Archive for the ‘2014 Olympic Winter Games’ Category

The Man Time Forgot – Ole Einar Bjoerndalen Gets Gold

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

When casual fans talk about the Winter Olympics they bring up the Biathlon, incredulous at this sport that combines Cross Country Skiing and Shooting. When Winter Olympics enthusiasts discuss the Games, they say the name Ole Einar Bjoerndalen. Norway’s 40 year old hero has now medaled in five Olympic Games and added his 12th Olympic medal to his legacy, incredibly his 7th Gold Medal.

This was the Men’s 10k Sprint event with 10,000 meters of cross country skiing and two shooting stations, a prone and a standing shoot of five targets each. Among the top ten finishers there were only four penalties (for a missed shot) taken among one hundred shots. It was an astoundingly clean shooting night for the top finishers, but one of those who missed was actually Ole Einar Bjoerndalen. This forty year old man, this untouchable champion, many years older than most of his competitors, was so fast on his skis that despite his penalty lap he left the field behind to tie his countryman Bjorn Daehlie with 12 all time Olympic Winter Games medals, the most of all time. Bjoerndalen is now also the oldest individual Gold Medal winner in the history of the modern Olympic Games.

Kings of the Long Skate

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

At the Adler Arena on a 400 meter oval of pearly white ice the best long track speed skaters in the world battle for Gold. In these distance events, you race against the clock and not the person on the ice next to you. It takes patience, focus, self-awareness and incredible talent. Historically, the Dutch honor this event in their home country like no other and historically they dominate these events accordingly. The distance the Netherlands hoped to lock down today was the 5,000 meters and they fielded a strong team led by the World Record holder and reigning Olympic champion Sven Kramer.

In Vancouver in 2010 Kramer experienced both amazing triumph and crushing disappointment. He won Gold early in the Games in the 5,000 meter and then with a huge lead and little ice left between him and another Gold Medal in the 10,000 meter event, a coaching error caused Kramer to skate into the wrong lane and he was disqualified. It was heartbreak on the Olympic stage, but a champion like Kramer didn’t let it affect him long. Since 2010 he has secured his position as the dominant force in long track speed skating and he came to Sochi with his expectations and the entire nation of the Netherlands set on more Gold.

He started the race with split times slightly off the pace of Russian Denis Yuskov who came out blazing hot with lap times in the mid 28s range. By the mid point in the race though, Kramer overtook the Russian through sheer consistency in his lap times. He built and built his lead and posted an Olympic Record and an extremely challenging time for the final three pairs to overcome. None of them did. Kramer cruised to Gold with absolute power and confidence built on the consistency of his lap times. With Dutch royalty in the stands to celebrate him, Kramer watched from the tunnels under the main floor as two of his countrymen, Jan Blokhuijsen and Jorrit Bergsma, took Silver and Bronze respectively. It was a sweep for the Netherlands in their favorite and most prideful sport of Long Track Speed Skating. This made their Olympics and they’ve only just begun.

What a Finish! – The Ladies Skiathlon

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

The Ladies Skiathlon was formally known as The Pursuit which says it all about the format. The athletes are lined up, rows deep, based on world rankings. 40 of the worlds best female cross country skiers compete over a total of 15km, half in the Classic style and then the Free to see who finishes first, fastest, and in Gold Medal time.

The Scandinavian countries have long dominated the cross country events and Norway and Sweden led the pack in this event as well. For the majority of the 7.5km Classic portion of the race, things were tight, at most a minute separated the greater bulk of the racers but as the competitors changed skis for the second half Free style, those Ladies vying for a medal were carved down to only six. Among these six were three Norwegians, a Finn, a Pole, and Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla (Gold Medalist in the 10k Freestyle in Vancouver).

There was a small amount of jockeying for position but the Norwegians held the top three spots as they moved through the third lap with Justyna Kowalczyk from Poland, a four time medalist, struggling to maintain the pace. On the fourth lap, top ranked Therese Johaug made a push on the long last climb but didn’t get the separation she would need for the sprint but the field did separate when Charlotte Kalla picked her spot later on that same climb to dart into the lead at the perfect moment, moving further ahead with every push.

But three time Gold Medalist and Norwegian Cross Country hero Marit Bjorgen marked Kalla and wouldn’t allow the race to end on this uphill. She cranked and stroked and put herself even with Kalla for the 200m sprint for Gold.

There is nothing in the sport of cross country skiing as exciting as the sprint to the finish. There were 200m of flat snow between these two great athletes and a Gold Medal. Like lithe industrial pistons, Kalla and Bjorgen threw their slender poles high into the air and pumped, pushed, and drove themselves forward at incredible speed towards glory. It was clear within a moment who the winner would be. With incredible timing, strength and skill, the champion Marit Bjorgen brought joy to all of Norway by bringing her country its first Gold Medal of these Olympic Winter Games and her fourth career Gold Medal (eight Medal overall). Kalla threw her poles high in the air in celebration as she crossed the finish line 1.8 seconds behind Bjorgen winning a Silver for Sweden. The Medal podium was rounded out 13.2 seconds by Norwegian Heidi Weng, a true statement for Cross Country loving Norway.

The excitement of Cross Country continues today with the Men’s 10k Biathlon, our favorite combination of skiing and shooting the world over. Keep an eye on Norway there as well.

The Olympic Winter Games, Sochi 2014

Friday, February 7th, 2014

The XXII Olympic Winter Games have officially begun. Man, it feels good to be back! It’s been only about a year and a half since the Summer Olympics in London but it’s been a full four years since we last hit the slopes and shaved the ice with the world’s best Winter athletes in Vancouver. Last nights’ coverage on NBC didn’t begin with the Opening Ceremonies but with two new events that heralded in what promises to be another amazing Games.

Slopestyle snowboarding is an event that takes place on a snowboard park recognizable to anyone who’s hit their local slopes, but exponentially more challenging: higher, faster, and with three towering jumps. Individual athletes cruise through this world class crafted terrain park hitting tricks as they fly downwards. It’s a judged event and if the qualifiers showed anything, they showed that it’s an event to watch.

The other new event that debuted on night one was Figure Skating Team. This event combines the four disciplines of ice skating: Men’s, Ladies’, Pair, and Ice Dancing. The scores are put together based on the relative finishes in the individual events for a team total that determines medal places. Using this event as a predictor of who to watch you have to look at Yuzuru Hanyu in the male category. He is the most graceful skater in the competition and he carries all the power of the former Gold Medalist, Russian Evgeni Plushenko. In the pairs, it was Russian duo Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov as Cinderella and Prince Charming who owned the night with their sheer power, charisma, and execution.

New events and old will combine at these 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi Russia to make two weeks of the most exciting competition in the world. The world has come to Russia, unifying to celebrate world culture and athletic achievement for all to see. Again as before, Let the Games Begin!