22 Feb 2010, Mon. Day 11 of the Vancouver Olympics was all about athletes making history in their quest for Olympic gold!
In the high flying world of the ski jump, the Austrians defend their Torino gold and win a Vancouver gold in the team ski jump. They jumped farther than the silver medalists, Germany, and the bronze medalists, Norway. The only other serious challenger was Switzerland, which won the individual normal and large hill events. But the Swiss did not have enough jumpers to make a four man team, leaving the door open for Germany and Norway to climb on the podium.
The last jumper was Austrian superstar Gregor Schlierenzauer, who all ready won bronze in the individual normal and large hill events. Gregor Schlierenzauer has a clothing line and is a photographer, one of the most famous people in Austria. But the 20 year old still lives with his grandmother, choosing family over fame.
And at the final jump, the crowd and the competition all ready knew that the Austrians had won gold with such a huge lead. The only thing left now was to see just how far Gregor Schlierenzauer would jump. And when he took off, he soared higher and farther than anyone before him. And then he landed and almost fell! He crouched low and held his left hand out to keep his balance, but he didn't touch the snow! And when he stopped, his had flown 146.5m! And combined with his earlier jump of 140.5m, his total score was 290.1m, farther than Simon Ammann, the Swiss who won the individual large hill earlier two days before with a score of 283.6! An amazing jump and save by Gregor Schlierenzauer, and a wonderful finish for Germany and Norway.
In the women's cross country ski team sprint, Germany's Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle and Claudia Nystad take the gold! Sweden's Charlotte Kalla and Anna Haag take silver. And Russia's Irina Khazova and Natalia Korosteleva win bronze.
Over on the men's side, there was some drama, as a last minute change took place in the Norwegian team! World champion Ola Vigen Hattestad withdrew the morning of competition after complaining of a sore throat. So Oeystein Pettersen steps in and teams up with Petter Northug. And it was a phenomenal race! Germany fought from sixth to lead the race in the first half. And by the second half of the race, Russia was right behind Germany. But in the final meters of the race, Petter Northug sprints past Russian Alexy Pettukov, and then passes German Axel Teichmann and leaves them behind to win the race! A fantastic finish! Germany takes the silver, and Russia wins the bronze.
But the most fantastic and exciting event of the night was ice dancing! The final portion of the ice dance competition, the free dance would finally determine who would win the gold! And would this be history in the making? Would North America finally knock Russia off the gold? This was an epic war for dominance, and all the athletes brought out their best!
Let's check out the competition!
Oh, how embarrassing!
We're wearing the same dress!
It's a comic book convention! DC Comics superheroes Flamebird and Nightwing make an appearance!
Hey! Who's protecting the world from evil while you're here ice dancing?
Oh, my gawd! It's another superhero! It's Batman, Christian Bale!
Nah, just kidding! They're my fave performers of the evening, John & Sinead Kerr from Great Britain. They made one mistake in their twizzle, but they rocked the house with their routine by skating to Krwlng by Linkin Park!!! Luved it!
It was a risky move since the old judges like the old, tired, overplayed classical crap. But it was a great choice and the crowd luved it! Anyone who comes to the Olympics and skates to Linkin Park rocks!!! And they were the only pair in which she went on ahead and held him up in a lift! Talk about power!
I am strong! I am invincible! I am woman!
Unfortunately for Kerr & Kerr, they face the same disadvantage 3 other ice dance pairs share in the competition. They're a brother and sister team. That's right. There are 4 pairs of brothers and sisters competing in the Olympics. And while that may work on the junior level, once you get into the senior level of competition, people really don't want to see a brother and sister skate out a romantic tango, no matter how good they are.
The top four pairs would fight out a glorious battle for first place.
Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White, currently second, were the first of the top competitors to skate. And they skated an emotionally charged piece to the tune of Phantom of the Opera. Their lifts were incredible, dangerous, beautiful, and their spins were in sync, free flowing, fantastic.
And when it was over, they set the bar high with an incredible lead! But was that enough to win the gold?
And it was Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, currently first, who would take up the challenge laid down by their American friends and training partners. They performed an extraordinary dance. Their twizzles and foot work were flawless, beautiful, and their lifts were complex and dangerous but stunning, executed flawlessly.
And when they were done, their score put them in the lead! But with two more strong competitors to skate, was it enough to win gold and make history?
Torino silver medalists, Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto put on a strong performance, showing off their amazing skills in lifts and transitions, excellent footwork.
But I have to say, their performance, while strong technically, was overly theatrical. The emotions they were trying to portray came out more exaggerated than genuine. And they just weren't able to communicate that fierce passion in their skating. And when they ended their program, they were in third.
And it was the Russians, Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, reigning world champions, who skated last. Their scores would determine who would get an Olympic medal and in what order. Could they save Russian dominance in ice dancing? Or would history be made tonight? And they skated a powerful program, full of energy and emotion. They used unconventional costumes, utilizing ropes in their costumes for their lifts and spins. But I have to admit, as much as I laughed when he grabbed that rope around her waist and tossed around her like a trussed up Thanksgiving turkey, they did have wonderful spins and turns.
And when it was all over, the whole crowd waited anxiously for their scores. Would Russia continue its legacy as the dominant force in ice dancing?
And the scores came out and said, No! They were in 3rd! It's a historic win for Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir! For the first time in Olympic history, North America wins the gold in ice dancing! What an incredible and fantastic win!
And with Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White in second, this is the first time North America takes gold and silver in ice dancing Olympic history! The Russians take the bronze, but the message is clear. The era of Russian dominance is over! And perhaps for the first time in Olympic history, the judging is not questioned for being crooked or fixed! Perhaps the new scoring system does work. But the real test will be in 4 years, when the winter Olympics take place in Sochi, Russia.
But with its talents defecting, its old territories separating and becoming independent, Russia has lost its place as the top powerhouse in winter Olympics. The great athletes and coaches who once epitomized Russian strength and power have all left or moved on to represent their own independent countries. It would seem that Russia's strength has faded. But in a way, Russia's strength lives on. It continues in ice dance; not just in the bronze win, but in the gold and silver as well. It is after all, Russian coaches, who defected from Russia, who taught these two winning teams all the secrets of Russian ice dancing. Still, it's an amazing win for Canada!
Perhaps the biggest lesson from this historic ice dance win is that talent and skills belong not to one nation, but to the world. Any athlete who works hard, with the right guidance, can reach heights unimagined. And while not everyone can be an Olympic champion, an Olympic champion can come from anywhere in the world.