February 26, 2006

My Olympic Hero

I watched A LOT of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino (Turin), Italy thanks to my trusty DVR, which allowed me to watch the games at my own pace and skip commercials and lame events like ice dancing.

Aaron's favorite event is short track speed skating because it's fast, action-packed and skaters can fall and take each other out at any time. We were glad to see Apolo Anton Ohno medal in the 1000m and 500m after his fall in the 1500m prevented him from getting into the final of the event that made him such a (controversial) star in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. However, the big short track winners this winter were the South Koreans, who won 10 of the 24 short track medals compared to China's 5, Canada's 4 and the US's 3 (2 of which were individually won by Ohno). While this may lead one to believe that the South Koreans excel at winter sports, they only won 11 medals (the 11th was for normal speed skating), putting them 9th in the over-all medal count along with China, while the US was 2nd and Canada was 3rd (Germany got the most medals - 29). So the South Koreans are the best in the world at short track speed skating - particularly Ahn Hyun-Soo who won 2 individual golds, 1 individual bronze and 1 team gold - but NBC still made it seem like Ohno was the biggest news in short track.

While I enjoy watching short track, the various downhill skiing events, half-pipe snowboarding, ski jumping and luge, figure skating is my favorite winter sport by far. Figure skating got off to an unsurprising start with the favored Russian pair taking gold, two Chinese pairs taking silver and bronze, and the US pair coming in 7th due to lack of experience, technical difficulty and a serious fall on their only difficult trick. However, I still enjoyed watching the pairs skating because the lifts and throws are both really dangerous and exciting. In fact, the Russian winners had a bad fall doing a one-handed lift at Skate America 2004 in Pittsburg, PA, where Tatyana was knocked unconscious for several minutes and had to be briefly hospitalized.

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Xue Shen gets some serious air in a twist with her partner Hongbo Zhao

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Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang do some of the most creative lifts

The men's figure skating is interesting to watch because they do bigger jumps - some even do quadruples but it tends to be kind of boring because the "program component" (formerly the "artistic component") is usually lacking. The ladies' competition is of course the best event in the entire Winter Olympics and this year's competition was great because there was an actual struggle for the top spots that kept you on your toes. Michelle Kwan dropped out of the games on February 12 due to a groin injury, bringing up alternate (and little sister of 2002 gold medalist Sarah Hughes), Emily Hughes, whose lack of major competition experience transferred all US hopes for a medal onto Sasha Cohen. After the short program, Sasha was in 1st and Russia's favorite Irina Slutskaya was 2nd, but falls in their long programs affected their entire performances leaving the door open for the incredibly graceful and beautiful Shizuka Arakawa of Japan to take the gold. Although she didn't get nearly as much hype as the US or Russian girls, Arakawa beat Cohen and Kwan in the 2004 World Championships and is probably the most graceful, stoic, creative skaters I've ever seen. To make her victory even more wonderful, Arakawa's gold was the only Japanese medal of the ENTIRE 2006 games! So, I'd like to give some mad props to Arakawa, my new Olympic hero - you go girl!

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Arakawa took gold in the 2004 World Championships over Cohen (2nd) and Kwan (3rd)

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At the 2004 World Championships

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Arakawa workin' it at the 2006 Winter Olympics

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Comments

For the second time this morning, I must give props for blogging about Arakawa!! I love her so much, and I was so happy that she took the gold(mainly b/c it proves how good I am at 'lympic medal picking - future career as a psychic...here I come!). She's a gorgeous skater, and definitely deserved the gold over Cabbage-Patch head Cohen and Irina maybe-not-a-slut-skaya.

Posted by: Jess at February 27, 2006 11:54 AM

I'm glad the Japanese girl won. I'm more glad that Michelle Kwan dropped out, since I'm sick and tired of hearing about how great Michelle Kwan is every time the Winter Olympics come around only to see her fail to deliver. Hopefully this will take care of that once and for all.

But my true Olympic Hero was Lindsay Jacobellis, for showboating her way out of a gold medal and bringing shame and embarrassment to air-headed snowboarders everywhere.

Posted by: holohan at February 27, 2006 11:56 AM

Yeah, Jacobellis really blew that one for herself... and she allowed Switzerland to tie the US in snowboarding gold medals. Yet, she still won the silver thanks to her devastating lead, helping the US beat out Switzerland in overall snowboarding medals 7-4 and keeping every other winning country out of the gold and down to 1 inferior medal each.

When I first read your comment, I thought you'd written "red-headed snowboarders", which made me think that although Jacobellis messed up, Rolling Stone recently put Shaun "The Flying Tomato" White on its cover and declared him the "Coolest Kid in America". I couldn't help but think of Dr. V quoting Freakonomics' finding that on internet date sights, being red-headed is a bigger disadvantage than being bald. Although White was already a US snowboarding darling and has his gold medal to impress the ladies, perhaps his RS cover and well-maintained-yet-still-bad-ass red hair will do something to improve the self-esteem of red-heads and cause ladies to give 'em a second look. Shockingly, I've always been a fan of the reds - my first elementary school crush was a ginger kid named James.

Posted by: Kristina at February 27, 2006 12:33 PM

If you marry a Japanese woman, that guarantees your kids won't be ginger.

Shaun White is reportedly dating Lindsay Lohan, meaning that, even with a gold medal, he can still only get other gingers.

Posted by: sean at February 27, 2006 01:05 PM

To be clear, Freakonomics claims that red hair is a bigger turn off than being fat or bald. For guys that is...doesn't matter for girls.

Posted by: dr v at February 27, 2006 03:11 PM
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