27 Feb 2010, Sat. Day 16 of the Vancouver Olympics had athletes facing tough opponents and undertaking treacherous challenges in their quest for gold. The strongest athletes were undaunted in the fierce fight for Olympic glory.
It was a great day for the women's 30km cross country ski race! Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk, world champion, won gold in a photo finish race! Then she apologized to silver medal winner, Marit Bjoergen of Norway. Earlier, Kowalcyzk accused Bjoergen of cheating, claiming that Bjoergen's asthma medicine gave her an unfair edge, esp. since Bjoergen has won 3 golds this Olympics! The asthma medicine is actually approved by both the International Ski Federation and by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Catfight!
Now here's a little history: Kowalczyk herself was banned from competition for doping in 2005! And she's worked hard to regain some respect and prove her skills. As the reigning world champion, it sure stung to see a veteran like Marit Bjoergen, who hasn't won any recent world events, have a spectacular Olympics, taking gold in events that favored Kowalcyzk. Marit Bjoergen handled the accusations and the apology with class. Finland's Aino-Kaisa Saarinen wins bronze.
Over in the speed skate team pursuit, Canada takes gold and the US wins silver. In the team pursuit, all three skaters have to cross the finish line to register their time. It was a close race between Canada and the US for gold. The US pulled a surprise victory in the qualifing rounds over Netherlands to take the spot to compete against Canada for gold. The gold winning Canadian team includes Denny Morrison--an alternate in the Torino Olympics--with former short tracker Mathieu Giroux and Lucas Makowsky. The silver medal American team was led by veteran Chad Hedrick and had teenagers Brian Hansen, Trevor Marsicano, and Jonathan Kuck. The Netherlands team--led by Sven Kramer and with Mark Tuitert, Simon Kuipers, and Jan Blokhuijsen--set an Olympic record in winning their bronze match against Norway.
No lead up to a final race has been as exciting as the women's speed skate team pursuit! Yesterday in the quarterfinals, Germany's Anni Friesinger-Postma fell at the finish line and had to flop and flap her skate over the line to trigger the time!
Damn! I'm still drunk from last night!
Move dammit! Move!
Then she buried her head in the ice, thinking that she had cost the team a chance to compete for gold.
But it was a miraculous save, beating out the US by 0.23 of a second!
No spectacular belly flops this time in the race for gold. Germany easily takes gold and Japan wins silver.
The gold winning German team included Daniela Thoms Anschutz, Stephanie Beckert, Anna Friesinger-Postma, and Katrin Mattscherodt. Japan's silver team consisted of Masako Hozumi, Maki Tabata, and Nao Kodaira. And Poland beat out the US for the bronze! Two US skaters, Jennifer Rodriguez and Jilleanne Rookard, crossed the finish line before the Poland team. But third US skater Catherine Raney-Norman was far behind, having run out of energy and exhausted. The Poland team was able to cross all three skaters before Catherine Raney-Norman crossed the line. The bronze Poland team included Katarzyna Bachleda-Curus, Katarzyna Wozniak, and Luiza Zlotkowksa.
Over on the mens parallel giant slalom, Canadian snowboarder Jasey Jay Anderson wins gold! Austria's Benjamin Karl takes silver, and France's Mathieu Bozzetto gets the bronze. It's a fantastic bronze medal win for Bozzetto, who actually came out of retirement to try for an Olympic medal.
Meanwhile in the last alpine skiing event of the Olympics, Italy's Guiliano Razzoli wins gold! It's the first time Italy has won gold in the men's alpine event since the great Alberto Toomba, Toomba la Bomba, won multiple golds in the 1988 Calgary Olympics! The last time an Italian man won a medal in alpine was in 1992, when Toomba won silver. Toomba is actually Guiliano Razzoli's coach and mentor, both are from the same region in Italy. It's amazing Olympic debut for the 25 year old, whose only victory was a World Cup win last year. He wasn't even qualified yet to compete at the Vancouver Olympics last summer, but Toomba and their ski club and fans went ahead and bought tickets to the games. They believed that Razzoli would qualify and make a great show at Vancouver. And their faith was rewarded with spectacular gold medal run by Guiliano Razzoli.
Croatia's Ivica Kostelic wins another silver, adding to his nordic combined silver win earlier in the week. Andre Myhrer of Sweden wins a surprise bronze! And it's a phenomenal bronze win by Myher, who finished 4th at Torino! Yet for the first time in 74 years, since the alpine events debuted in the 1936 winter Olympics, the Austrian men have not won a medal at any of the alpine events!
Speaking of Olympics history, for the first time in 62 years, an American team has won gold in the 4 man bobsled!
In 2002 at Salt Lake, the US won silver and bronze. I have not been this excited by one particular team since the Jamaican bobsled team debuted at the 1988 Calgary Olympics! Using great skills and teamwork, the Americans made great runs on the risky track that has claimed the life of one athlete and led to many crashes. Pilot Steve Holcomb led the gold winning team which included Steve Mesler, Curtis Tomasevicz, and Justin Olsen. Germany's silver team consisted of Andre Lange, Kevin Kuske, Alexander Rodiger, and Martin Putze. The Canadian team won bronze--led by pilot Lyndon Rush with David Bissette, Lascelles Brown, and Chris le Bihan.
I never knew I'd be so happy being crammed into a tight space with 3 other men!
Over at men's curling, Switzerland beat out Sweden for bronze. And in the gold medal match, Canada takes gold, leaving Norway the silver. Canada's men's curling team bring the host nation its 13th gold, the most of any nation at the Vancouver Olympics so far. But it's the Norwegian curling team who once again win the spotlight for being the best dressed athletes at the Olympics! Take note Vera Wang! No feathers or jeweled snakes!
Now turn to the left!
Now turn to the right!
Chante! Chante! Chante!
When it comes to looking good, no one does it better than the Norwegian curling team!
Finally, in the most exciting match of the evening, Finland and Slovakia battled it out for bronze! I have to admit, I was rooting for Slovakia, the underdog who came into these games and bitch slapped some of the toughest teams in the Olympics! They proved that Russia was beatable. The barely let the Canadians slide by in the semifinals. Had they had a little more time, who knows who could've been playing the US on Sunday for gold!
And they fought fiercely! Slovakia was able to score some goals and lead the game 3 to 1! But Finland fought back hard and closed the gap! And in the last few minutes of the game, Finland rallied hard and was able to score 5-3, winning the game! Still, it's the best finish for Slovakia, fourth this Olympics. I admire their moxie for going all out and rattling the best teams out there! The Finns also get kudos for a spectacular comeback after a rough experience this Olympics.
And the biggest game of all starts in a few hours, when Canada faces off with the US for gold! What a great way to close out the Olympics! And you better believe that North America is shutting down to watch the game live and root for their teams! I can't wait to watch it all go down!