Lysacek Putin Praise Plushenko

Bob Costas tried to get Evan Lysacek to respond to the controversial comments of Yevgeny Plushenko. Plushenko if you remember believes an Olympic champion figure skater must be able to execute a quadruple jump and as much as said that Evan Lysacek who edged him out of a gold medal was not worthy. Plushenko fueled the controversy during the medal ceremony by stepping on the empty gold medal platform en route to his silver medal perch. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin added a squirt of lighter fluid by saying that Plushenko “performed the most accomplished program on the Vancouver ice”. But did he? The judges didn’t think so and I didn’t either, not that I know much about figure skating, but it was clear that Lysacek skated better. Accomplishment cannot and in fact is not measured simply on the planned and executed elements. The program components matter too. Choreography, interpretation, performance and skating are also important elements that judges evaluate. But even looking at the planned and executed elements, Lysacek’s jumps, landings and spins were cleaner. Lysacek deflected the controversy by saying that Plushenko is a nice guy and a skater he had always looked up to. He said Pluchenko congratulated him after he won the gold medal. Lysaecek said he knew Plushenko was disappointed and should be proud of the silver. The silver that Vladimir Putin said is “as good as gold”.

Highs And Lows At The Winter Olympics

Certainly the weather has presented some challenges to the athletes and the organizers. Too foggy, too hot, too snowy, too slushy. Some events have been postponed. For American alpine skier Lindsey Vonn, who is recovering from a shin injury, this has been a blessing. The question is will her timing be there when she finally competes?

The luge competition may prove to be the low point of the Vancouver games. The death of the young Georgian slider raised doubts about the safety of the course, prompting organizers to shorten it and build a safety wall at the site of the fatal crash to provide an extra layer of protection for the luge competitors. As a result, the track is slower and some of sliders are not happy with the adjustments.  An Austrian luger called the new male start the “old lady’s position” and a German female slider called the women’s a “kinder” start, meaning appropriate for children.

And there have been lots of medal costing spills. In the Individual Men’s Nordic Combined 10 km Cross Country, Finland’s Janne Ryynaenen leading with only a few kilometers left, fell going into a slushy turn. The Finn finished 26th. In Short Track speed racing, the Koreans were a second away from sweeping the medals when on the last turn, one turned sharply into the other and they both went down, allowing American skaters Ohno and Celski to sneak in for medals. In the Men’s Moguls Finals, American Nathan Roberts over-rotated on his last jump, and nearly landed outside the course taking down a flag marker as he tumbled down the mountain. And there were 6 falls in all during the Pairs Short Program for Figure Skating on Sunday night.

Maybe the biggest highlight so far has been Alexandre Bilodeau’s gold medal run in Men’s Moguls.  And like Hannah Kearney’s gold medal dash the day before, his run was fast, furious and flawless and his country’s first ever gold in a Canadian hosted games.   Every gold medal won is a highlight though not all are highlighted.

Which brings me to another point.  Why hasn’t NBC interviewed more international athletes?  Wouldn’t you like to hear from the gold medal German Luge champion?  Couldn’t somebody have interviewed Frenchman Jason Lamy-Chappuis  the Men’s Nordic Combined victor?  Surely someone on the NBC staff speaks French and most of the athletes are multilingual, except perhaps the Americans, and I don’t mean that disparagingly, but I thinks it’s a fair statement.  I wanted to know what Martina Sablikova from the Czech Republic thought about her gold medal performance in the Women’s 3000 m.   Didn’t the Olympic committee plan for interpreters to be available to the press?

I’d also like to see more feature reporting on Vancouver.  I still don’t have a sense of the place.  But all in all, NBC is doing a good job with the games.  Bob Costas and Al Michaels are solid anchors and know how to put an athlete at ease in an interview.  Bob’s interview with Hannah Kearney was a highlight as was her voice over of her own run down Cypress Mountain.   Al is more a football guy and I keep hearing the Monday Night Football theme song every time I see him, but he’s smooth enough to be credible no matter the sport.

Falls, spills, slips, crashes, injuries, and bad weather are all part of the Games, but so is the thrill of victory – and not just the victory of winning a gold medal but the triumph of making it to and competing in an Olympics game; for most Olympic athletes, a dream come true.

Thrill Seeking Winter Olympians

Speed.  That’s what it’s all about.   Crossing the finish line on a sled at 90 miles an hour.  “Dropping in” on bumpy Cypress Mountain at full speed doing crazy aerial tricks like “helis” and backflips off two strategically placed jumps en route to the finish.  Vermont native Hannah Kearney won the USA’s first gold of the games in Women’s Mogul.  Speed. Turns. Air. Daring. Execution.

Risky business these games.  NBC’s Brian Williams presented a terrific report on the risks athletes take to compete in winter sporting events.  He suggests that winter Olympians are cut from the same DNA cloth; that they share a common gene which predisposes them to risk taking.   And the risks are enormous.  A young luger, Nodar Kumaritashvilia from the Republic of Georgia was the first and I hope only fatality at the Vancouver games – a horrible tragedy, which may have been preventable.  His father said that a mistake should never cost an athlete his life.   NBC aired the video a number of times on the day of the opening ceremony, with appropriate warnings that the footage would be difficult to watch.   And on opening day, Bob Costas announced that they would not show the video again.

And it’s not just the sliders who put themselves at risk of injury or worse.  Did you see the short track speed skating races?  Speed.  Spills.  In every race, somebody goes down.  This is part of the thrill of watching speed skating.  It’s not the fastest who always win, but the racer who outlasts the others, whose strategy prevails.  America’s most decorated skater, Apolo Ohno, now with 6 medals in his Olympic career, took the Silver in the Men’s 1500 meters short track speed skating final, a race in which he nearly finished 4th.  With seconds to go the 2nd and 3rd place Koreans whiped out allowing Ohno and fellow American JR Celski to sneak in to medal.

But I think downhill skiing is the most dangerous event of all.  Flying down a hill on skinny skis at break neck speed is just insane.  Skiers seem to suffer the most serious injuries of all.  And yet they can’t stop racing.  Just ask American alpine skiers Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn.  Both know the risks.  Both have suffered severe injuries in downhill crashes.  And both, though less than 100% are back for more.  It is in their blood.

And it’s in my blood to watch these thrill seekers we call winter Olympians.