Sunday, February 12, 2006

Olympic Moment of Day One

Yeah, I know, it's a little late.

Nordic Combined. This event, for those who are just now hearing of it, combines ski jumping and cross country skiing into a single event. The comeptitors all jump first, then are seeded based on the distances they jumped, and even given head starts for the better distances. Thus the field starts out with a few competitors who jump better than cross followed by a pack of hungry wolves who cross better than they jump. It's not unusual for the opening pack to keep going for awhile, even helping each other out, taking turns leading and drafting. It's all very civilized up until the last few laps.

However, the person who wins the ski jump portion usually already has his glory. That number 1 on his chest isn't going to make him anything but a target to the rest of the pack. Thus is was that Georg Hettich found himself in a pack that included himself and the numbers 2 and 4 with just a few laps left, with two cross country experts closing the distance fast. The trailing group looked like it had just hit the snow, able to close a distance of a few dozen meters in just one lap. 2 and 4 fell away, as did one of the pursuit skiiers (which also made for a great moment as the French and Finn competitiors had a photo finish, with the Frenchman Jason Lamy Chappuis winning out by the length of a toe) leaving just Hettich and Petter Tande fighting it out for gold and silver. The jumper who wasn't supposed to be competing so late, and the Norwegian cross country expert who was supposed to be able to overtake him.

Well, there's probably no point pretending there's any drama here, since I wouldn't have picked it as my Olympic moment of the day if all the "supposed to"s had worked. As it was, Hettich managed to open a lead of several ski-lengths through the last straightaway, and held on to win a gold that no one really gave him a shot at.

As a side note: Congrats to the American team of Baldwin and Inoue for landing the first throw triple lutz in Olympic history. Was something else to see, and they deserved that little mid-routine fist pump after landing it. Sadly, it puts them only a distant sixth after a pair of Russian and trio of Chinese teams, with their score bouyed by the technical difficulty of the move. They're likely out of the medal hunt barring a perfect routine and several mistakes from the five teams ahead.

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