Posts Tagged ‘Figure Skating’

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!

Queen Yu-Na

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Kim Yu-Na is the biggest star in Korea.  Not just the most popular Olympian or even athlete, but the most popular person in the country.  So, she came to the Olympics as not just the favorite in Ladies’ Figure Skating, but the hope and focus of an entire nation.  With the weight of that pressure on her shoulders, it was all the more impressive how she flew tonight, winning the Gold Medal in flawless fashion as only Queen Yu-Na could have done.

In her Short Program on Tuesday, Kim Yu-Na had the best music, wore the best outfit and skated the best performance, which put her just under five points ahead of her greatest rival Mao Asada of Japan.  Tonight, all the same was true for the Free Skate.  Kim Yu-Na was far better than her competition, skating a perfect program, showing herself to be the brightest star in the World tonight, not just Korea.  She seems so much older than her 19 years.  The crown she wears for her country as Queen Yu-Na must be a heavy one, but at the Awards Ceremony tonight, with the Gold Medal around her neck, she floated away.  Wearing a complicated and enigmatic smile, Kim Yu-Na wiped away her tears and whispered the words of her National Anthem.  Such beauty on the ice and off, she’s got such a spark and power.  Is she looking for a king?

Congratulations, Kim Yu-Na.

World Records in the Winter Olympics

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

During the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, whether it was at the Water Cube with Michael Phelps or the Bird’s Nest with Usain Bolt, we saw World Records being set almost every day.  At these Winter Games in Vancouver, we’ve been lucky if we’ve seen even a handful.

I know the world’s best long distance Long Track Speed Skater, Sven Kramer, set an Olympic Record in his Gold Medal 5000m performance early in these Games.  It was broadcast for just a moment that he did the same in the Dutch revered 10,000m event before he was disqualified based on a coaching mistake that caused the great Kramer to skate less than 10,000m (which made it easier to skate for an Olympic Record).

And nothing against an Olympic Record, but if we’re seeing World Records being broken during the Summer Olympics, we’ve got to ask, “Why aren’t we setting records during the Winter Olympics, too?”

Well, in most cases, the Winter Olympic sports just can’t be compared to the Summer’s.  In most, if not the majority of Winter events, the competitions take place on tracks that are unique to each geography and outdoors in constantly varying weather.  For the Biathalon and Cross Country events, the courses the athletes have been competing on over these last two weeks were designed just for the 2010 Winter Olympics.  These exact courses won’t be used again at the next Games in Sochi, Russia or anywhere else.  The same thing goes for Ski and Snowboard Cross, and all of the Alpine Skiing events.  Even if they were able to copy the courses exactly, they couldn’t replicate the climate we’ve seen in Vancouver, which is known by locals as much for rain as snow.

In Short Track Speed Skating World Records are irrelevant because they don’t skate for World Record speed, they skate with strategy in mind.  A tactician like Apolo Anton Ohno has great speed, but he’s won seven Olympic Medals and in only one of those performances, a very memorable Gold, did he lead the race from start to finish.  Two distinct World Records from these Olympics came during Figure Skating, an indoor event.  Gold Medal winning pair Shen and Zhao set a World Record score in their Short Program and Gold Medal favorite Kim Yu-Na did the same.

In the Winter Olympics so much of the scores and times you see can’t be compared against anything but themselves.  So we don’t measure success in World Records, but in Gold, Silver and Bronze.  The best in the world is the best of the day.  You’ll never get what you want out of the Winter Games if you’re looking for a bottom line.  When it’s about the journey and not just the destination, you’ve just got to watch to get what you want.  Be assured, you’ll see the best in the world every second you do.

A Beautiful Virtue

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

We haven’t known Ice Dancing until tonight.  Finally, in the Free Dance, the last of the three Ice Dancing programs, the best of the teams did away with the Motherboy costumes and pantomime to show the audience what drama a performance can hold.  The three teams that made the podium were so much the best of the competition and it was with them that we saw true skill, class, and beauty.

Canadian pair Virtue and Moir, crowd favorites and leaders, were scheduled between the best American duo (Davis and White) and the Russian power pair Domnina and Shabalin.  Everyone skated their best tonight, no mistakes out of the best in the last group of skaters.  Davis and White were first to skate the final group, performing a brilliant dance to music from The Phantom of the Opera.  They were flawless and when they were done I believed I had just seen a Gold Medal performance.  But sometimes, if you’re lucky, you stop your DVR just long enough to see a Gold Medal performance you can feel.  Virtue and Moir began their dance and it was absolute grace in motion.  I didn’t have a thought outside of their performance, I was in a complete Olympic zone.  No question, not a doubt in my mind did everyone just see the performance of a lifetime.  And not the performance of Virtue and Moir’s skating lifetime, but ours as viewers.  We may not see the likes of that perfection for a time to come.

Domnina and Shabalin for Bronze, Davis and White for Silver, and Virtue and Moir for a beautiful, beautiful Gold.

Shen and Zhao Complete the Dream

Monday, February 15th, 2010

In their fourth Olympics, Shen and Zhao, the married pair figure skaters from China finally found Gold.  They had a compelling story of shortcomings and struggle after their third Winter Games in Torino in 2006, but they decided to go back into the life of dorm rooms and cafeteria food to fight for their Gold Medal one last time in Vancouver.

They were leading by less than a point over German pair Savchenko and Szolkowy going into the Free Skate tonight, but in the end it was another Chinese pair Pang and Tong they had to beat.  With a near flawless skate, Pang and Tong moved from fourth place into first in a competition where anyone outside of the top three was seen as a distant prospect for the podium.  So, with the last performance of the night, the pressure of gold ahead of them and 18 years and a marriage of experience behind them, Shen and Zhao began their program.  They didn’t show us the beautiful dance of their short program and they weren’t flawless.  And yet, despite a drop and some bad timing, they still showed that they were the best in the world.  For the previous 12 Olympics, a Russian pair had won the Gold Medal.  For the first time tonight, a Chinese pair did.  Congratulations to Shen and Zhao who finally got their gold.

Figure Skating Begins

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

During her interview with Bob Costas, Gold Medalist Hannah Kearney was asked what events she’s going to stay around to see.  She answered after a moment of thought, “Figure skating, because for me that epitomizes the Winter Olympics.”  And she’s not alone.  For many people, the Winter Olympics don’t start at the lighting of the torch but at the start of the Figure Skating Pairs Short Program.

That beginning came with an unlucky draw for Olympic favorites, Chinese husband and wife pair Shen and Zhao.  It was an unlucky draw for them because the audience is never settled at the start of this long evening of skating, but it was a jackpot for the fans who were there.  Shen and Zhao put on a flawless performance with such perfect synchronization and grace that any fan could appreciate.  More than that.   You’d have to be in awe.  After a day of ski jumping and biathalon and Nordic Combined, and Moguls where power can make or break your day, it is a great contrast to have our figure skaters with their glides and flight to look forward to.

This first night of figure skating is just beginning and Shen and Zhao already broke the record for the highest ever score in major competition.  The bar for the rest of the pairs is set impossibly high.  But against that perfection, the rest of the pairs have made a few highlights as well.  American skater Amanda Evora (of Evora and Ladwig) showed such exuberance after landing her Throw Triple Loop that she gave a fist pump before coming back to the moment and what was left to do.  It’s easy to take in these moments in a competition like the Olympics where you’re allowed and encouraged and excited to celebrate the effort as much as the result.  Plus she’s adorable and the pair skated to a great theme from the movie Love Actually.  I’m keeping an eye on her the rest of the way, Amanda Evora showed with her spontaneous fist pump and that big smile what the Olympics are all about.  Let the Games begin.  Again.

I hate to do it.  I finished this  post an hour ago, on the dot.  But I can’t let this stand.  I like Canada.  I like everybody.  But what the hell happened on the ice tonight with Canadian pair Dube and Davison?  After a big fall, bad footwork and having the announcers say they looked like they lost their will and they skated in glue.  They were outdone by their own music (Requiem for a Dream) but somehow they put up the sixth best score of the night.  I’m an amateur, but I know when I see a good performance and when I don’t.  That’s why most of us like sports where the person that crosses the finish line first wins.  Well, if you hit the ice in figure skating that’s good enough for most of us to know you didn’t cross the finish line first.  But these judges aren’t most of us.  These judges.  Boy, these judges.  Clean up your act.  You alienate your audience when you miss it like that.  Almost as much as the German pair Savchenko and Szolkowy did with their really really creepy outfits.  That being said those two clowns put up a great performance.