Monday, February 15, 2010

Day 3 of the Vancouver Olympics: High Spirits

14 Feb 2010, Sun. Day 3 of the Vancouver Olympics was full of excitement and surprises.

In the 3000m speed skating race, World Champion Martina Sablikova wins the gold. It's the first time the Czech Republic has won a medal in the event. A phenomenal racer in a field traditionally dominated by Germany, Netherlands, and Canada, her win is the realization of not only her dreams, but her coach, Petr Novak, as well. Petr Novak loved the sport of speed skating and struggled to build a team in the Czech Republic with a very small budget and no training facilities. He was introduced to Martina Sablikova by her mother when she was ten. He spent years building a team and training program around her. With an old bus he bought with his own money, he drove his star pupil and rag tag team to training centers and races. His efforts paid off when Martina Sablikova began competing against older professional athletes when she was just 17. She went on to win three World Championships! And tonight's Olympic gold win is the sweet fruit of all that hard labor. Martina Sablikova's younger brother, Milan Sabliki, is also a junior world champion and record holder speed skater on the Czech national team coached by Petr Novak. Germany's Stephanie Beckert wins silver and Canada's Kristina Groves takes the bronze.

The surprise winner of today's events was in mens 10km biathlon. French soldier Vincent Jay was not expected to medal in today's event. But he made the most of the weather conditions racing around the track before a snowstorm took over the track. And it was his superb shooting of a perfect 10/10 targets that won him the race and the gold.

Emil Hegle Svendsen gets the silver, giving Winter Olympics powerhouse Norway its first medal of the games. And another surprise is bronze medal winner, Jakov Fak of Croatia, the only male biathlete from Croatia.

Jakov Fak trains with the neighboring Slovenian team who have taken him under their wing. Working through the language barriers, the Slovenian team has helped Jakov Fak maximize his potential, leading to a 2009 World Championship bronze.

In perhaps the most poignant event of the games, Germany's Felix Loch brings a much needed celebration to the mens single luge. The death of 21 year old Nodar Kumaritashvili of Georgia during a training run hours before the Opening Ceremony put a dark shadow over the games. There was talk of canceling the event all together. And in the end, necessary changes were made to the track to ensure the safety of the athletes. If only those changes were made last year. 20 year old Felix Loch of Germany becomes the youngest gold medalist in the history of luge at the Winter Olympics. His teammate David Moeller wins silver and Italy's Armin Zoeggeler, the Salt Lake City and Torino Olympics winner, takes the bronze.

Johnny Spillane becomes the first American to ever win a medal in the Nordic Combine event. In this sport, you have to ski jump off a hill, and based on how well you did, you get a start time for a 10km cross country ski race! So the better your hill jump, the earlier you get to start on the ski race. And American Johnny Spillane was leading the race for most of the way. And just a few yards from the finish line, France's Jason Lany Chappuis powers through and takes the gold by 0.4 seconds!

Italy's Alessandro Pittin takes the bronze. This is the first time the United States has ever won a medal in this event, ending a long medal drought in the event.

And speaking of ending a drought, in perhaps the most celebrated event of the day, Alexandre Bilodeau wins the gold in men's mogul, bringing Canada its first gold of the Vancouver Olympics. And with this win, Canada finally breaks its history as the only nation to never win an Olympic gold as a host nation. The silver medalist, representing Australia, is actually Vancouver born Canadian Dale Begg-Smith. Dale Begg-Smith gives Australia its first ever silver medal at a winter Olympics game. At 15 years old, Dale Begg-Smith left Canada for Australia after the Canadian federation questioned his dedication to the sport. He was starting an internet business at the time, and the Canadian officials wanted him to choose between training and his business. Choosing to do both, he went to Australia, where he then went on to win gold in Torino and make millions in his business. American Bryan Wilson lands the bronze.

But the hero of the hour is definitely Alexandre Bilodeau. And not just because he won Canada's first ever gold as a host nation. His win was dedicated to his older brother, Frederic, who has cerebral palsy and has been an inspiration to Alexander for most of his life. Watching his brother's struggles and appreciation for life gave Alexandre Bilodeau the motivation to keep going when things got tough, to do his best, and try his hardest. Whenever he thought about giving up, he would think of his brother, and that would give him the strength and focus to keep going. And among his loudest and most enthusiastic supporters at the games was Frederic, who cheered along with the rest of Canada when Alexandre Bilodeau won that gold. Alexandre Bilodeau's win reminds us of why Olympic athletes are celebrated. Olympic athletes not only lift the spirits of nations, they also celebrate the beauty of the human heart, and all of its dreams and hopes.


  1. MJ, flash mob or are they simply waiting in line for the restrooms?

    I didn't know about the home gold thing until it was mentioned during the women's moguls. Glad that's all taken care of, I'm sure they will win more.

  2. MJ, Well, they certainly know how to party in Vancouver!

    XL, If they are waiting in line for the restroom, that's the fanciest pee pee dance I've ever seen!

    Those Canadians will definitely bring win more. But for tonight, I'm hoping the Chinese kick ass and win pairs figure skating!

  3. Like I mentioned yesterday it's terrible what happened with the Georgian athlete dying. Still I can't help thinking that if the track was approved by the powers that be then it is what it is. If you are going 143km down an icy track in a bobsled you kind of pushing your luck. They must realise like in some of the skiing events etc that there is a major risk.

    I do feel for his family and friends.

  4. CP, You're right; these athletes take risks in their sports. Just today alone, so many crashes in downhill apline skiing and snowboard cross and women's bobsled!

    What sucks about the track they're using is that the death of that luger is the reason why they finally put up the safety measures-- like the padding around the steel pole he crashed in, and they put up a guard rail to keep the athletes from flying off the track. It all took one night's work to fix all this; so I wonder, why didn't they do all this before? Esp. when there had been previous complaints in previous events?

  5. I cry every single time they show a montage of Alexandre and his brother on CTV (the Canadian station covering the Olympics)

  6. Bilodeau will never have to pay for a Beer for the rest of his Canada anyway.

  7. Snooze, Alexandre's story is truly a great Olympic tale. I think it's wonderful how he won. Good things do happen to good people.

    Donn, He definitely is going to be a national hero from on. I like how he said that his friends back home in Quebec told him that his win made everyone proud to be Canadian! And that people from across the provinces and territories have said the same thing--proud to be Canadian!