Saturday, February 18, 2006

Olympic Moment of Day Seven

Womens SBX. Actually, this is going to be an antimoment. Something to look at the positives I'm pulling out of the game, and to see them in context.

First, this about Snowboard Cross: KICK ASS! Just a damn cool event. In SLC, everyone was focusing on the new sport of skeleton, and how exciting that would be. the end it turned out to be just another sliding sport, the kind that's hard to watch, because the slight distinctions between a good and bad run are too subtle for the layman, and that ends up looking like the same thing over and over. They're batshit insane, no question about that, but I can only watch about five skeleton runs at a time. SBX? Really damn exciting, and I think the heats are what do it. It's obvious who's doing better, because they're ahead!

But then came the gold medal race. Lindsey Jacobellis had the gold wrapped up. No question. It was three seconds between her and the next racer. So what does she do? Rather than just finishing out the course and taking her well earned gold, she showboats. As a result, she lands awkwardly, and has to scramble to not DQ. That she got the silver is due only to the fact that the third place racer had wiped out earlier in the race, and was several more seconds behind. Just shameful, and she probably doesn't even deserve the medal she got. I don't care how "cool" it would have looked to perform a trick just before winning, there was no place for it.

I enjoy the XGames being added to the Winter Olympics. I'm not sure, after yesterday, what I think about the XGame mentality of showboating even when such is not rewarded does for the games.


Friday, February 17, 2006

Olympic Moment of Day Six?

Yeah, wasn't one yesterday, cause I didn't watch much coverage due to other things i had to do. What I could watch turned out to be figure skating. But, did get to see the semis and final of Snowboard Cross. DAMN cool event. Yay for the X-games influence on the Winter Olympics.

Instead, if you're here and reading this, it's time to be inundated with a curling post.

I don't understand the lack of curling on television. Yes, not much of it happens in the United States, but there are world championships, and the United States almost always qualifies, and often puts on a decent showing. The sport is dominated by the Canuckistani and Scots, but the US is right there in the pack of nations that are trying to show they're #3 in the world and can take on the two big boys.

The next women's world championship is actually held next month. Here in the United States, even. It's just the perfect timing to be televised to take advantage of people who have been enthralled with curling during the Olympics, as well as people who have been meaning to watch it, but can't find where it's hiding on cable. I'm not saying to televise the whole thing, curling bonspiels are HUGE affairs, thanks to a full round robin. But ESPN should be jumping on this. Send a crew up, hire the Dons, who have done a great job as curling commentators for the NBC cable networks. It falls at a good point of the year to sneak a few games onto the schedule.

Especially since there's a chance that the lovely Curl Girls might be the United States representatives at the bonspiel. That's a built in audience right there. These girls are BIG right now, and just run a few ads suggesting we watch them try to recitfy the humiliation of the Olympics. Hell, I don't know. But it seems to me that curling has earned at least a chance to develop an audience. It's consistantly one of the best watched events on the cable NBC networks, and interest in the sport has crashed the US Curling Association website, and the Curl Girls site is seeing insane levels of traffic.

And who knows, perhaps success will beget success. People watch it, people say "I could do that," more people attempt the sport, and perhaps the US ends up with a larger pool of talent to draw from, becomes a bigger international power, and might even be able to be more of a contender in Vancouver and in the 2014 games.

I know. Pipe dreams all of them. But it seems to me that someone other than OLN could at least give it a go.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Olympic Moment of Day Five

Women's Downhill. I was originally not going to do an Olympic moment today, because my left hand is suffering from a pair of burns. And I was going to let that stop me. I bring that up, because it directly plays into today's Olympic Moment.

I was going to stop because, boo hoo, I have some blisters.

Lindsey Kildow crashed during the training runs in Alpine downhill. She had to be airlifted off the mountain, and ended up in the hospital. And yet, she kept herself in the race, didn't take her name off the start list. And today, she took to the mountain, bandaged, and with visible cuts on her face. But she went for it.

She ended up eighth, but considering she finished where many wouldn't have even started. That's heart.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Olympic Moment of Day Four

First, a correction. As amazing as the 5 point end put up by the US rink was, I was made aware of a bigger Olympic moment yesterday, and that was the silver medal performance by one of the Chinese pairs. I...can't explain it, but look up the video, and be amazed at the drive to compete there.

Now. On to the Olympic Moment of Day Four.

Bode Who? Downhill Combined. The event is one alpine run followed by two slalom runs. Bode Miller, of course, has been one of three athletes that have been focused on the most by the media, and especially in commercials. They seem to all be operating under a jinx. Ohno fell in the semis of his first event. Kwan is not going to be competing (I could write a whole 'nother post about that). And Bode...well, Bode just feel to oh-fer-two after being DQed in his first slalom run.

But right there in Bode's shadow was another American: Ted Ligety. He's a slalom specialist, as are most of the people who enter the Downhill Combined. Something about the two-to-one ratio tends to draw them to the event. After the downhill part of the competition he was three seconds behind, which is a lot of time to make up, but is also what Ligety said was his comfort range for making up in the slaloms.

First slalom, he manages the fastest time.

Second slalom, he manages the fastest time.

He went from three seconds down to a half second on top of the pack, and in the process broke the record for most time overcome in an international finals competition. And the first US alpine gold goes not to one of the names, goes not to the Nike whore, but goes to one of the youngest team members, someone that no one has heard of in the all-Bode-all-the-time world of Olympic coverage.

Brief curling thought

I'm starting to think that, while a team of 20-something young ladies might be nice to look at, they might not have been the best choice to send to the Olympics where experience trumps youth.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Olympic Moment of Day Three

Mens Curling. Okay, I swore to myself that I wasn't going to go all curling fan boy and make it the center focus of my Olympic moments of the day. However, the US team pulled off an amazing match against the defending champions today. That was big enough, beating Norway in the first draw of the round robin. But what was even bigger was the eighth end.

For those who aren't familiar with curling scores, only one team can score in an end. One point is scored per each stone that is closer than an opponent's stone. That makes for a maximum theoretical score of eight in an end, but that's nearly impossible. In reality, the scores are usually in the range of one to three, with three considered an excellent end.

Well, the United States laid the hammer down, and pulled in a score of five in the eighth end of the match with Norway. This is an almost unheard of score at an international level of competition. One comparrison I saw was like shooting a hole in one at a PGA event. Not only did they pull down the mythic five point end, but it brought the total score to 11-5, causing the defending champions to concede the match to the upstart Americans with two ends left to play.

In short? Just a masterful way to start the bonspiel, even if they did fall to Finland later in the day on a poorly curled last stone.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Olympic Moment of Day Two

Men's Individual Luge. The Olympics can be a huge boost for the home nation. Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean as much for a country that normally has a smaller contingent of competitors. For example, the home nation Greek team only managed 6 gold, 6 silver, and 4 bronze medals in the Athens games, placing them a distant 15th in the total medal count, in spite of being automatically qualified in most sports.

Enter Turin, and the Italian team, coming off a performance that netted 13 medals in Salt Lake City.

Well, what can I say, it's fun to see the home nation win if the US is already eliminated from contention. And such happened in the Men's Luge, often billed as the fastest sport in the Winter Games. Rightly so, since the lugers can hit speeds of nearly 90mph. It's one of the earlier medals awarded in the games, and this year went to the 2002 Salt Lake gold medalist, Italian Armin Zöggeler. He had a flawless run on a course that he crashed during a pre-Olympic trial run. Whether that crash helped steel him or not, it doesn't really matter. All that did matter was crossing the line a tenth second faster than anyone else in the field, earning him his second gold, fourth overall medal, and the first medal for the Italian team in the Turin games.

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.

Friday, February 10, 2006

DC Curling Team

It's no surprise to any readers of this blog that I'm a fan of curling. Thus, I was interested a few weeks ago when some DC residents announced the formation of the DC Olympic Committee, with curling as the first contested sport. The idea, for those not aware, stems from two years ago when the Puerto Rico basektball team upset the US team, in spite of the fact that Puerto Rico is a territory of the US. In fact, most US territories get to compete independantly so, these enterprising District residents thought, why not DC? It's all to raise awareness for the lack of voting rights, which is something that I am fully behind. However, this is a sports blog, not a politics blog.

Thus it is that I think curling is a bad idea. Now, I love the sport, and I know why they chose it. It's the same reason I went curling in 2002 after the SLC games wrapped: it looks easy. Slide up and down the ice, sweep, and hit the target. However, it is noticably more difficult than that. They'd be looking to go from no team to world class in the four short years between now and the Vancouver games.

But...but they don't have four years. The problem with curling is that it's a 10 team field. Actually, it's really a nine team field, since the host country gets an automatic spot in the bonspiel. There's no regional bids, so it's not a matter of being one of the top two or three teams in North America, it's about being one of the top ten teams in the world. It means competing on the European curling circuit at a level at least decent enough to unseed one of the current Olympic teams. And the first of the World Championship bonspiels that start the ranking process for the 2010 games is next year. With the problem being that the team will have to be recognized by the governing body as one that can compete individually from the US team by then.

The sport is a wonderful sport, but the qualification process is going to work against the organizers of this idea. Compare this to the alpine skiing events that are open to the top 500 ranked individuals (with limits on how many any one OC can send).

Since the point of this is to march a team in the opening ceremony so that they have a world stage for their protest, it does them no good to be recognized as an official Olympic Committee just to miss qualifying for 2010.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Strike two and they're out

In Summer Olympic and baseball news...

There was a new vote for the reinstatement of baseball and softball to the program for the London games. The vote was allowed because no other sports had the requisite support to fill the holes left by those two sports. Sadly, neither won reinstatement, so London will not get the massive introduction to the sport of Baseball that I was hoping for, and the Summer Olympics will be two shorts shy of a maxed out docket.

There are no chances left for reinstatement for the London games. It'll still be contested in Beijing 2008, but the next chance beyond that will be the yet-unawarded 2016 games.

Blogging from Shroud Town

Looks like the Washington Post is continuing its adventures in blogging with their official Torino Blog, being run by one of their college hoops writers that got pulled in to head to the Winter Olympics for the purpose of blogging. I know, his life seriously sucks.

Anyway, I point it out to you, my faithful reader(s) as he is promising "more curling coverage here than anywhere else in the world"...and he immediately latched on to my dubbing of Turin as "Shroud Town."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Stumbling back to life

Anyone who follows this blog, both of you, have probably noticed that, well, there's not been much to follow lately. That's because there's not really been much for me to say about sports lately. I'm not quite savvy enough about baseball to speak intelligently about post-season happenings, which would mean just copying opinions from other Nat bloggers. That, combined with the fact that the Deacs are...well, I don't want to talk about the Deacs. However, with the Olympics, WBC, and the MLB regular season about to start, it's time to resurrect thurdl sports.

And what news to start it on: WE HAVE A STADIUM DEAL! I gave up on the council around 11:30, which was still more than an hour before the final vote passed 9-4, including all of the council members who got elected on an anti-stadium platform flip-flopping and voting for the stadium. Baseball hasn't officially reacted to the hard cap that was placed on spending, but I'm not sure if they have a real option to do anything but accept it. Feels very much like this is the best deal they're going to get out of DC, and it's so much a better deal than they'd get out of any other city, or if they contracted the Nats.

So, it's a good day to be a Nats fan right about now.

Coming up over the future weeks: My Olympic moments of the day, geeking out about Curling, getting worked up over the WBC, and then...opening day. Not sure if I'll be making the trip up to Shea for the season opener like I did with Philly last year. But, this blog is once again going to be alive and kicking.