Posted by: Staff | 03.29.2010

Vancouver in Review

WILLY TUCKER ’10

Many said that it would be impossible for Vancouver to live up to the absurdly high standard set by Beijing in 2008. In some ways, those people were right. On the organizational side, there was no way these Winter Games were going to out-do the military precision and mind-boggling numbers displayed two summers ago. The opening ceremonies were, for lack of a better word, cute, and the quality of the facilities was occasionally under question (largely due to uncooperative weather).

The athletes, too, did not reach the same stratospheric heights we saw in 2008. There was a distinct lack of individual superstars, and some of the biggest accomplishments, like Apolo Ohno’s record-breaking eight overall medals, pale in comparison to those from Beijing. In fact, Michael Phelps won as many gold medals in one Games as Ohno, the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian ever, won (gold, silver, or bronze)….period. So it might seem, just on the surface, that the 2010 Winter Olympics were a disappointment.

However, that’s only one side of the story. If you look past the numbers, the poor weather, and the lack of grandeur you’ll find an event that had a lot of heart, great competition, and was memorable for all the right reasons. Unfortunately the Winter Games opened under a veil of sadness. Nodar Kumaritashvili, a Georgian luger, died in a tragic training accident on the day the Games were set to open. Through this darkness shone a powerful light of support, in the form of a touching tribute at the opening ceremonies. The Georgian delegation received an extended ovation upon entering the arena, and a moment of silence was observed in memory of the fallen athlete. This sense of community support rang true throughout the two weeks of competition, and showed that these Games were about more than medals.

Another touching story found in Vancouver was that of Joannie Rochette. Two days before the figure skater was set to compete her mother, Therese, passed away. It seemed doubtful that she would be able to perform under such terrible circumstances, but Rochette prevailed, skating two strong performances and earning a bronze medal. Just seconds after completing her short program Rochette broke down into tears, likely both of joy and sadness. Even Olympic figure skating commentator Scott Hamilton found it hard to control his emotions, audibly choking up on air.

Figure Skating as a whole may have been the strongest discipline of these Games. We watched a Canadian ice dancing pair, Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, take gold in their sport, a first for North America. Women’s Figure Skating produced not only the moving story of Rochette but also a record breaking score of 228.56 for South Korean champion Yu-Na Kim.

The most exciting of all was Men’s Figure Skating, with strong programs by many of the top competitors. Johnny Weir, long considered a bit of a joke, skated a powerful (some would say underscored) program. Daisuke Takahashi won bronze, the first man to ever medal in figure skating for Japan. It was the competition for gold, however, that will be remembered. Evan Lysacek, an American, and Yevgeny Plushenko, a Russian, clashed, pitting technical perfection against overpowering jumps and spins. Lysacek ended up on top, defeating the bitter Russian by 1.3 points (out of over 250).

Other sports produced excitement as well. Steve Holcomb, plagued for years by a degenerative eye condition, led the U.S. bobsled “Night Train” to gold. Shaun White turned in a Usain Bolt-esque performance in snowboarding halfpipe. With the gold already guaranteed by his stunning first run, White decided to go for broke on his second run, giving his newest trick, the Double McTwist 1260 (Two flips, three and a half spins), its Olympic debut. This effort gave him the all-time highest score awarded in halfpipe, and proved that Shaun White boards in his own reality. Everyone else is just on borrowed snow.

Even though the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games lacked the spectacle and scale of the Beijing Summer Games, they delivered a more interesting experience overall.

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