So, apart from that, what did you think of the competition, Mr. Plushenko?
If nothing else, this Evgeni Plushenko never leaves you wanting for more. Perhaps his coaches do, as they whine about the judging, or the pair of Russian media types who fled the media centre immediately after the men's free skate ended, looking like they were escaping a burning building. It was that kind of an epic night at the House that Orland Kurtenbach Built, Team America's Evan Lysacek coming out a shade ahead on the judges' scorecards for superior style ahead of Plushenko's staggering hubris, or some such thing. Somebody threw a figure skating jamboree, and it wasn't quite a Cold War that broke out - more like a lukewarm hissy fit. Perfect!
"I was positive that I had won," said Plushenko. "But I suppose Evan needs a medal more than I. Maybe it's because I already have one. Two silver, one Olympic gold. That's not too bad."
Plushenko said it and more through an interpreter, while Lysacek stared straight ahead, after arriving 10 minutes or so late for the press conference, and well before he exited by turning to the press officer in charge and asking "Can I leave?" in English, and when she nodded yes, it was "thank you very much" and he was outta there. In Vancouver2010speak, he disowned the podium.
It was wonderful stuff, and these tired eyes haven't seen its essential equal in diva-ness since Bulgarian soccer Hristo Stoichkov sat outside his team's press conference in Princeton, N.J., during the World Cup, declining an audience with the media rabble to balance two blondes while he yakked into a ca.1994 cellphone that looked like a murder weapon.
I don't pretend to know anything about figure skating, except that I would never risk so much as a mind bet on its outcome. Meantime, here's your all figure-skating morning links, in honour of Messrs. Plushenko and Lysacek. Let's do it all over again in Sochi in four years, shall we, fellas?
Coach: Plushenko was "robbed" (Yahoo! Sports)
Plushenko will continue competing (ESPN.com)
Searching for Plushenko (Twitter)
Christine Nesbitt didn't think she had a chance. She would later call it her worst race of the season. And yet there she was waving a flag festooned with autographs, gold medalist in the 1000m race at Richmond's Olympic Oval tonight:
“It wasn’t pretty, I know it wasn’t pretty,” said Nesbitt, the world champion and runaway World Cup leader who is unbeaten over the distance this season. “I was fortunate to win Olympic gold. It was probably the worst 1,000 I’ve done this year.”
The Canadian women are rolling along, aren't they? That's five medals of seven earned so far by Canada. They're carrying the flag. And then some. Not that Nesbitt seemed satisfied, waiting stonily for one last pair of skaters to go out and chase her time:
“I did not think it would be good enough,” said Australian-born Nesbitt, whose family left Melbourne for Canada when she was an infant. “I wasn’t that happy. I knew the worst I could do was bronze, but I didn’t come here for the bronze.” (snip)
“I don’t know how to react,” said Nesbitt, who vowed to study tapes of her race to fix her problems before the 1,500 metres race. “I don’t feel like I won Olympic gold.”
That 1500, and a meet up with Kristina Groves in which they are both gold-medal threats, goes Sunday. Here's your up-to-date Canadian medal winners: GOLD
Alexandre Bilodeau, men's moguls
Maelle Ricker, women's snowboard cross
Christine Nesbitt, women's 1000m
Jennifer Heil, women's moguls
Mike Robertson, men's snowboard cross
Marianne St-Gelais, women's 500m short-track
Kristina Groves, women's 3000m speed skating
AND return right here tonight at 6:45 p.m. for a pre-game chat ahead of Canada's Olympic grudge match against Switzerland, who knocked Canada out of the medals in Turin. Game starts 7:30 p.m.
"With exception of his mustache,” the Cypress Mountain announcer said, “this kid is the real deal.”
Ironic pose? Fashion statement? French avant-whatever? Too bad this kid's event is over. We may never know, with L'Equipe's video report and q&a skipping over the matter, other than to mention the whole team was in on it. Great gimmick. And much easier to wash off than a playoff beard.Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images
Happy (belated) b-day, Marianne St-Gelais, her silver in last night's women's 500m short-track event coming on her 20th birthday. St-Gelais is the youngest member of Canada's short-track team, and the country's youngest medalist at these Games so far. A surprise to some, perhaps, but not so much to her teammates, as this April 2009 Montreal Gazette report shows:
Only 16 at the time, St-Gelais was about to embark in the A final of the 500 metres in a Canadian elite series event when national team veteran Anne Maltais - 10 years her elder - skated over and said: "Don't take off too quickly, we'd like to try and keep up."
Shaun White, last night's emphatic halfpipe gold medalist, has been doing this snowboard thing for a long time. Here's the erstwhile Flying Tomato, ca. 1994 (HT to Yahoo!'s excellent Fourth-Place Medal blog):
On a big day for the U.S. yesterday, who looked most impressive - White, Lindsey Vonn or speed skater Shani Davis? I'd go with Vonn on her strong downhill over a course that everyone was having trouble with: "The pressure, for me, is gone. I got exactly what I came here to get. That was a gold medal and everyone expected me to get it, but it’s not as easy as just saying, ‘You can do it.’"
Teemu Selanne, who will meet up with fellow puck silverback Peter Forsberg in Sunday night's finale to the group games here, tied the Olympic scoring record with an assist in the Finns' 5-1 win over Belarus yesterday: "Nobody expects us to challenge the big teams, but you never know. We all come from the same league and drink the same beer."
Johnny Weir says he's planning a tell-all book, but really, what's left to tell? Here's Weir, telling People how he handled nerves before Tuesday's men's short programme: "I Pledged [as in Lemon Pledge] everything in my room. Some people eat, some people drink – but I Pledge everything."
And colleague Randy Starkman, who's been carrying around Flat Stanley for so many of these Olympic things it's no wonder he's so skinny, landed no ordinary Olympian in the frame yesterday - Eric Heiden, and just so you know, Tuesday it the 30th anniversary of Heiden's gold-medal sweep at Lake Placid:
Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight numbers-crunching fame is at it again. Silver made his name in baseball sabermetrics, then took his calculator to the '08 U.S. presidential election (49/50 states correctly called isn't bad at all) and last year's Oscars, landing himself on several top-geek lists along the way. Now he's in the Vancouver 2010 medals projection business:
He's also a curling fan, which along with his latest medal projections has to warm a few Canadian cockles. As of the latest numbers - as of this writing, anyway; the figures are being updated daily - here's how Silver's got it working out:What I've done is to compile the projected medal winners in the 86 Winter Olympic disciplines from five six nine sources that forecasted individual winners; these are the Associated Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, McClatchy-Tribune, Examiner.com, Canwest, and (for some events only) ESPN.com and betting odds at Ladbrokes and bwin. Nothing terribly fancy here: I've taken a simple mean of the number of medals that each country was expected to win in each discipline, as averaged across the nine sources.
Canada 32.4 medals (13.5 gold)
Germany 31.4 (9.6)
USA 30.4 (11.6)
Norway 20.4 (6.9)
Austria 18.6 (5.1)
"If it were today," Stephen Colbert asked 1980 U.S. Miracle on Ice hockey hero Mike Eruzione, "and Al Michaels were Twittering, would it be called the OMG! on Ice?"
Here at the Twitter Olympics, the thousands on hand at False Creek this morning roared (and more than a few of them, including me, immediately tweeted the line). Sure, it was (mostly) scripted, to be edited and carefully packaged for future consumption. And sure, Colbert, out there in his U.S. speedskating team sweater, flashed his mock-outrage a few times. When the cameras were finally turned off, though, the U.S. TV comedy host stood in front of thousands of his “syrup-sucker” fans on (finally) a beautiful day and saluted them.
“This is a welcome that we couldn't have imagined in our wildest dreams,” said Colbert. “I want to take back everything I've said about Canada.”
I rather doubt that. But everyone bought it, at least for the moment, and sent the love right back with chants of “Ste-phen” and “Ride the Moose!” The prop list on stage included a stuffed moose and beaver, battered skis, a totem pole, a Frosty the Snowman, snowshoes, a penguin (a penguin! sheesh!) and a fan blowing fake snow into the air.
The Colbert Report, in town for two days of taping at the Vancouver 2010 Games, has made a living out of lampooning Canada and Canadian “Iceholes”. Colbert's right-wing talk-show persona flashed, albeit a little muted, as he taped segments with Canadian singer Michael Buble, Eruzione and NBC Olympics TV host Bob Costas. They waved signs - "Stewart Colbert 2012"; "Canuck You, Stephen!"; "Bring Back the Jets" - they chanted, their feet got really wet in the mud.
Buble, the Burnaby native, turned the tables some as he waited to be “interviewed”. "Let's not lower ourselves to Stephen Colbert's, er, lowerness!" he joked, the led the audience into a few bars of Stompin' Tom Connors' The Hockey Song.
At an Olympics where even David Letterman is ripping the organizers, this was a love-in. Colbert lauded Vancouverites as “friendly people, and incredibly easy to pander to” - they gave it right back to him.
“We would have died if we weren't up front,” said 27-year-old Monica Shree, who along with Armin Navabi (that's them in the photo above) was at Creekside Park by 5 a.m. staking out a spot. “He's great satire, great comedy. And he's such a positive person, you really felt the energy.”
Related: Colbert Nation to the Rescue (wsj.com).
UPDATE: Colbert and Michael Buble sing O Canada to the tune of the U.S. national anthem:
All hail Maelle Ricker, and as emphatic a gold-medal performance as has been seen at these Games. Ms Ricker is a local success story - born in North Van, raised next door in Seymour and now living in Squamish. Four years ago in Turin she was airlifted off the course and missed the podium in a race best recalled for Lindsay Jacobellis' moment of tomfoolery. Yesterday Ricker was the most comfortable of winners and Jacobellis failed to reach the final.
Today the women's downhill is up at Whistler, and Lindsey Vonn, helped along by the most overhyped medicine since the swine flu shot, finally gets her chance to perform - on tape delay at home, maybe, where in the age of Twitter NBC is standing firm while taking a bollocking for its packaged, hours-later coverage.
Evgeni Plushenko stomped it in the men's short programme, then finished with a sword foil stab move that was aimed straight into the hearts of the rest of the field. It's close, but I'm betting he gets the gold in Thursday's skate-off, and prepare for a memorable flourish and perhaps some vintage kiss-off line from one of sport's prima divas.
On the subject of kiss-off lines, the Times Online's Matthew Syed takes a well-aimed shot at the contemporary Olympic movement itself, as the body of Nodar Kumaritashvili arrived home in Georgia at dawn this morning:
But it is the collateral damage to the Olympic movement itself that will be of most concern to its regal custodians at the International Olympic Committee. After all, even if the Own the Podium is not found to be responsible for Kumaritashvili’s death, it nevertheless hints at just how far the notion of Olympianism has morphed from the original vision of Baron De Coubertin. The very fact that an organising committee was prepared systematically to undermine the medal prospects of overseas competitors — even to the point of taking risks with their safety — reveals the sham at the heart of the Olympic ideal and the hypocrisy of the Olympic Charter, with its talk of dignity, solidarity and the “harmonious development of man”.
And finally, the sun came out in Vancouver yesterday and, Olympics or no Olympics, a reminder of what a beautiful part of the world this is. Here's another reminder:
UPDATED BELOW - at 10 p.m. Pacific
Poor Ron Wilson, The guy comes across the continent for an Olympic Games and takes Team USA out today in a 3-1 win over Switzerland. "We are a chemistry experiment and it's going to take some time," he said afterward, and suddenly it was September in Leafland all over again.
The view from the seats, as Canada finishes its warmup.
After liveblogging the opener here, and sitting in the seats waiting for Canada-Norway (are people ready? the place was 2/3 full for the warmup, for pete's sake), a couple of things struck me: The Canada-Russia final that everyone seems to want to see and is already prepared to book in for? I didn't see anything from the Americans that'd upset that plan. But they surely can do better - what they need most of a all is a player who can cut open a game. Maybe Zach Parise is the guy. Maybe Patrick Kane. But they'll have to emerge here. No one seems the standout candidate.
Over at salon.com, the Canada-Russia rivalry gets a good going-over:
While the Russians preen, curmudgeonly Canadians steam. "Hockey Night in Canada" broadcaster Don Cherry -- Canada's grand old half-insane hockey man -- doesn't necessarily speak for all Canucks when he screeches, "The Russians are NOTHING!" But he plays a valuable role of giving voice to Canada's Archie Bunker id. It's an id that lashes out against Ovechkin for his wild post-goal celebrations and rock-star lifestyle. North American hockey is replete with codes of conduct, and Alex Ovechkin seems to break one every time he breathes. Worse yet, he pays no mind to these manners. Per Cherry's criticism of Alex's theatrics, Ovi laughed, "He's not interesting to me, so he can say whatever he wants. I don't care about him."
Related: Following on this morning's post, VANOC's press officer responds to some of the criticisms, $1 million in lost ticket revenue at Cypress Mountain, and this "Worst Games Ever" notion: "It’s a little bit like lost luggage. It’s not whether your luggage gets lost, it’s how you deal with it. We are dealt the cards we are dealt. We have done everything we could to put in place the very best plans. Sometimes things come up so the most important thing is being creative, responding quickly and coming up with good solutions.” Oh dear. This isn't getting any better, is it?
Updated: Canada's 8-0 win over Norway unfolded in a pretty mundane fashion. A slow start, but a gathering storm against an overwhelmed opponent and the sellout crowd got the explosion it wanted. And the Canadians may have found a No. 1 line, with Jarome Iginla taking over from Patrice Bergeron and immediately finishing a Sidney Crosby feed to start it all off early in the second period. The resulting Crosby-Iginla-Nash line combined for three goals and seven points:
“(Babcock) talked to all of us before about what line combinations to possibly expect and to be ready,” said Iginla. “Part of playing for Team Canada is that you’re excited about whatever the line combinations are but also, you have to be ready for whatever role you’re asked (to perform) whether it’s part of an energy line, the (penalty kill) or the power play. I imagine it’ll change a lot throughout the tournament too.”
He's probably right. There wasn't a whole lot definitive to take out of this one, and there will be some more experimentation. Meanwhile, Russia's comfortably cruising over Latvia in the late show at Canada Hockey Place - another whale-against-minnow matchup - and it all means there were few surprises on this opening day of hockey.