Sunday, February 14, 2010

MTVP Vancouver 2010 Olympics Coverage: Day 2

Day 2 of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics was certainly jam-packed with events, many of them quite exciting. The United States is already up on the medal board, and a gold medal at home continues to elude Team Canada. Despite thinking of myself as a very liberal, tolerant, peace happy kind of girl in “real life,” when it comes to the Olympics I become extremely nationalistic. I’ll shout “USA!” with the best of them. If it were up to me, we’d sweep every medal. There were, however some moments that involved other countries that caught my attention as well.

The most exciting event of the day to me was the men’s short track speed skating 1500 meter event. Apolo Ohno was racing for his sixth Olympic medal, which would tie him with long track speed skater Bonnie Blair for most decorated American winter Olympian ever. I’ve been a fan of Ohno since the 2002 Salt Lake Games (my favorite Winter Olympics to date), and I followed him during the 2006 Torrino games and his championship season of Dancing With the Stars (one of only two seasons of the show I’ve ever watched). Suffice it to say, his events are can’t miss for me. Each of Ohno’s three races was a nail-biter, but that’s the nature of short track.

Ohno won his first race handily, but it didn’t always look like that would be the case. He spent much of his time hanging at the back of the pack, waiting for just the right time to make his move. And move he did. With one huge, spectacular burst of speed, he vaulted ahead of the rest of the field and finished about a quarter-lap ahead of everybody else. His finish in the semifinals wasn’t nearly as decisive, but it was exciting just the same. Again he hung back until near the end of the race. One failed attempt and one successful attempt to move ahead later, he finished in second, still good enough to qualify for the finals. Ohno’s successes just edged Charles Hamelin, one of Canada’s best hopes for a home gold medal, out of the “A final.” This was a theme that would continue throughout the evening.

The biggest drama of the night short track-wise happened in the final. Ohno wasn’t content to hang back this time, he was jostling at the front of the pack with the other top contenders. The three skaters from South Korea somehow managed to get themselves to the front, and Ohno and fellow American J.R. Celski (more on him later) found themselves faced with the very real possibility of finishing fourth and fifth- shut out of the medal podium. Short track is a crazy sport, however, and you never know when the unexpected is going to happen. A bad attempt at a pass sent Koreans Lee Ho-Suk and Sung Si-Bak sprawling towards the wall in the very last seconds of the race. Suddenly, Ohno and Selski found themselves recipients of silver and bronze medals respectively, with the one Korean who avoided the crash, Lee Jung-Su, winning the gold.

Although it’s by no means a sure thing, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was Ohno’s last Olympics. This is his third time competing on this stage, and he has said that competing at the Olympics in Vancouver has an appealing symmetry to him, since he grew up in Seattle and first learned the sport of short track in Vancouver. If this is indeed Ohno’s last Olympics, J.R. Selski seems to be a worthy successor. He has heart and determination. Back in September at the U.S. Olympic Trials, he suffered a horrific, life-threatening injury. One of his skates cut his leg, almost severing the femoral artery. Not only did he survive, but he trained harder than ever and managed to get back into shape just in time for the Olympics. Several months ago, he certainly wasn’t thinking about whether or not he’d win an Olympic medal, but here he is today, Bronze Medalist in his very first attempt.

There was a little too much coverage of luge last night for my taste, although I suppose I can understand why NBC made that choice. The sport is still on everybody’s mind from Friday’s tragedy. On the good side, Bob Costas announced that NBC will not be showing footage of the fatal crash any more during this Olympics. I am glad that they reached that decision, but I’m left wondering what took them so long. While their efforts to explain what went wrong and let America know who the Georgian luger was were commendable, showing the crash over and over, sometimes in slo-mo, was just plain tasteless.

The other great moment for the United States last night took place at the women’s moguls competition. The United States took gold and bronze in this competition, with Hannah Kearney winning the former and Shannon Bahrke winning the latter. This was a continuation of the “Canadian Curse.” Canadian Jennifer Heil was a favorite to win gold, but she ended up with silver. To add insult to injury, men’s downhill skiing, another event where Canada was expected to fare well, has been postponed due to poor weather conditions. Believe it or not, it’s been a little too warm and rainy to keep the slopes at optimum condition. Do you think Vancouver might be interested in a little weather trade with the Mid-Atlantic United States? I certainly think it would be a wonderful idea.

On the more international front, there were two moments that most definitely stood out to me. The first took place during daytime coverage, long track speed skating specifically. Three Americans were competing in the men’s 5000 meter event, but none of the ended up medaling. This threatened to irk me, but Dutch gold medalist Sven Kramer’s victory celebration was so jubilant it could melt anyone’s heart. He vaulted himself over several barriers and rushed up into the stands to be with his family and friends, where he hugged and kissed his parents and girlfriend. It was great to see somebody so completely thrilled with their accomplishment, and it was amusing to see his orange and white clad cheering section up in the stands.

The other non-United States or Canada moment that really stood out to me happened at the women’s moguls competition. Japan’s Tae Satoya was another favorite to do well in the competition. She is apparently very, very popular in Japan, and she’s had press following her throughout the Olympics. Unfortunately, though, she crashed on her run. Thankfully, she didn’t seem to be injured, but her hopes of a medal were certainly over. The moment made me realize that even though we focus so intently on the medal winners, there are so, so many more athletes who compete at the Olympics. They always say in the commentary during the opening ceremonies that for most of the athletes, the Parade of Nations will be their biggest Olympic moment, but Tae Satoya’s mogul run really brought that point home for me.

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