Gerardus and Rudolf, the Bakker brothers, hail from the coastal hamlet of Sassenheim, Netherlands, and are founding 30-year members of Kleintje Pils, the 11-piece brass band that goes home today - and the Richmond Olympic Oval (and Vancouver) will be much less boisterous for their departure. Kleintje Pils – the name means “a little beer” in Dutch – have been revving the supporters in the speedskating venue for the last 12 days. They've played all around the world, and have the seal of approval of the Dutch royal family, having played at the wedding of the Dutch prince. These guys even wear wooden shoes. I caught up with the Bakkers yesterday, before it all came apart when hot Dutch favourite Sven Kramer was shockingly DQ'd in the 10,000m, the rarest of misfortunes – for one thing, it shut up Kleintje Pils. An interview, photo and video, after the jump.
The links are back:
Joannie Rochette brought the Pacific Coliseum house down last night, as Rosie DiManno reports:
“For you, maman,” she said repeatedly in French, in the kiss ’n’ cry.
Her score of 71.36 was a season’s best and left her in third spot heading into Thursday night’s long program, Rochette’s forte.
“Words cannot describe,” she said afterwards, through an intermediary, declining to speak with reporters in the mixed zone.
She thanked the crowd for helping her through. “It was hard to handle but I appreciate the support.”
Only a non-athlete could think that simply competing is a moral victory. Rochette, for all the tragedy and trauma inflicted on her spirit in recent days, is not merely going through the motions at her second Olympics — she’s in the top quintet of ladies favoured to vie for a medal. That’s what all the work and training, discipline and self-denial has been for, leaving home at 13, coming out of her shy shell, visualizing and dreaming.
Ashleigh McIvor was just another spectator at Cypress on Sunday, watching teammate Chris Del Bosco crash out of the medals. Now she's an Olympic champion.
Those red mittens everyone wants? They're at 3 million pairs sold, Around the Rings reports (subscription required). Original order was for one million.
After he was denied here by Evan Lysacek - and according to his scorecard, figure skating's new system - Evgeni Plushenko gave himself a platinum medal. Then it was taken down from his website.
Sven Kramer's DQ was one for the ages. De Telegraaf reports (in Dutch).
Hockey schedule today (Pacific): US-Switzerland (noon), Russia-Canada (4:30 pm), Finland-Czech Rep. (7 pm), Sweden-Slovakia (9 pm). Stable condition: Slovakia's Lubos Bartecko, elbowed in the head.
The lips of VANOC are sealed here, but this looks and sounds like more than just heavy speculation: Neil Young will feature very heavily in Sunday's closing ceremony.
A source close to the scene says Young has been tabbed for a headline role, and an acoustic “Heart of Gold” from the 64-year-old Toronto-born rock legend figures to be the see-ya song of this Vancouver Games, for completely obvious reasons.
Ceremonies producer David Atkins is not doing interviews this week – a request through VANOC was politely turned down – so there's no official confirmation. But it makes sense. Young's classic 1972 album Harvest, including the Heart of Gold at the centre of it, was named the No. 1 Canadian album in a poll of 600 musicians, critics and Djs for Bob Mersereau's 2007 book, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (Goose Line Press).
Other clues: Young didn't figure in the opening ceremony, and wasn't a part of a sold-out tribute concert last week at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre here, a show that included Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, Toronto's Broken Social Scene and Ron Sexsmith. It'd be just like these kind of closing-night shows to bring in some of the more notable absentees from the opening, and Young is the most notable, his career into its sixth decade. His involvement in causes like Farm-Aid and the environment have taken him beyond the music world. In short, Young is a great Canadian.
As for speculation on who might well be joining him on the Sunday night bill, I'll float a few names from the broadest spectrum that come to mind (and keep in mind, these are pure floats): Joni Mitchell, Arcade Fire, Leonard Cohen (sure, k.d. Lang stood in for Cohen with a Hallelujah that was a highlight of the opening, and Cohen's son said that was good enough, but I dunno), Diana Krall.
If you're looking for a wild card, Vancouver supergroup the New Pornographers, led by tunesmith Carl Newman and the powerful pipes of Neko Case, have been making wonderful music for years. They're a wild-card, yes, but wouldn't this make a hell of an anthem to sing along to:
Let's throw it open in the comments – who would you like to see and hear?
No morning links today - Instead, a little something out of last night's Ice Dance, where Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won Canada's fifth gold of these Games in a stirring performance capped by a rousing O Canada at the medals ceremony from the crowd of 11,667. Pick it up, though, well before that moment:
The French pair of Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder were rolling along to that rockin' old standard, Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, when it abruptly went all fromage. Delobel, wearing a rather demure black dress, stopped and fluidly peeled down the top to reveal the latest in silver-sequin underclothes. Schoenfelder did a Swayze hip shake and I swore, during an ensuing move, he snuck a grab at her breast. This had wardrobe malfunction written all over it. This was good stuff. This was ice dance at its, um, finest.
|Virtue and Moir meet the Canadian media in the mixed zone moments after receiving their gold medals.|
“Sometimes the cheese works,” he answered back.
It's not often you get those kind of words to live by sitting in the press tribune, tweeting live to an audience of silicon crickets. But that was no ordinary seatmate I had at the Pacific Coliseum last night. It was Elvis Stojko, Richmond Hill's finest of bladesmen, who by pure chance happened by and settled in as the Ice Dance program got underway.
Stojko has a gig here with Yahoo! Sports. And he's doing it quite well. His dissection of the Plushenko-Lysacek men's either-or last week (and the blowback) landed him firmly in the Plushenko camp, minus the flouncing and hissy-fittin' with which the quad-jumping real man Russian greeted Lysacek's gold and his own diminishment by these new standards of figure skating.
Count Elvis old school, then - no surprise in that, because it's been said before. Sitting there watching a night's competition while he attended to his work, and a takeaway container of beef lo mein, we didn't actually exchange a lot of words. What he did say, though, wasn't about twizzles or straight lifts or the debate between jumps and spins – it was all about the audience. Sure, Delobel and Schoenfelder were a hoot. But Stojko knew before they finished: The cheese works. When the marks came in, they were on top and only the final six remained. They eventually finished a decent sixth.
Why does the cheese work? “The crowd gets into it, they want to be entertained and that's what that is. It's not a bad thing to throw out there,” he said.
Here's Stojko, again on Lysacek: “You knew in the building. When Lysacek finished, there was no reaction. Until he put up his fist and said yes! they didn't react at all. He had skated a pretty good program but it had no...”
It was the same theme when the subject of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir came up. “They've got the crowd on their side. If they can make that connection, they can do it,” he said before they went out and slayed it. I'm taking him a little out of context there – he talked about them needing to be “magical” on both sides of that quote, but it was in relation to the crowd and not technique. And here I thought, as a complete newbie, that it was about technique. That's what they go on about on TV, anyway.
When Virtue and Moir took to the ice last night, they got a thunderous ovation. After they completed a nearly flawless programme to even bigger huzzahs, it was left to the Russian pair of Domnina and Shabalin to try and deny the Canadians a gold – and they skated well, but got no help from the crowd. It was nearly silent in the old barn. They never connected. They probably never had a chance to connect.
Say what you will about Ice Dance. It's corny and it's kitschy. Some people don't even think it belongs in the sports category. But the people out there on the ice in the giggle-inducing outfits – Virtue and Moir were among the exceptions there, looking like they were going to an upscale mall – are certainly elite athletes, alone, exposed and thrown into sharp relief by the brilliant white ice. For them, as it was for Stojko in his day, it's like what Sandra Bernhard once said to her dear devoted followers – without you, I'm nothing.
Elvis Stojko on No scoring controversy: Canada deserved gold.
At 2 p.m. Eastern today, we'll be doing another one of those live hockey flagellations chat sessions here at the blog, Damien Cox and Paul Hunter joining me, at least in the digital sense. Do drop in, and bring your best. On to the links:
Still on the hockey for a bit, and with that chat in mind, the U.S. men are now 3-0. Repeat: 3-0. Best record in this Olympic men's hockey tournament (not good enough for NBC's main network, mind you). And - they're coached by Ron Wilson (that sound you hear is Leafs Nation doing a Danny Thomas with their morning coffee). More to the point, they're backstopped - and carried - by Ryan Miller. Now what to do with the Canadian goaltending? Roberto Luongo will surely get the assignment Tuesday against Germany (in a qualification game). Beyond that, Michael Farber at SI.com says that's the last we'll see here of Martin Brodeur, with yesterday's 5-3 U.S. win meaning Canada suddenly has a long road ahead - or perhaps it's not going to be long at all:
When -- if? -- Canada plays Russia, Brodeur likely will be the best goalie ever to open and close a bench gate. Coach Mike Babcock was circumspect about the identity of his goalie against Germany. Dipping into football-coach mode, Babcock, the straightest of straight shooters, said he would have to look at the videotape on Sunday night. This probably won't flatter Brodeur, who couldn't look worse in slo-mo than he did in real time against the swift and feral Americans, who beat Canada in the Olympics for the first time since 1960.
And I loved this Reuters report of the game, obviously pitched at readers for whom hockey is a foreign country:
To the uninitiated, ice hockey looks more like ultimate fighting with skates and sticks than a healthy pastime to trim the tummy in winter.
The competitors may have the ability to glide across the frozen surface as gracefully as the cast members from Disney on Ice but they prefer to use their blades for less aesthetic purposes.
They zigzag across the ice sheet from one collision to another, crashing into each other with all the sinister intentions of a wild rhino.
Wild rhinos and ice sheets? That's our game!
If you didn't manage to stay up for it, Cheryl Bernard's Canada rink finally was taken down last night, by the reigning world champion China in the most anticipated meeting of the first round - Bingo for Bingyu, as the China Daily headline reads.
Still on curling, Kevin Martin's unbeaten men's team is into Thursday's semifinals. Martin's team faces the U.S. (noon Eastern) and the Americans have looked to an unlikely curling fan and motivator: Carl Lewis.
After an overnight, speed-skater Denny Morrison took the blame for his post-race comments on Saturday:
There should be no mistake: I put all the blame on my shoulders. What I was doing was looking for answers. The answer was I wasn’t skating well technically. I didn’t skate the race I should have at the end. I just finished my race. I was emotional. ... I guess it came across like I was pointing fingers. But the fact is I didn’t get it done.”
And finally, on a day billed (incessantly) as super Sunday there was genuine tragedy as Joannie Rochette's mother Therese died of a heart attack after arriving here on Saturday. In all this competition in the arena and the bonhommie on the streets, here was a reminder how precious and fleeting these moments are. Rochette will compete in the women's skating starting tomorrow. The Canadian figure skating team, a tight bunch, have rallied around her, starting with the Ice Dance pair of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Virtue-Moir nailed their flamenco routine last night, and go into tonight's free dance final with a commanding lead. Beyond winning and losing, though, and however it works out on the ice, the whole country sends along its sympathy to Ms Rochette.
Not your usual Morning Links, but hey, it's Sunday and think of it as a break from the usual roundup of Korean TV commercials featuring Brian Orser.
About last night - at Richmond Olympic Oval, where some remarkable back and forth came out of the Canada camp following Denny Morrison's disappointing ninth-place finish in the 1500m (pictured), following on his demoralizing 13th-place finish in the 1000m, which made for a - can we think of a third synonym here? - let's just say a downer of a night for the Maple Leaf. Randy Starkman's report is excellent, and makes for the kind of reading that should make Own the Podium officials choke on their Bran Flakes. Again. The contrasting post-race talk out of the winner's camp and their Canadian counterparts points to if not some solid explanations, then at least a case study in how and how not to stick with the programme approaching the Olympic Games.
First, from Morrison, who made the remarkable admission that he gave up in a training session the day before, or as he said, "put on quite a show". Not good, that:
“I don’t know, in the last lap, you saw I just lost all my speed. I basically exploded is the term. It wasn’t that I wasn’t trying hard, it wasn’t that I gave up. I wasn’t putting it technically in the ice the way I should have been.
“That’s something that for whatever reason I’ve lost the last 12 or 15 months. It’s kind frustrating to be getting closer and closer to the Olympics and knowing I’m skating poorer and poorer, especially when I get tired.”
Morrison went on to say he was affected by Own the Podium rules splitting up his training relationship with American star Shani Davis, but that began three years ago and these are issues that should have been put to bed long before this point.
Here's coach Marcel Lacroix, absolving himself:
"The program was giving him what he needed for the last three years,” said Lacroix. “He got a world record with his technique in the program. He was the silver medalist in the world championship last year in the 1,000. Bronze medallist in the 1,500 metres. So, what? Before it was working? Now it’s not working? Now it’s the program?”
Lacroix went on to describe Morrison as being lost, in Randy's words - I wasn't there, having gone on Shani Davis duty - a vague term that suggests more questions than it answers.
So what's this all about?
It's easy, and almost always wrong, to point the finger solely at an athlete when performance doesn't peak. Even a recreational athletes understand the value of a good, consistent and well-thought-out programme for the best chance of hitting the optimal result on the day. In the case of an elite athlete and support staff, where hundredths of a second figure in the outcome, even minor details can be significant. Lacroix doesn't think missed workouts or a poor taper, say, are the culprit. I'm no expert in this sport, but I can't see how training couldn't have played a part.
But here's something to consider: On the clock, anyway, Morrison's 1500 time Saturday night (1:46.93) was actually better than the 1:47.05 he finished third with last year in Richmond's test event, the world single-distance championships (his 1000m last week, which he took responsibility for, was 1.3 seconds slower than that time).
Last night's winner, 29-year-old Dutchman Mark Tuitert, was a surprise to finish on the podium, let alone defeat the heavy favourite Shani Davis (in winning, Tuitert was almost two seconds faster than in 2009 at Richmond, a huge leap). Tuitert has ability - he was the Euro champion in 2004, a long time ago, but bad luck (his pro team's sponsor, the Dutch bank DSB went bankrupt in October - yes, that's the same one that backed the U.S. team; an ad agency jumped in to back Tuitert's team, while Stephen Colbert rescued the Americans) sickness (a debilitating mono eight years ago) and close losses have bounced him around some. The Dutch I talked to after in the MPC and out in the streets were stunned by his showing.
Here's Tuitert, on the programme that got him here (my italics added):
The last eight years I didn't win much in the 1500. I was really good - two times second in the world championships - but what can I say? I always had the confidence that I would be able to win the 1500 in a big competition, whether it's the world championships or the Olympic championships. Every training I did last year was with that in mind, with that confidence. This year didn't come out that way, but I kept training. We devised a plan together with our staff and Jac Orie, the coach, a plan from many years back and we have had a lot of lost races the last two years ... but the last couple of weeks it came together and I felt good. This was the first time I really felt like I was holding back in training. I haven't felt like this in years. This is what I've trained for. The programme we designed worked. It's so rewarding to see it come together on this day."
Quality training = result. No high-priced sports psychologists or CO2 tracking or state-of-the-art training ground can paper over that essential. Tuitert will be back as part of the Dutch pursuit team, reprising a role that landed him and his mates a bronze medal in Turin four years ago. The Canadians will be in that pursuit race, too. They talked bravely last night of turning it around like they have at World Cups - only, this ain't the World Cup.
Whew. On to the links (Finally!):
Kevin Martin is a perfect 6-0 in men's curling, and was inspired Saturday in a tense encounter against Britain by a crowd that spontaneously burst into O Canada when the game came down to the last rocks.
French-language RDS commentators have been slapped for making stale Johnny Weir references. JABS (RIP) blogging buddy Neate Sager wants a moratorium on Weir sniggering - hear, hear. Perhaps they were just listening to these guys.
On any other Saturday mid-morning there would have been time and space for a coffee and a leisurely stroll through the local papers. But these are the Olympics, at the midpoint. The only place anyone seemed to be enjoying a latte was in some lineup.
And what lineups they have here - Olympian in length and in ambition. At 9:45 a.m., the queue outside the Hudson Bay Company's Olympic Superstore stretched four-wide all the way down Seymour St. behind temporary crowd control barriers. It turned left on Dunsmuir and petered out, but it's safe to say it would get longer. The store employee monitoring the end of the line estimated a two-hour wait to get in and buy things. "This is the biggest we've seen so far," he said.
It was even longer over at the Royal Canadian Mint exhibit, where a million-dollar coin and a chance to fondle real Olympic medals was drawing a far, far bigger crowd that snaked up and down Granville St. "Six and a half hours," said the MInt woman, shaking her head. Six and a half hours to cop a feel? That too is Olympian patience.
Granville Island? I've never seen it busier - albeit the wait of 10 minutes for the brand-new Olympic Line streetcar from the SkyTrain station left me thinking I ought to wait for another one, just to keep this Olympian spirit of careful shepherding going.
gives up his hat in an effort to trade for pins on Granville St.
This is Vancouver's Games. We just live in it. And line up in it. And spend in it. VISA, one of the Olympics' main sponsors here - you can't buy anything on plastic without it - issued a release on Friday in which it pegged daily spending in B.C. by international visitors at nearly $10 milllion US on Thursday, with more than 100,000 swipes in a single day.
The biggest international spenders are, not surprisingly, from the United States ($5.7 mil. on Wednesday, for example), followed by China, the UK, Japan and Australia.
That's not including the locals, remember. Think of those lineups, and those dollars, and no wonder these huge corporations lay out so much cash - an estimated $100 million over four years, in the case of VISA and the other heavyweight backers - to get in on one of the world's biggest gravy trains.
The Canadian Olympic commissioners will give their midway point address in Vancouver this weekend, but we got a peak at the script on Friday: Canada won't finish on top. Other nations, though, are rolling on ahead of projections, and forget about Marcel Aubut's confident chest-beating of a week ago, or the Own the Podium™ mantra.
Yes, the United States and Germany have exceeded expectations. And just a couple of days after they were up in arms - imagine a national media moaning about lack of medals - Norway is scaring with a lot more than those curling pants.
That all seems pretty far away stuff, though, at ground zero. The streets of downtown Vancouver have filled up and look like Times Square on New Year's Eve with a coat of red paint dumped all over everyone. It's all laughing and red-mitten high fives. Inside Smiley's Public House on Pender on Friday night, everyone was a skeleton expert, even the guy crying out "Go Jeff, C'mon Jeff!" as Jon Montgomery bulleted around the track to the top of the podium.
So where do we go from here? Five questions to ponder, as these Olympics reach middle age:
Can Denny Morrison stop Shani Davis? The two - one Canadian, one American - are training partners, but in Saturday's 1500m speed skate they will face one another in one of the top events of the weekend. Davis has been posting "Shani on Shani" video updates outlining his approach and his fears, like this one after winning the 1000m:
Are you ready for Yu-Na Kim? South Korea's biggest sports star was due to arrive on Friday from Toronto, her training home, with former Canadian Olympian Brian Orser the mentor leading her into Tuesday's opening of the women's figure skating. Yu-Na will be a major star here, but back in South Korea the hype machine is already working her, including for laughs:
What's this - a kinder, gentler Stephen Colbert? Departing Vancouver, Colbert had this to say on syrup-suckers lapping up his act: "The Canadian people, God bless 'em. They get the joke."
Will Evgeni Plushenko please shut up?
Which of Cindy Klassen, Christine Nesbitt and Kristina Groves will shine brightest on Sunday? The women's 1500m might well be the best single event of these Olympics in terms of quality CanCon. Nesbitt has a gold already, Groves a bronze, and remember 2006? Sure you do.
Olympic narcoleptic. Randy Risling/Toronto StarThe Urban Dictionary defines Olympic narcolepsy as "the sensation you get that you will abruptly fall asleep at any moment during the day due to trying to watch as much of the Olympics as you can the night prior, causing you to stay up way too late." But the good people at UD don't go far enough. The moguls, the medals, Twitter updates, that Galen Weston commercial - it's a river of gush that matches the meltwaters flowing into the Burrard Inlet here in Canada's sunny subtropics. And we're only halfway though.
Here's some links to send you into the weekend, and please, as we mentioned on the live chat today, try not to keep any sharp objects lying around on Sunday when the Canadian Yzermen meet the American Burkies with hockey angst on the line, if not a medal (that comes later but the angst, it never leaves - is there a definition for hockey narcolepsy? Someone has to make one):
Here's Elvis Stojko, about as rock-solid as the Canadian Shield, delivering thumbs-down on Thursday's men's figure skating champion:
In Moscow, meanwhile, they're saying "Heads will Roll" if the country doesn't pick it up, from Vladimir Putin to the Moscow Times.Sorry, Evan Lysacek.
You’re a great skater and all.
But that wasn’t Olympic champion material.
How can you be Olympic champion when you don’t even try the quad? If you’re going to take the quad out, why not take out another triple axel and just have more of the other stuff so the International Skating Union can make it more into an “art” recital. In Thursday night’s men’s free skate, Lysacek skated slow and his jumps weren’t close to the technical ability of defending Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko.
In the U.S. (and on tape delay on NBC), in the halls of VANOC and CTV, they're singing: The Olympics beat American Idol.
And finally, here's Steve Nash, making a pitch to join Team Canada (via Fourth-Place Medal):