American Evan Lysacek snuck away with the gold in men’s singles figure skating despite executing less technically difficult moves than Russian competitor Evgeny Plushenko. He did by skating flawlessly, presenting himself with class and investing his performance with emotion. Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi, who took the bronze, looked good, too, despite crashing during his quad jump.
THE QUAD CONTROVERSY
Is it a reprise of the Cold War, or just some good old-fashioned athletic trash talking? Lysacek won the gold in men’s singles figure skating despite not attempting a quadruple jump. Plushenko, who took the silver, and his coach scorned the judges’ decision. Plushenko told RussiaToday:
“I think I was awarded the silver medal because it seems the modernday system doesn’t need quadruple jumps and the World Figure Skating Association does not want to move forward like other sports do…. What Evan Lysacek showed today was material from 20 years ago. The great figure skaters from that time were performing triple axle and triple-toe loops, but Lysacek didn’t perform even this.”
PROTESTERS IN VANCOUVER
Guerilla street protesting requires the tactical finesse and speed of a good hockey match. It’s a cat-andmouse game between protesters and cops, with the former constrained by the rules of public approval and the latter by constitutional law. As rain dampened some of the games, many protesters marched peacefully but others threw a newspaper box through a downtown business and splashed red paint on the window of the Hudson’s Bay Co. building, according to a video report by the QMI Agency. Their causes included “no Olympics on stolen native land,” and claims that the games have “caused homelessness, poverty, environmental degradation and public debt.”
HEATHER RICHARDSON’S PROMISE
High Point native Heather Richardson finished sixth in the 500meter speed-skating event on Feb. 16, and 16 th in 1500 meter speed skating on Sunday. While the 20-year-old athlete fell short of a medal in what is considered one of the weakest years for American women’s speed skating, Richardson and her team members are thought to be promising. USA Today said on Feb. 20 described Richardson as “the most pleasant surprise on the oval,” and said “she could be the top hope for the future for Team USA.”
LINDSEY VONN’S BRAVURA PER- FORMANCE
American downhill skier Lindsey Vonn’s epic run down the Whistler racecourse underscored for many spectators just how suicidal — and thrilling — the winter Olympics can be. Reportedly sustained by painkillers and adrenaline, she fended off teammate and rival Julia Mancuso. New York Times reporter Bill Pennington captures her feat pretty well: “In one of the most stirring descents in Olympic downhill skiing history, Vonn ignored the pain in her injured shin, chased down Mancuso and caught up with nearly a lifetime of expectations. With an aggressive style and stance she held throughout her run — jaw, hands, knees and hips always angling for more speed — Vonn’s time of 1 minute 44.19 seconds on the bumpy, treacherous Whistler race course was 0.56 of a second ahead of Mancuso.”
THE TOILET BOWL AND OTHER CHALLENGES
Hearing former Olympic downhill skier Doug Lewis describe the facets of the Dave Murray Downhill course at Whistler in conjunction with The New York Times’ awesome 3-D graphics gives a visceral sense of what it’s like to experience the course without having to bother with training or qualifying. Just as an exercise in magnificent language, it’s a pleasure to witness: “The Toilet Bowl section: This is a right-footer that is in the shadows, which makes visibility very tough, and it is also one of the fastest sections. It’s tough to ski clean here, as the combination of G-force, shade and chadder marks adds up to mistakes and lost time. Ski it wrong, and you’ll get flushed.”
FAWNING OVER APOLO OHNO
American speed skater Apolo Ohno’s 500 meter wasn’t scheduled until Wednesday, but that didn’t stop media outlets from fixating on his biography in the previous weekend’s coverage. And why not? His very name seems to signal Olympic greatness. His career has a narrative arc from Salt Lake City in 2002 through Torino, Italy in 2006. And his personality seems to contain a war within between rebelliousness and discipline. After all, that’s what it’s all about: striving on one hand to do what hasn’t been done before and at the same time submitting to a regimen to allow one’s self to develop perfect speed, grace and power.
THE FLYING TOMATO EXECUTES THE TOMAHAWK
I can’t even begin to describe the flips and twists that snowboarders do when they sail off the lip of a half pipe much less think about executing something like that, but American Shaun White, AKA the Flying Tomato, reportedly far exceeded his opponents in amplitude — a term for aerial distance — with his goldwinning performance on Feb. 17. The New York Times’ John Branch reports that White had already clinched the gold when he launched something called “the Tomahawk” that judges had never before seen: “Two full flips and three and a half spins — all while grabbing the front side of the board.”
THE INTERNATIONALIST SPIRIT
Finding a compatible ice-dancing compatible is reportedly a challenge, making cross-cultural alliances not uncommon. But marvel at 15-year-old Allison Reed of New Jersey marching in with the Republic of Georgia team during the opening ceremonies. She actually obtained dual citizenship in Georgia so she could compete with Otar Japaridze; her siblings, Cathy and Chris, are competing for Japan. There is Allison Reed is New York Times video learning to say “how are you?” in Georgian, expressing pride in carrying on the spirit of fallen luger Nodar Kumaritashvishvili, and promising to “try my hardest to represent the Georgian woman.” She explains, “They actually have skirts that literally just touch the floor, completely cover their feet, so when they walk it looks like they’re gliding. I try to make my movements as very petite and as very feminine as possible.”
SKELETON RACING, BEER CHUGGING
The skeleton, somewhat like the luge, is a sport involving an athlete making a running start, leaping headfirst onto a skeleton-like sled and speeding down an icy track. Canada’s Jon Morgan took the gold on Feb. 19, but it wasn’t his athletic performance per se that got my attention so much as a photograph from later in the evening of him chugging a pitcher of beer that was distributed on Twitter. The Canadians may not be the world’s military superpower, but in some realms they are not to be messed with.