Archive for Monday, March 1, 2010

Olympics Blog: A look back at memorable moments

March 1, 2010

The flame has been extinguished, and NBC is airing the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics one last time.

Much like the rebroadcast, these Olympics now will be reduced to highlight reels. We will see clips of the great moments of the top performers over and over on TV broadcasts and evening talk shows as the medalists make the rounds on a farewell publicity tour before returning — in most cases — to lives of relative obscurity until the 2014 Olympics roll around.

The highlights will be many, however, whether they came in the form of a major victory or a tale that tugged at our hearts.

Ultimately, that’s what I enjoy the most about NBC’s coverage of the Olympics. Some have criticized the format of bouncing from venue to venue and providing only snippets of the top competitors and the Americans in most venues rather than providing all events in their entirety. NBC focuses on the story lines. It searches for an element that will draw you into the game and give you a reason to care. Sometimes that strategy doesn’t work — as is the case, in my opinion, of the attempt to paint the USA men’s hockey team and its roster full of professionals in the same light as the group of no-name college kids from the 1980 Miracle on Ice. For the most part, however, the network gets it right.

In closing the book on my Olympics blog, there were five moments that moved me the most while watching from the comfort of my living room couch.

HANNAH KEARNEY WINS GOLD

Kearney’s final run on the moguls was memorable because it was nearly flawless. As the Vermont native tore down the course, her pig-tails bobbed up and down in rhythm with her skis as she displayed perfect form. Her emphatic fist-pump after crossing the finish line resembled the motion used when firing up the engine on a lawn mower. Kearney’s performance fired up the engine of Team USA as she captured the country’s first gold medal of the Olympics and launched the Americans on their way to a record-setting 37-medal haul.

SHAUN WHITE’S VICTORY LAP

Shaun White already was a revolutionary in snowboarding, but he launched himself into another orbit with his final run on the halfpipe.

With the gold medal already secured, White blew people’s minds with arguably the greatest victory lap of all time.

TV graphics showed White gained at least five feet more of air during his competitors on his first run. On his victory run, the air was higher; the tricks sicker; the grand finale — the Shaun White original Double McTwist 1260 — dangerous, dramatic and dead-on perfect.

For snowboarding fans, it was a historic moment. For those who’d never paid attention to the sport until now, it was one heck of an introduction.

APOLO DOES IT AGAIN

Apolo Ohno already was legendary in short track speedskating prior to the Vancouver Olympics, but his performance this time around proved to be just as dazzling as those in previous years.

The smartest skater on the ice, Apolo showed his mastery of the sport even when he wasn’t the fastest man on the ice. When a medal was on the line, his races never were short on drama. Whether it was hurdling a fallen skater, making a harrowing inside pass on the final turn or taking advantage of an opponent’s fall just before the finish line, Aplo proved to be as thrilling a competitor as ever.

ROCHETTE RISES TO THE OCCASION

A often-shown Visa commercial during the Olympics relived the story of United States speedskater Dan Jansen crumbling after the death of his sister, only to bounce back six years later and win the gold medal. He did a victory lap while holding his young daughter who was named after his sister.

Jansen’s story was one of the classic Olympics moments that helped define the event, and an athlete at the 2010 Olympics had a similar storyline.

Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette learned that her mother died just two days before she was scheduled to perform. Rather than pulling out of the competition, she chose to compete. Later she would say it was what her mother would have wanted her to do.

She turned in a solid first routine in front of a warm home crowd that rallied to her support. A few days later she came back and dazzled again, this time securing a bronze medal. It was an effort that tugged at hearts, showed deep personal courage and will remain one of the lasting images of this Olympics.

PARISE FORCES OVERTIME

I’m willing to bet there are a great many Memphis basketball fans that don’t consider the 2008 NCAA Championship game to be the greatest men’s basketball title game of all time, regardless of Mario Chalmers’ improbable fade-away 3-pointer in the final seconds of regulation to force overtime.

Simply put, it’s tough to anoint a game the greatest ever, or one of the best, when we lose.

But hey, we can’t win them all. With that being the case, the goal by Zach Parise with 24.4 seconds left in regulation of the men’s hockey gold-medal game ranks as one of my favorite moments.

The goal was bigger than Team USA’s victory against Canada a week earlier. The prior meeting was shocking to many, but it didn’t secure a medal or eliminate the Canadians from medal contention. It simply served as a warning shot to everyone that if everything went according to plan we should have a gold-medal rematch that could be considered to be — as a friend of mine predicted — epic.

The goal by Parise made it the case. Canada jumped out to a 2-0 lead early, giving the impression that Team USA got lucky in the earlier victory and simply caught the Canadians on an off-day. The Americans didn’t fold, however. They answered with a quick goal and then continued to work for the equalizer.

The Canadian crowd was ready to celebrate and counting down the final seconds when Parise punched home the tying goal, silencing the home country’s crowd for a moment and proving that the rematch was worthy of the hype.

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