I'm not sure why I haven't made watching the Olympics more of a priority--I've kept up with events pretty well by reading stories on line and catching summaries, but I just haven't taken the time to watch, and I swear I'm going to change that, because these Olympics have been pretty interesting stuff, tape delayed or not.
Two tragedies have bookended the 2010 Games thus far: the death of 21-year old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritshvili came during a training run before they officially started (a dozen others were injured on the course before officials finally made changes) and then the totally unreal short program skate of Canadian Joannie Rochette, 48 hours after her mother died of a heart attack while attending what figured to be an emotional event in any case. To say that Ms. Rochette carries the genuine best wishes and respect of her nation and possibly the world is legitimate--to lose your alter ego at the penultimate moment of your life and then skate the program she did goes beyond intestinal fortitude, its epic.
And I have kept up on the good (and bad/memorable) stuff for sure, such as:
Seeing how Dutch skater Sven Kramer stayed on the inner part of course during a 10,000m. race because his coach wrongly told him to is going to be something nobody will forget soon. That it cost him about $500k in bonus money is one thing, but knowing you had the athletic 'goods' on a particular day and screwed up, thats tough to deal with. Do you bust the coachs tail, or do you admit that you SHOULD have known you needed to change lanes despite him pointing the wrong way?
The US Nordic combined team pulling a silver medal (plus Johnny Spillane getting an individual silver) after going 0-for-history since Winter Games began in 1924 is obviously huge. The USOC finally put some cash into the "minor sports" and the rewards came. Gee!
The US hockey team beating Canada in a preliminary round game was an A-1 experience for the US, a cause for national wearing of crepe for the hosts, although there will be a chance for atonement once the medal play begins. It wasn't quite the 'Miracle on Ice' story of those callow US kids beating the Ruskies back in Lake Placid, not when both rosters feature numerous NHL players, but as something that sent a dramatic message heard throughout the competition, the 5-3 win was big.
Snowboarding featured several major stories, the first being the injury of Kevin Pearce pre-Olympics,which is always unfortunate, and kept him from challenging gold medalist and generally world dominating boarder Shaun White. There was a Tom Brokaw piece on him, mostly because of fact he's only person to really beat White in a major competition in a long time. White's coach drew a huge chunk of controversy when, while enthusiastically and profanely discussing what 'The Flying Tomato' should do on his final run after clinching the medal, NBC listened in and broadcast it live. Bronze medalist Scotty Lago had to pack his bags and leave Vancouver early after his celebrating was caught on camera--seems he held his medal, uhhh, slightly below waist level when a young lady wanted to offer a congratulatory kiss. That Hannah Teter auctioned off her panties for charity, hey, forget it was for a good cause and most athletes don't get the opportunity to personally fund projects they care about, its just GOTTA be ohmygod! scandalous.
Give a little love to Peter Frenette, the 18 year old ski jumper, who didn't make the cut for medal group by being 32nd and the top 30 were able to go for the gold. Sure the heavily favored Austrians took the team event, but we love our underdog stories, and kid from nowhere whose parents work two jobs because his sport doesnt participate in any corporate largess is cool.
I have to confess that as dynamic an event as the freestyle aerials are, I can't tell the difference between the helicoptering-26 revolution-end over end stuff any of them showcase. I'll also give props to the highly qualified color man who tried explaining what they were doing even if I don't know his name.
As a baseline thought though, I am simply stunned at the idea of Ms. Rochette sucking it up enough to even get on the ice, let alone skate a program that has her in third place. To imagine she is mainlining the memory of thousands of hours of training and travel and talks with her mother into what she has already accomplished and hopes to see in the near future is so impressive, it leaves me almost nothing to compare it to. Nice going on the Nordic silvers US guys, but Joannie R., you rock!
Oh, by the way, the US medal count is 7 gold, 9 silver, 10 bronze, the best haul in non-US Olympic site history.