Monday, February 17, 2014

The Weekend Round Up of the Sochi Olympics: Days 7, 8, and 9 (from 14 Feb 2014 Friday to16 Feb 2014 Sunday)

It's been quite a thrilling and agonizing and all around sensational weekend at the Sochi 2014 Olympics.

First up, the highlights from Friday:

Day 7 of the Sochi Olympics, 14 Feb 2014 Friday: 

It's official:  Japan finally wins its first ever gold in men's figure skating.  And Yuzuru Hanyu  becomes the first ever Asian (wait, is Russia considered Asian or European?) man to win gold at men's figure skating.  Canada's Patrick Chan, world champion, falls victim to the Canadian curse and, like all the Canadian greats who came before him--Brian Orser with silver at Sarajevo 1984 and Calgary 1988; Kurt Browning, world champion; Elvis Stojko, silver at  Lillehammer 1994 and Nagano 1998--Chan does not win gold; he settles for silver.  Brian Orser, who coaches Hanyu and Vancouver 2010 women's champion Kim Yu-Na, summed it best when asked if he thought that earning 2 golds through coaching made up for the silver:  He said, "No".  No it does not.  No wonder the Canadians are so angry and aggressive when they play hockey.  It's probably the only way for the polite Canadians to blow off steam.  And boy do they play rough!

But let's be honest.  After the dramtic and exciting short program on Thursday, where Plushenko withdrew, Hanyu soared and Chen responded, the long program on Friday was kind of safe and boring with the safe skating and the top tier men making several mistakes.  The anticipated battle for gold between Hanyu and Chan seemed less a battle and more like an old ladies quilting circle having a discussion on whether pigs in a blanket are an appropriate substitute for cucumber sandwiches at tea time.  The answer, of course, is yes!  Pigs in a blanket are perfect for tea time!  Hell, any time is a good time for pigs in a blanket! 

But I digress.  Back to the figure skating. It was very anticlimactic to see all the top skaters, who spent most their time working on quad jumps, make so many mistakes; and let's face it.  If all you do is jump, it shows when you spend the minutes in between jumps flailing around like a turtle on its back.  It's not artistic; it looks pathetic.  At the very least, try to land your jumps!  You've worked on them all this time, bombing at the Olympics seems to be a waste of time and an embarassment.  It sucks for the audience to see such lackluster performances, and no one enjoys watching the gold and silver medalist win after they both fell in their programs.

My favorite performance of the night came from Denis Ten of Kazakhstan, who skated a much better and spectacular performance compared to Hanyu and Chen.  

He skated a full hour before the final skate group and gave the most amazing performance, hell, the Olympic performance the fans have been waiting for all night.  He skated so well, he jumped from 9th place to bronze medal!  I truly believe that had he not been out sick for a good part of the year, he would've taken the gold medal here.  And I still believe he should've won over Chan in the world championships, especially after Chan had those falls in his long program!  Sill, a bronze is a very great feat for Ten, the first of its kind for Kazakhstan, and I look forward to seeing Ten go further.

My other favorite performance of the day happened in women's skeleton, where the women get a running start before jumping face down and sliding head down at incredible speeds like cars on the interstate doing 80mph, sending them flying though curves and up walls.  And Elizabeth Yarnold delivers the gold for Great Britain, upholding Great Britain's Vancouver 2010 gold won back then by Amy Willis--who no longer competes due to injuries.  It's a very dangerous sport!  Just ask American Noelle Pikus-Pace, mother of two small children:  her leg was shattered in a 2005 bobsled accident; she survived a miscarriage, back injuries, and made a mistake that ended her Vancouver 2010 run in fourth place.  She retired after Vancouver and devoted her time to her family.  But with encouragement from her husband and friends, she came back two years ago and finally made it on to the podium, winning  the silver.  She stood out from all the other competitors, because she was the only one who smiled and was relaxed and really looked like she was truly enjoying her Olympic experience.  Kudos to her and her family and the so many who supported her.  Actually, kudos to all who make the sacrifices and support our athletes.  Russia's Elena Nikitina slides to bronze, beating out America's Katie Uhlaender by four one-hundredths of a second! So close, yet so agonizingly far!

In the fast and fickle world of men's alpine super combined event, it is surprises all round as Sandro Viletta comes out of nowhere and wins Switzerland's first ever gold in the combined Alpine event.  Amazingly, Croatia's Ivica Kostelic wins silver, making it a streak for him after winning silver at Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010!   Italy's Christof Innerhofer takes the bronze, adding to a silver he won a few days earlier in the downhill event.

And it's a golden Valentine's Day for Switzerland, as Dario Cologna, who won  the 30km classic cross country ski at the beginning of the week on Sunday, ends the week by winning another gold in the 15km classic cross country skiing race.  Sweden picks up the rest of the medals, with Johan Olsson taking silver, and Daniel Richardsson, bronze.

Darya Domracheva of Belarus also claims a second gold, winning the 15km individual biathlon Friday, after winning the 10km pursuit event earlier in the week.  I love watching these women ski race then take shots at targets laying down and then standing up.  It's like watching a spy training movie with all these beautiful women skiing and then hitting their targets with their rifles.  I almost expect them to show up as villains or allies in the next Bond movie.  Selina Gasparin of Switzerland's perfect shots earned her the silver.  Nadezhda Skardino takes the bronze for Belarus, making it two out of three spots on the podium for her country.

And Belarus keeps collecting medals in women's aerials.  The aerials are among my favorite sports, because the athletes compete by doing amazing flips and turns in the air after making really high jumps in their skis.  The surprise winner was a veteran, competing in her fourth and final Olympics, 34 year old Alla Tsuper of Belarus!  Previously, the highest she ever placed was 5th; but this time around, she makes the perfect landing in the gold spot.  She plans to retire to spend more time with her young daughter, and she leaves the sport on the high note!  After missing their landings, Xu Mengtao of China is left with silver, and defending Vancouver 2010 champion Lydia Lassila of Australia settles for bronze.

Day 8 of the Sochi Olympics, 15 Feb 2014 Sat:

The Olympics excitement continues on Saturday with some heart pounding action and cheers of victory and screams of defeat.

How about that thrilling hockey game between the US men and Russia?  It was an amazing match that took until the last period for the US to lead 2:1, but Russia strikes back to tie.  It took an 8 round shootout to finally give the US the edge, winning 3:2.  It was an exciting game!  But let's face it, everyone is gunning for those Canadians.  And the hockey games at the Olympics have been really interesting to see that so many players in the American professional National Hockey League are here, representing their own countries, playing against their own teammates from the States. 

But I wouldn't feel too bad for Russia, though.  The day proved to be the breakthrough for the host country, as it collected a number of medals to overcome Norway as the leader on the medals board.

First up, Victor An, former South Korean gold medalist at Torino 2006, delivers his adopted country, Russia, the gold in 1000m short track speed skating.  Vladimir Grigorev adds silver to the Russian haul.  And Sjinkie Knegt of the Netherlands takes the bronze.  With Victor An's 1500m gold earlier in the week, Russia now has a total of 3 medals in the sport.

Alexander Tretiakov delivers Russia's second gold of the day, winning men's skeleton.  He barely edge out number one ranked Martins Dukurs of Latvia, who slides to silver, by less than a second.  Matt Antoine wins the USA's second medal in the skeleton at Sochi, a bronze, narrowly beating out Latvia's Tomass Dukurs--silver medalist Martins Dukurs' brother--who slides to 4th.

Meanwhile, Poland's Kamil Stoch sweeps the individual men's ski jumping events, winning gold in the men's large hill ski jumping, adding to his normal hill win earlier in the week.  Noriaki Kasai, 41 years old, becomes the oldest ski jumper to medal in the Olympics event.  And this is his seventh Olympics!  He debuted in Albertville 1992 and twenty years after  he won silver in Lillehammer 1994, he wins silver again at Sochi 2014.  And when he landed his final jump, he was mobbed by his rivals and the crowd who cheered his amazing feat!

Noriaki Kasai is a legend in the ski jump world, as he competes against athletes who weren't even born when he started jumping.  Bronze medalist Peter Prevc, 21, of Slovenia calls Kasai an inspiration, because it shows how much more he can improve in the next 20 years!  Much respected in the ski jumping world, Kasai has set his sights for the next Olympics.  While Stoch admires Kasai for his tenacity and perseverance, he admits that when he is Kasai's age, he hopes to be relaxing on a beach somewhere.  I hope to see Kasai at Pyeongchang 2018.  And I hope to see him medal there, too.

Over at the women's super G,  Anna Fenninger, survived a course that caused 18 out of 49 skiers to crash or miss a turn, winning Austria a gold.  Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who successfully defended her Vancouver 2010 title with a Sochi 2014 win in the super combined five days earlier, now takes silver.  The bronze went to Austria's Nicole Hosp, which adds to her earlier silver from the super combined event.

Back at the thrilling chaos and unpredictable world short track speed skating, China's Yang Zhou successfully defends her Vancouver 2010 title by winning the women's 1500m.  South Korea's Suk Hee Sim is left with silver.  And Italy's Arianna Fontana, who won the silver in the 500m, takes the bronze, adding to her collection.

And what a razor thin margin that separated gold from silver in men's 1500m speed skate!  Zbigniew Brodka gives Poland the second gold of the day, beating out Netherlands' Koen Verweij by 0.003 seconds!  It's a silver for Koen and Canada's Denny Morrison races to bronze.

The most amazing team effort of the day belonged to the Swedes!  They're singing "The Winner takes All" in Sweden!  Not since ABBA or Ace of Base has a more fantastic four come out of Sweden!  They saw the sign and the sign said gold!

It was a sensational race in the women's 4 x 5km cross country relay.  The Norwegians, anchored by powerhouse Marit Bjoergen, were heavily favored to win the event.  But the Norwegian skiing machine experienced trouble, as their skiers kept falling back, leaving Marit Bjoergen to fight through a  33-second deficit on the anchor leg that left Norway in fifth.  This is the first time Norway has lost the event since 2009!  In the second leg of the race, Sweden was falling behind, with Finland and Germany battling for 1st.  And in the exciting last leg of the race, Charlotte Kalla, who's won 2 silvers at Sochi, powers through a 25 second deficit to chase down Germany and Finland in an impressive, wonder woman performance, crosses the finish line by half a second and wins Sweden's' first gold of the Sochi Olympics!  Finland takes silver; Germany, bronze. 

Eat my Swedish dust!  Ja!
It was a supreme effort by Kalla, who reached deep and found the strength to overcome the large deficit and she put in a spectacular performance, catching up to the leaders right before entering the stadium and crossing that finish line to the roaring cheers of the crowd (which included the King and Queen of Sweden) and her teammates.  While Kalla was modest and stated it was a team effort that earned them the gold, without a doubt, her teammates say Kalla is the reason they won that gold.  She was a skiing god!  Magnificent performance, Sweden!  Well done ladies!

Day 9 of the Sochi Olympics, 16 Feb 2014 Sun:

Sweden stays golden!  The men match the women's impressive win in the relay yesterday by taking a commanding lead and finishing in fine form at the men's 4 x 10km cross country relay.  The Swedes started the race hard and led from the first man and kept leading in all their legs of the race, finishing with a large over 27 seconds lead, successfully defending their Vancouver 2010 title.  And once again, skiing powerhouse Norway, heavily favored to win, ended up in 4th, off the podium like their women's team.  Russia earns the silver, and the surprise bronze winner is France, who wasn't even considered a a top 3 team. 

Norway can take solace over in men's super G, where Kjetil Jansrud wins the gold.  It is the 4th straight gold for Norway in this event at the Winter Olympics, the 5th win over the past 7 Olympics.  In the super Giant slalom, the skiers race downhill while making a lot more turns than in the giant slalom.
American Andrew Weibrecht skis to silver, adding to a Vancouver 2010 bronze in the same event.  It's a particularly sweet silver for Weibrecht, who was dropped from the US ski team sponsorship due to recent lackluster performance.  Well, they can suck it now, because Weibrecht earned a silver at Sochi.  The gold medalist Jansrud grew up watching American Bode Miller and counts him as one of his heroes.  Miller had the 3rd fastest time, earning the bronze; but surprisingly, Jan Hudec of Canada ties Miller's time, so he shares the bronze, earning Canada its first alpine medal in 20 years!

Over at women's snowboard cross, where the snowboarders race aggressively in a downhill course, Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic stood out among the pack, winning all four of her races to claim the gold by a very large lead.  Canada's Dominique Maltais finishes in silver; and Chloe Trespeuch of France takes the bronze.

The thick fog caused the postponement of the men's 15km biathlon to tomorrow, 17 Feb 2014 Monday.

And the Orange Crush rolls in again in women's 1500m speed skate, adding 17 medals to the Dutch haul, pushing the Netherlands to the top of the medal board as the leader so far.  Jorien ter Mors sets a new Olympics record at 1:53:51, breaking the previous record by 0.51 seconds!  What's amazing is that she is usually a short track speed skater, where she ended up 4th in the short track 1500m race recently.  Her compatriot, Ireen Wust, takes silver, adding to her 3000m gold and 1000m silver she won earlier in the week.  Lotte van Beek completes the sweep, with another Dutch speed skater, Marrit Leenstra, taking 4th! 

Ireen Wust makes quite a statement, not only because she is a fabulous speed skater, but she's also the first openly gay gold medalist at Sochi, who reported how she "cuddled" Putin after her win.  The Russian leader has been under fire from the international community for the anti-gay legislation in Russia.  After she won the gold in the 3000m, she saw Putin, he greeted her, and then he had to leave, but not before she cuddled him!

Speaking of cuddling twosomes, the short program in ice dancing was completed tonight, with Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White in first, leading by 2.56 points.  Vancouver 2010 defending champions, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are in second.  And Russia's Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov are in third, trailing 3 points behind Canada.  The final free dance portion takes place Monday night, and I can't wait to see it.  Barring a catastrophe and a complete meltdown, the Americans are poised for gold, with Canada second.  But this is the Olympics, and you never know what's going to happen. And that makes it so fun and exciting!


  1. Biathlon: I am especially enjoying it this year for some reason. What skill to hit those tiny targets between ski runs.

    Snowboard Cross: turns into Demolition Derby sometimes! Another exciting one to watch.

    Super G: I was really pleased that Miller won a medal. I was even more displeased at the reporter after the race who continually badgered him about his dead brother.

  2. LX, The biathlons are great! It is so amazing to watch the athletes try to keep calm to make the shots after just huffing and puffing from the ski race in between.

    I feel their pain when they miss a shot and have to do a penalty run.

    Snowboard cross is the short track speed skating of the snowboard sports! You never know who's going to fall, causing a surprise winner in the race.

    Yeah, I was really happy for Miller's win of that bronze. And that reporter was rude and unprofessional badgering him about his loss; I kind of hoped a skier would crash into that reporter or at the very least a large bird would fly over and drop a load on that reporter's head.