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My Thoughts on the Olympic Games So Far
  1. The Georgian athlete’s death was extremely regrettable and sad. To come this far to achieve one’s dream and have it taken away so fatally is cruel. I blame the Olympic organizers for his death as they’ve done nothing despite repeated warnings that the track was too fast and dangerous. Of course, the cruelest thing out of all this is that no amount of “I’m sorry” and “It’s very sad and regrettable” from the Vancouver officials and IOC can resurrect Nodar Kumaritashvili. Jerks. May he rest in peace.
  2. I didn’t really get the Opening Ceremony’s theme, if there was in fact one unifying arc somewhere in the mishmash. Some parts were very interesting and entertaining, but some were just dull. (Example of dullness: the boy flying around over a fake wheat field while some music played in the background.) BTW — I’d never heard k.d.lang sing before the Opening Ceremony, and she was awesome.
  3. The cauldron failure during the Opening Ceremony was inexplicable and puzzling. Hadn’t anyone tested the thing, especially given the global TV rating and the huge budget Vancouver must’ve given to the planners? If one more column had failed to rise, the entire thing would have had to be scrapped, not that it was a scrappable part of the ceremony. It’d be like having a romance novel with an aborted happily-ever-after.
  4. Congratulations, Canada, on your first gold medal on home soil. :-) How exciting! I was hopping like mad because I really really wanted Canada to get a gold medal (or two or three). It’s just frustrating to not win any gold as a host.
  5. A double wow for the Korean 500m speed skaters. They’re very young (21 years old) and did fantastic under the heavy pressure. May they have a great competitive career ahead of them.
  6. Shaun White is not mortal. Neither gravity nor any other Newtonian Law applies to him. Just amazing.
  7. I’ve been watching several curling competitions, and I find them strangely absorbing. RCC did a half-hour segment on the science behind curling, which I found fascinating. Do you know that when athletes scrub the ice, it makes the surface slightly warmer, which makes the stone travel farther? Also when you want the stone to curve, you put a little spin on it as you release it. And the number of spins the stone makes as it travels across the ice determines the final curve. I didn’t know it was that precise. Now I have a new-found respect for curlers.
  8. I was in tears at the end of Shen and Zhao’s long program (figure skating pairs competition). They’re my sentimental favorite the way Michelle Kwan was in ladies, and for them to make such an amazing come back and achieve their 18-year-long dream was not only incredible but just so emotional. (And of course their marriage and the obvious love they have for each other totally got my romantic side going too.) It’s even more astounding given that Shen and Zhao are the octogenarians of figure skating — 31 and 36, respectively.
    Shen & Zhao
  9. The men’s competition (figure skating) judging was a disgrace. I’ve noticed a very obvious overscoring of Canadian pairs, but I didn’t mind too much since I agreed with the results for the top five finishers. But in the men’s competition, it was even more blatant and offensive. In the short program, Evan and Patrick were overmarked, while Evgeni (Plushenko a.k.a. Plushy), Johnny, Nobunari and Michal were undermarked. It’s no wonder Michal imploded during the long because it was obvious his heart just wasn’t in it as he was going to be screwed no matter how he did. Also the technical panel was very strict on lips but not so on flutzes. Again, it’s obvious a certain someone wants a certain someone else to win — or at least score well regardless of the actual performance.

    This leads me to my biggest complaint about the figure skating competition so far: Plushy, Daisuke and Johnny were robbed. If it were up to me, I would’ve ranked the male skaters in the following order: Plushy, Daisuke and possibly Johnny or someone else who skated cleanly with great artistry for the bronze. I still don’t understand how a skater who skates the exact same program with the exact same arm flappings and the exact same black costumes regardless of the music (Yes, I’m looking at you, Evan!) can win for being more “technically sound” than Plushy, who’s never fallen on his competition jumps since Salt Lake City (if I remember correctly). To add insult to injury, Plushy used to land three quadruple jumps in competitions until his retirement three years ago; this season he did “only” two per competition.

    Evan and Plushy received the same PCS (program component score), which means their choreography, transitions / connecting steps, execution, timing, etc. were on par. But for whatever reason the judges gave Evan a higher TES (technical elements score), even though Evan cannot even attempt a single quadruple jump, much less land it. To make the matter even more distasteful, the judging panel propped up Stephane (Lambiel) by giving him a ridiculously high TES despite numerous falls and stumbles. I adore Stephane, but if he gets such a high TES for his performance, Plushy definitely should’ve crushed Evan with his TES, unless the judges were trying to communicate that they love rewarding technical mediocrity. (Plushy landed two quads during the short and long programs, while Evan none, and Stephane had…very poor quads.)

    American commentators claimed that the “total package” matters, meaning you should have a well-developed artistic side to your skating. Well, in that case, Daisuke should’ve won the gold medal as he has the most artistically pleasing program out of the top three, and he’s a fantastic jumper with superb step sequences. (BTW — his TES was ridiculously low, but his PCS actually was the highest out of the three.)

    It’s a supreme hypocrisy for the American commentators to suddenly praise and defend COP (code of points; the new judging system implemented after SLC) after complaining bitterly about how it makes it harder for technically incompetent American skaters to win by looking “cute” or “balletic” (COP is much more strict about wrong edges [lips and flutzes] and under-rotations). Competitive figure skating is foremost a sport — or so the ISU claimed when it shoved it into the Olympic Games — so it should reward competitors with the most technically challenging programs that are correctly executed (meaning no falls or stumbles). All of Evan’s jumps, including his triple lutz triple toeloop opening combination, — except for the triple axels — are executed by ladies with more artistry a.k.a. less arm flailing and absolute disregard of the music. So we have a champion who jumps like a girl. Great. A complete regression in sport. By two decades. As a diehard fan, it is very frustrating.

    Can you imagine Shaun White dumbing down technical difficulty of his runs because you know…he needs to look “artistic” while he’s competing?

    P.S. I understand that many Americans liked Evan’s performance, especially those who watch figure skating every four years for the Olympics. If I’d never seen him before, maybe I would’ve been impressed, but I’ve been subjected to his repetitive skating for years now, and I don’t find him in any way, shape or form worthy of being an Olympic champion. I’d rather see Johnny Weir as the Olympic champ, even though I’m not a huge fan of his either, but at least he doesn’t rehash the same boring programs year after year. (Yes, I’m one of those dorky fans who not only watches every major international competition, but reads the protocols afterward to see how each skater was scored.)

    P.P.S. No, I’m not a Plushy fan. I’ve always been a Yagudin fan. But I can respect what Plushy’s done for the sport and how technically strong and athletic he is. If you think he’s an arrogant jerk for no reason, watch his competitive skating programs since the Nagano Games. He’s done the kind of things that can make the current top skaters cry — or worse, leave them broken. (Literally – many of the current top contenders have fallen on quads and injured their feet, ankles, etc.) And in all three Olympic Games he’s gone to, he got no less than 2nd place: silver in SLC, gold in Turin, and silver in Vancouver. This is the kind of stuff that other top skaters wet-dream about.

  10. Luckily for me, TSS and NHK are planning to show the ladies’ figure skating competition live. I’m rooting for Yuna Kim to win the gold. I’ll be happy if any two from the following get the silver and bronze: Mao Asada, Miki Ando, Akiko Sukuzi, and Alena Leonova (although her chances are very remote, but I love watching her skate). If Canadian top contender gets overscored yet again from PCS (which has morphed into the Promote Canadians Score in Vancouver), I’ll be very annoyed. And I’ll be looking at the protocols closely because I don’t trust the technical panel for ladies’ competition.

How about you? How are you enjoying the Games? Who are you rooting for and what’s your favorite sport?

3 comments to “My Thoughts on the Olympic Games So Far”

  1. Cynthia Justlin
    · February 22nd, 2010 at 4:50 am · Link

    I went away from your blog determined not to make a response, but now I’m finding that I can’t quite hold my tongue, so I hope you don’t mind someone respectfully disagreeing with you on your own blog. :p

    Plushenko is a great jumper and a great athlete–no one can question that. Which is why he won the short program. But he threw it all away in the long program by acting as though he already had the gold in the bag and figuring that doing his jumps at the beginning of his program and then leaving the last minute of his program without any difficult elements was enough to keep his lead. It’s not.

    Yes, he landed a very difficult quad, but figure skating is not all about the quad. Remember when skaters had a compulsory figures portion of the competition? They did away with that back in 1990, and edges, footworks and spins became a more important portion of the skate as a result of that.

    Strategy is important in any game. With that strategy there is risk vs reward. Plushenko’s strategy was to go all out with the quad jump as the focus of his program. Lysacek’s strategy was to focus on every step in his program, ensuring that every move he did was done at the absolute highest level. He also put difficult jumps in the second half of the program during the bonus portion whereas Plushenko did not.

    If you look at the scores, Plushenko was rewarded in base points for the quad, scoring higher than Lysacek with 59.33 to 58.23 (again where Lysacek made up points was in the bonus section). L outscored P on GOE (5.24 to P’s 4.44) because all his jumps were solid. Correctly executed means much more than not falling or stumbling. It’s the jump from start to finish–takeoff, rotation, position in the air, landing. P had a very solid quad and then several others that were tilted in the air with rough landings. Lysacek’s footwork & spins were more difficult than Plushenko’s also, which is what edged him into 1st place.

    I’ve watched Lysacek’s skating for many many years, not just every four years at the Olympics. (and I have to disagree that all his programs look the same–he is choreographed by Lori Nichol, one of the best, who also choreographed Shen & Zhao) He is one of the most technically perfect skaters out there on his footwork and spins. He chose to play to his strengths and that strategy worked for him.

    I thought Takahasi did an amazing job, and interestingly enough had he landed the quad he would have placed higher than either Lysacek or Plushenko. But he didn’t. It’s not about what you attempt. It’s about what you do (and do at the highest level). That’s the risk he took by putting the quad in his program.

    I’m sure we’ll never agree, LOL, but I wanted to at least give another perspective from someone who has watched figure skating religiously for years.

    As for the ladies event, I agree with your assesment of the top contenders. I’m betting on Yuna Kim for the gold who is such a flawless, beautiful skater. I’m hoping for at least a clean skate for the Americans, though I know they won’t be in contention for a medal because they are so young and need time to mature into that polished skate that Yuna does so well.

  2. Heather
    · February 22nd, 2010 at 1:03 pm · Link

    I am respectfully agreeing with Cynthia’s disagreement with you. *G* I was going to make the same point she did about front-loading a program versus back-loading it (not to mention more difficult entrances into some of his jumps, and Pleshenko did nearly fall on one triple), as well as pointing out the difference in difficulty in footwork.

    Evan’s footwork had more edges and deep knees, and he was constantly in motion, whereas Pleshenko kept stopping to play to the audience. As Cynthia said, he acted as though he had already won the gold, and in figure skating, you can take nothing for granted. IMHO, it was his own arrogance that lost him the gold.

    That being said, can I just say that tonight’s hockey game between USA and Canada was AWESOME??

    Oh, and I too have found myself strangle engrossed in curling matches. Scary as it is, I think I’m actually beginning to understand it, LOL.

  3. Nadia Lee
    · February 22nd, 2010 at 10:29 am · Link

    I went away from your blog determined not to make a response, but now I’m finding that I can’t quite hold my tongue, so I hope you don’t mind someone respectfully disagreeing with you on your own blog.

    How dare you disagree with me on my blog? *tongue in cheek*

    Actually I love talking to passionate fans, so long as they’re reasonable and respectful. Some of my friends disagree with my stance on men’s competition, too. ;)

    I think Plushy v. Evan’s going to remain controversial because there are fans and people who’ll always disagree. It’s expected when the top scores are so close in a judged competition (v. timed like speed skating or sprints, or scored like curling or hockey).

    I may also be biased since I dislike both skaters, but I like to see men do quads. I find the current quadless men very boring unless they’re utterly spectacular artists, which Evan, alas, is not (for me; his programs leave me cold). I also think that COP doesn’t value quads enough. 4Ts get about 1.5 or so points more than 3As, even though 3As are obviously much easier than 4Ts.

    As for ladies, Mirai’s going pretty early — 11th — and Rachael is going pretty late — 28th. I don’t expect Mirai to skate clean because she hasn’t been very consistent this season, but I expect an error-free, albeit dull, performance from Rachael.

    BTW — Isn’t Rachael retiring to focus on college? I thought I read that somewhere. I may be confusing her with someone else though.

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