Young Daredevils First To Gold

Slopestyle. What is it exactly? It’s not a race. It’s more like an exhibition, and in my view has more in common with diving and figure skating especially in the way that it’s judged. But unlike diving and figure skating, it seems significantly more dangerous.  There have been quite a few injuries, fortunately none too serious on the Sochi course during practice runs earlier in the week.  One such injury compelled veteran Shaun White to withdraw from the event.  True, a diver could crack open his head on the board or do a belly flop and be knocked unconscious, but that’s rare to see.  I liken the slopstylers to cliff divers.  They are young daredevils.  In impressively fearless fashion, Americans Sage Kostenburg and Jamie Anderson won Gold in the inaugural event.

Obviously including the sport in the Olympics is an attempt to attract the interest of the younger crowd who grew up on the X Games and who might find curling and biathlon skiing a little boring.  I do think they made the mistake of making Slopestyle the first event of the games.  While it is true that Halfpipe snowboarding and Freestyle skiing have yet to “air”, the pioneer daredevils have left the stage and perhaps their age demographic viewers along with them. Speaking of age, the average age of the men who medaled in Slopestyle is 21.  Silver medalist Canadian Mark McMorris in a laid back reflection said that he was just happy to “podium”.  The Gold and Silver medalists on the women’s side are both 23.  You have to admire the Bronze medalist, Jenny Jones of Great Britain who at 33 is likely the oldest competitive snowboarder on the circuit.

I don’t know for certain what the American chances for other Gold medals might be in the Sochi Games, but it is possible that most of them will be from the Snowboarder contingent.  If I had to predict, it would be this: Shaun White and speed skater Shani Davis will win Golds and possibly several other Americans in the various events from Halfpipe to Snowboard Cross. It’s entirely possible for an American skater to eke out a win in short track, but it’s such an unpredictable event that anything could happen – all but one could wipeout and the slowest of the group could skate to victory.  It’s happened before.  Oh the thrill of victory when it’s least expected!

No Dynasties at Summer Olympics

The Summer Olympic games are more competitive than ever. Gone are the days of a country’s domination in the gold medal count. In the history of the games, the most dominant performance came in the St. Louis games of 1904 at the end of which Americans had won gold in 77 of 95 events – a staggering 81%. Only 9 other countries medaled in those games. Talk about a home court advantage.

The second most dominant performance came during the 1908 London games where the Brits took home 56 gold medals in 110 events – 51%. Athletes from only 19 countries earned medals.

The third most dominant performance came in the LA games of 1932, when Americans won 41gold medals in 116 events – 35%.

Since the 30’s, only the USA in 1948 and the USSR in 1960 came any where close to dominating, each earning 28% of the golds awarded.

While the host country China won the gold stakes in Beijing, they only pulled in 17% of the total awarded, not exactly domination, but the most dominant performance from a nation since the 1992 games in Barcelona, when the United States also earned 17% of the gold.

That aside, clearly the Summer Olympic games are more competitive than ever before. Athletes from more countries are competing in more events. In the Athens games of 1896, there were 43 events; in the 2008 Beijing games there were 302 golds awarded. And more countries medaled in Beijing, 87, than in any previous games.

Team competitions have been more competitive as well. The USA men’s basketball team did win in Beijing, but as the redeem team; the dream team days are over. Spain gave team USA a run for their money. The world has not yet caught up to the USA women’s basketball team, but will in time, as the game becomes more widely played.

With the exception of table tennis and diving (China), track and field events – relays and 400m are two examples (USA), there are no clear dynasties. After a stunning loss to Japan, even the USA women’s softball team can no longer be considered invincible.

I leave you with this: Can Great Britain repeat their 1908 feat in 2012? The home court advantage is powerful!

*stats compiled from:

mapsofworld.com/olympic-trivia

si.com

nbcolympics.com