Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Day 10 of the Sochi Olympics

Day 10 of the Sochi Olympics, 17 Feb 2014 Mon:

It was another spectacular day of sports on day 10 of the Sochi Olympics.

Darya Domracheva is the queen of the Sochi Olympics!  She won the women's biathlon 12.5km mass start--where the athletes line up and start racing the course at the same time, stopping 4 times to shoot 5 targets (2 times while prone/laying down and 2 while standing), and the first one across the finish line wins.  And with this win, Darya Domracheva becomes the first athlete to win 3 golds at Sochi, and the first biathlete to win 3 golds in the same Olympics.  
Bow down before me!  I am your Queen!
It's an amazing performance, especially in light of how she won the 10k pursuit and the 15km individual race golds earlier in these games.  Darya Domracheva of Belarus proved dominant on the field on a course that was tough and slippery and took out some of  the competition.  Pre-race gold medal favorite Tora Berger of Norway  was in second position at the start of the race, but she slipped hard coming downhill and slid off the course and into the safety net only two minutes into the start.  Two other racers crashed:  Olga Zaitseva of Russia crashed making a sharp right turn, then she ended up being run over by  two other skiers, losing her ski pole; Switzerland's Elisa Gasparin also crashed. 

But Darya Domracheva was the fastest and most nimble skier on the field, managing to pull ahead of  the pack four minutes into the start of the race.  Even after missing one shot in the final target, she still had a lead of over 14 seconds; by the time she crossed the finish line, she had increased that lead to over 20 seconds!  Gabriela Soukalova of the Czech Republic wins silver after missing a shot and having to also do a penalty run.  She is very happy with her silver, as it matched her mother's silver medal in the women's cross-country relay for Czechoslovakia, 30 years ago at Sarajevo 1984!  And in the exciting and fierce fight for bronze, Tiril Eckhoff of Norway beat out Germany's Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle by 1 second!

And Belarus picks up another gold in men's freestyle skiing aerials, where the men ski launch off a ramp 50 ft in the air and do amazing flips and turns.  China was heavily favored to do a sweep, but Anton Kushnir of Belarus, pulls off an upset and manages an incredible 5 twists and 3 head over heels flips and lands on gold.  Belarus has dominated in this event, winning this event at Vancouver 2010 with Alexei Grishin--who didn't make the finals here-- and Alla Tsuper winning the women's side gold here at Sochi last Friday. 

But the best surprise win goes to Australia's David Morris who wins the silver, beating out the heavily favored Chinese team by landing his jumps.  And with Lydia Lassila taking bronze in the women's aerial side and Torah Bright taking the silver in the women's halfpipe, Australia now has a total of 3 medals in Sochi.  The two Chinese finalists, who no doubt had the most stunning jumps, unfortunately, crashed their landings, thus, they walked away with Jia Zongyang taking the bronze.  I am particularly impressed with Australia's wins, especially since they don't have the training facilities and equipment the other winter Olympics countries possess to ensure their athletes win medals.  So, get right on it, Australia!  Put up those winter sports training facilities if you want to compete on the world stage.  If your athletes can medal here without the proper training facilities, imagine how much better they can be with the right preparation and training centers for the winter Olympics!

Two events on the men's side were postponed due to heavy fog.  The men's biathlon 15km mass start is postponed once more, this time for tomorrow, Tuesday.  The men's snowboard cross is also postponed to tomorrow.  And because of the delay, there will be no qualifications for the men's snowboard cross.  Hey, there's only so much time left in the Olympics and people do have to return to work and normal life as soon as the Olympics are over.  So, instead of qualifying runs, the racers will be seeded according to world ranking.  Sill, there are no guarantees for gold.  Look for excitement in men's snowboard cross, because it's where the snowboarders race down a course at the same time to cross the finish line, and in the mad scramble, people slip and fall, just like short track, causing chaos and you never know who's going to win.

Back to the events that were contested today, it's a historic day over in two men bobsled (or bobsleigh as the Europeans call it).  Russia's Alexandr Zubkov comes out of retirement and completes his Olympics medals collection, winning gold with partner and world arm wrestling champion, Sochi native son, Alexey Voevoda as the incredible brakeman.

My Popeye forearms crushed the competition!
Alexandr Zubkov has won a four man bobsled silver at Torino 2006 and a two man bobsled bronze at Vancouver 2010.  In the lead up to the final today, Alexandr Zubkov and Alexey Voevoda maintained their impressive lead to take the top spot with a total 4 runs time of 3:45.39.  Switzerland's Beat Hefti and Alex Baumann trailed the Russians  by 0.66 seconds,  at 3:46.05, taking the silver.  And Americans Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton make history by taking the bronze, earning America's first two man bobsled medal in 62 years! 

And the history making continues with the US winning its first ever gold in ice dancing.  The top two teams clearly demonstrated why they were the best in the world, having dominated the sport in the past five years.  Vancouver 2010 defending champions, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, skated an exquisite performance, breaking the world record for the long program with the a score of 114.66.
Then they had to wait for the American ice dancing pair, their rivals and training partners, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, to finish the last round of skating.  The Russian pair, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, scored a 110.44 in front of the home crowd who gave them a standing ovation, settling for the distant bronze.  And Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Vancouver 2010 silver medalists,  put on a spectacular performance that broke the new record with a long program score of 116.63, taking the gold, the first ever for the US in ice dancing.

Ice dancing looks fun and the most talented pairs often make it look so easy.  But it takes a lot of strength and coordination and timing to move in sync and exhibit grace and power so beautifully and flawlessly.  And while the top three on the podium certainly deserved their win, I was actually very impressed by Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver (of Houston, Texas!) and Andrew Poje, who placed 7th.  Their scores should've been higher with their very powerful and intense tango.  Some ice dancers play to the audience and judges, and depending on their routine and songs, it works; sometimes, not, especially when it comes off as hammy or disingenuous.  I've always been drawn to performances where the dancers are completely focused on telling their story through their captivating movements and expressions.  Weaver and Poje performed much better than the other teams who were ahead of them at 6th, 5th, and 4th. 

Just as synchronized swimming is the jewel of the summer Olympics, ice dancing is the most dazzling and fashionable of all the winter Olympics sports.  Let's take a moment to marvel at the most fabulous and eye catching athletes of the Winter Olympics:
The circus is in town!
The mime is on his way to put on his make up.

The swan prepares to lay an egg!

And in the team ski jumping event, the Germans soar to the heavens, higher and further than their competitors.  Severin Freund delivered an astounding final jump that landed him and his teammates Marinus Kraus, Andreas Wank and Andreas Wellinger to the top of the podium, ending the Austrian dominance and winning Germany the gold.

The Austrians have won every team event world championship since 2005 and took gold at Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010; and today, the team of Michael Hayboeck, Thomas Morgenstern, Thomas Diethart and Gregor Schlierenzauer trail by just 2.7 points to settle for silver.  Japan's Reruhi Shimizu, Taku Takeuchi, Daiki Ito, and large hill silver medalist Noriaki Kasai, won bronze.  The bronze team win makes it the second medal for 41 year old Kasai at these Olympics.

Finally, in women's hockey, Canada overcomes Switzerland and the US won over Sweden in the semifinals.  The stage is set for the gold medal match on Thursday between Canada vs US!  It's the grudge match of the Olympics and I can't wait to see these two fierce rivals battle it out for gold!


  1. Domracheva is indeed Queen of the Biathlon!

    Last night my cat Lola watched the Freestyle Skiing Aerials. She enjoyed the high spins.

    And another thing for the Aussies, it's still Summer there!

    PEDANTIC CORNER: "stopping 4 times to shoot 4 targets"

    That should be five targets.

  2. LX, I luv watching Darya Domracheva winning all her events! It's such a great comeback for her, because I remember the first time I paid attention to her was back in the 2009 World Cup at Germany--and it was not a good memory, because she was leading the mass start, but then she made the mistake of shooting all her targets standing instead of laying prone, so all the five targets she hit still meant she had to do 5 penalty loops, costing her the race, where she had a minor mental breakdown and had to withdraw. So glad to see her do so well here at Sochi.

    Those skiers are awesome at aerials, and I'm with Lola, enjoying those incredible jumps! And with the debut of men's freestyle skiing halfpipe, it's going to be a feast for the eyes to watch them soar much higher than their snowboarding counterparts.

    I wondered how aerialists trained in the summers months, and I learned that there are special water ramps they can use to practice their jumps and land safely in the pool. And if Australia can't manage that, well, Antarctica is just a boat ride away! I'm sure the penguins would love the company!

    Thank you for spotting the typo. It is five targets. I totally missed it during editing, and I'm going ahead to fix it.

  3. It's the first time in many years that we have had a couple from Oz qualify for the ice dancing let alone go through to the long program! Even if they did qualify in 20th position. Their Twizzles were very strong and well synchronized!
    Sadly i missed the final... The only coverage we get here is very parochial and full of hype with the "Glamour sports" ie aerial displays and snowboarding. funnily enough our silver medalist boy in the aerials hardly cracked a mention until the comentators realised he was in a medaling position!
    Your coverage and positive non biased reportage of these sports is always a welcome breath of fresh air... Thanks Mr Swings for all the effort you put in...
    You leave our commercial TV coverage here for dead with your commentary... and for that i sincerely thankyou. xxx

  4. Princess, I quite enjoyed Danielle O'Brien and Gregory Merriman's performance, because they were really into it and entertained the audience. I think if they get the support and consistent training and high level coaching the top teams get, they are poised to do amazing things.

    But to qualify for a spot in the Olympics is a momentous feat! I am quite in awe of these athletes who spend years working hard and endure hardships just to make it to the Olympics. Some of them don't have the financial and technical or even state support that the other top athletes receive from their countries. That's why when an underdog and unknown like David Morris breaks through and earns a spot on the podium, it makes the Olympics so much better and inspiring. It's such a great feeling to see someone who's worked so hard achieve success.

    And thank you so much for the kind words. I do love the Olympics. And I enjoy sharing my passion for the Games with the world. And like your media, our US media, NBC, really SUCKS at Olympics coverage! They only focus on the sports where Americans are likely to win (or go back and replay later on the ones where Americans pulled a surprise win). It's really awful coverage of what is supposed to be the entire world competing. I miss the old days when all the sports were covered, no matter what country won.

    This Olympics blogging is my small effort to tell the world the many amazing stories about these athletes and their accomplishments here at the Olympics. It's been my labor of love to stay up at night and go online to watch the events, since NBC's coverage sucks. And I am so honored and very happy to share the events and the exciting stories as they unfold. Of course, I have to wait until NBC broadcasts the day's events before I post; I don't want to spoil the surprises for those who haven't seen the games yet.

    But I am truly humbled and grateful for your kind words. It is my great pleasure and an honor to be able to share the magnificence and excitement of the Olympics with others. Thank you.