – and one that was Gold-worthy. I wouldn’t go as far as Brennan did in saying Zagitova “gamed” the system, even as her program was unbalanced, but those are the rules. Either way, give me Medvedeva, the artist with heart over the perfect jumper. Meanwhile, with one exception, (1964) USA Ladies Figure Skating had finished on the podium in every Winter Games from 1952-2006. A total of seven (7) Golds & 18 medals in all since 1956, among them several legends of the sport. However, no individual medals for the USA in the last three Olympics since 2006 Torino (Sasha Cohen’s Silver). I think it’s fair to ask what the heck is going on, and why they are now playing catch-up to not only Russia, but Japan, and Canada.
  • Shout out to Kelly Clark, becoming one of two (2) USA Women to appear in five (5) Olympics (Kikkan Randall the other, props to her).  Here are Clark’s five finishes in the Women’s Snowboarding Halfpipe at those Olympics: Gold, 4th, Bronze, Bronze, 4th. A remarkable run for one of the pioneers of her genre.
  • Having watched almost every event at these Olympics, I’d argue the best pressure performance I witnessed was Shaun White in the Men’s Snowboarding Halfpipe. Trading punches with Japan’s Ayumu Hirano (Silver) and Australia’s Scotty James (Bronze), White had the last shot in their game of “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better”, needing to best Hirano’s 95.25 to capture his 3rd Olympic Gold. The tension was palpable at the top of the hill as White waited out wind gusts and repeatedly checked his bindings. White plunged down the halfpipe, launching himself into each trick with abandon, every flight defying physics and redefining what it means to “go big”. After almost two minutes of number crunching, a score of 97.75 launched the waterworks for whom this Gold obviously meant so much. Long Live The Flying Tomato.
  • Norway “won “ these Olympics, winning the most medals (39) and tied for the most Golds (14), by those measures the greatest performance in the history of the Winter Games. I chuckled over talk of cultural modesty and how such success might be worrisome for the Norwegian “mentality”, a paradoxical concern that their domination would ruin many of the sports. To the point where the “Michael Phelps” of the Winter Olympics, 15-time medalist Marit Bjørgen, said after winning Bronze in the same Cross Country event where the USA’s Diggins and Randall made history, “…(I)t’s great to see the U.S. on the podium. It’s important for the sport.” I am part Norwegian by heritage, and I will say my family doesn’t seem to have problems with success or modesty … Irony maybe, but not modesty  …
  • Speaking of Norway, did some dude named Oyster Bratwurst actually win the Men’s Freestyle Skiing Slopestyle, beating out USA’s Nick “Win One For The” Goepper? No? Oystein Braaten, you say? And, who won two Silvers in the Women Alpine Skiing (Downhill & Giant Slalom)? Rocky and Bullwinkle? Ragnhild Mowinckel ? Talk about another language I’m not hearing right, I need to see an audiologist. Wait, I’m not alone? Never mind then …
  • Ever notice that Bronze Medal winners are often happier than Silver Medal winners?
  • Meanwhile, this woman hacked the Olympics. I don’t know whether to castigate or congratulate her, but I won’t name her. Here is a video of her run, and to call it “average” as the polite announcer did is flattering to deceive …
  • The 13-year-old guitarist Yang Tae-Hwan absolutely shredding Vivaldi’s “Winter” was the highlight of the K-Pop fueled Closing Ceremonies. No other words needed, just click the link and listen.
  • South Korea put its best foot forward during these games. No scandals, no last-minute construction catastrophes, presenting carved landscapes and a gleaming look at the future, they were the most welcoming of hosts. Honestly, I was not excited when PyeongChang was announced, and unlike prior Olympic destinations, I had little inclination to attend these games. Neverthelesss, nothing shows off a locale like the Olympics, and after hundreds of hours of watching I have seen the errors of my rush to judgment. South Korea has risen on the BobbyTrue travel bucketlist: I just hope to go when it’s a touch warmer.
  • Finally, the coolest thing IOC Chairman Thomas Bach ever says in his life is “In accordance with tradition, I call upon the youth of the world, to assemble four years from now, in _______ (this time, Beijing, People’s Republic of China), to celebrate with us all the _______ (24th) Olympic Winter Games. Thank you, & Bye-bye _______ (Korea).” Goosebumps every time …

From → Sports

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