The torch may have been extinguished, but before the post-Olympic hangover really kicks in, I’d like to share a few of my favorite memories from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. You won’t find anything on this list about NBC’s atrocious coverage (though NPR has a great article). Al Michaels’s daytime drinking might have been a fun diversion, but Costas’s constant head movement and witticisms grew old very quickly. You also won’t find anything here about choke artist John Shuster and his despicable performance for USA Curling. And I certainly have nothing good to say about Ice Dancing. No activity that involves twizzles should be an Olympic sport. While there might have been those few lows, overall the games were incredibly enjoyable – and successful for Team USA. Here are the moments I will remember most:
Hannah Kearney Gets Team USA Going
The first gold medal for the USA came in the Women’s Freestyle Moguls on the first full day of competition. Canada’s Jennifer Heil had laid down a killer run and everyone was thinking Canada might break their home gold drought on day one. But along came Hannah Kearney who threw down an absolutely perfect run and took the gold away with ease. Canada only had to wait one day for Alex Bioldeau to win the men’s turn down the bumps. They went on to win 14 golds on their home soil, topping the gold chart with 4 more than their closest competitor.
Sven “Drama” Kramer
Say it so it rhymes. I was truly touched when Dutch speed skating star Sven Kramer jumped into the crowd after winning the 5000m and hugged his family. Then a few days later, Kramer made headlines again when he asked NBC’s Andrea Kremer if she was stupid for not knowing who he was (video here). But the icing on the cake was in the 10,000m (Kramer’s best event). While setting a time that would assure him the gold, Kramer made an illegal lane change on the insistence of his coach and was DQ’ed! The worst part is that Kramer knew it was wrong but made the move anyway. Kramer came back and won a Bronze with Holland in the Team Pursuit a few days later.
The Glory of Curling
Anyone who has watched much of the games with me knows how bitten by the curling bug I have become (especially when it comes to Brit-Skip Eve Muirhead). I had heard it was a great game but really had no idea just how complex and exciting it is. It is often dubbed “chess on ice” because of all the strategy that goes into planning your shots out many throws in advance. But the huge element necessary in curling but not in chess is execution. After you figure out what you want to do, you still gotta be able to do it. I had a whole lot of fun watching and am hoping it starts to get some more non-Olympic TV coverage… especially the women’s UK team.
Canada Has Trouble Making Ice
One of the funniest moments came a few days in when speed skating was delayed because of problems with the surface of the ice. Three ice surfacing machines (notably not name brand Zambonis) malfunctioned at the Richmond Oval and it took “chief ice maker” Mark Messer over an hour to get it right. And here I thought it was Canada that invented ice.
Shaun White Simply Dominates
Love him or hate him, the guy is truly amazing. The first run White threw down was good enough to win him the gold (hell his prelim run was probably good enough) – but he still came back and laid down the sickest half pipe run ever seen in competition. There really isn’t anyone who can even get close to what he is doing.
Cross Country Wipeout Medalist
During a prelim run in the women’s Individual Sprint race, Slovenian cross-country skier Petra Majdic took a really nasty tumble into a gully. During the coverage, the NBC team showed the crash over and over again, deriding the fact that she was given a delayed start time. She went on to complete all three 1.4km heats and win the bronze medal. After the race, it was revealed she had broken four ribs and suffered a collapsed lung. Just imagine breaking four ribs and suffering a collapsed lung and then running 3 miles at medal pace!
Big Face and Funny Hat
Sticking with cross country, a quick word has to be said for NBC’s wonderful Nordic commentary team of Big Face and his pal Funny Hat (aka Al Trautwig and Chad Samelka). Al has an incredible voice which you can hear in the video above (you also might remember him as NBC’s gymnastics announcer) and Chad is surely quite knowledgeable – but more importantly… look at those guys! Al’s face in enormous! Just compare him to Chad. And those mitts! He looks like he is going to strangle that poor microphone. And come on Chad… just what is the deal with that hat?
Incredible. While her free skate was glorious, it was Kim Yu-Na’s short program that won her both the gold medal and the hearts of millions around the world. Women’s figure skating is always one of the main things to be remembered from the winter games and Kim Yu-Na’s performance was simply one of the best ever.
USA’s Hockey Run
The only undefeated team coming into the final, Team USA hadn’t even trailed by a point in the tournament. As we all know, that ended 12 minutes into the final versus Canada (after defeating them in prelims). But for USA fans, it is hard to say there was any moment in the Olympics more exciting than when Zach Parise buried a goal with 24 seconds remaining in regulation to even the score at 2-2 and force Canada to a sudden death overtime. It may have ended up being Canada’s night, but really who can complain about that performance? It is almost worth it to lose and not have to feel bad about how devastated Canada would have been. Almost.
What an Olympics! The USA jumped out to an early lead in the medal count on day one and never relinquished that lead. That is an incredible achievement and the first time since 1932 we have won the overall count. We also set a record for most medals ever won by anyone! Congratulations Team USA. What a fantastic showing!