Archive for Sunday, February 14, 2010

Olympics Blog, Day 2: Live (from my living room couch)

February 14, 2010

As far as I know, Doc Brown didn’t invent the luge.

No guarantees, though. The “Back to the Future” character made famous by Christopher Lloyd designed the Delorian, a vehicle that traveled through time upon reaching the magical speed of 88 miles per hour.

It seems the designer of the luge track at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games was thinking on a similar wave length because competitor after competitor has crossed the finish line with the announcers declaring they’ve reached “88 miles per hour!”

“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads,” Doc Brown once said.

Nah, a chute of ice is a more adventurous path.

Unlike a vehicle, there’s no seat belt, outer walls or airbag for protection.

A 21-year-old competitor from the Republic of Georgia died during a practice run on Friday. The course has been modified since then, but sitting here in the comfort of my living room I know my HD TV isn’t lying to me: they’re still going just as fast. There have been a handful of crashes, some of them dangerous, and many of the sport’s elite sliders have been making uncharacteristically sloppy runs on the world’s fastest course.

Courageous or crazy? They’re probably a bit of both.

After hearing competitor after competitor cross the finish line at a Delorian’s pace, Germany’s Felix Loch just grabbed gold after reaching 91 mph. Perhaps that’s not quite time-traveling, but watching it happen seemingly makes time stand still.

SKATING SCARS

Not much figure skating has been shown yet, which is OK by me because it’s not one of my preferred events. That said, I was intrigued to see the first pair of the night — China’s Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao — perform.

The reason? Zhao suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2005. As a former track athlete and an avid hiker, I’ve strained my Achilles a few times and know how painful that can be. But a ruptured Achilles? The mere thought of it makes me cringe, much like seeing someone sprain an ankle in slow motion on TV. To come back from such a devastating injury and compete in both the 2006 Olympics (bronze medalist) and again in 2010 is remarkable. The pair delivered a flawless opening routine and set a short program record score.

Then NBC cut away to the men’s freestyle moguls competition.

CANADA GETS ITS GOLD

The fine line between going fast and out of control rears itself on the freestyle moguls, and American Patrick Deneen was one of those who crossed that barrier when his finals run went awry.

Deneen knew he needed a fast time and some serious air time to give himself a shot at a medal. That’s a recipe for an incredible run or a scary crash. Deneen’s head-over-heels landing that saw him take out one of the barrier flags while toppling to the bottom of the slope.

Deneen’s and a few other skiers’ rough runs cleared the way for Canada to grab its elusive gold medal on home turf — and Alexandre Bilodeau happily seized the moment with the second-fastest run of the night, topped by two sick jumps.

Based on what we’ve seen on NBC, it seems the Canadians have turned out in full force for their team, so the celebration at the base of the hill — likely symbolic of the reaction in households and bars throughout Canada — was pretty special.

THIS AND THAT…

I missed the men’s Nordic combined competition earlier in the day and am hopeful that I can catch the replay on the late-night broadcast. Johnny Spillane became the first American ever to win a medal in the event as he grabbed the silver.

I also look forward to the highlights of the USA women’s hockey team’s 12-1 thrashing of China. It wasn’t quite the 18-0 rout that Canada put on Slovakia, but a win’s a win, right?

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