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It’s been a busy weekend in Vancouver—new records, new controversies, and a new gold for Harry Potter.
The Gold War
US-Russian relations took a step backwards after the showdown between skaters Yevgeny Plushenko and Evan Lysacek ended in controversy. A higher technical elements score gave Lysacek the gold, but some analysts have criticized what they call the choice to reward “feathers, steps, and head-flinging.” [ed note: these analysts are crazy. Plushenko's landings were hideous!] Plushenko, disappointed with his finish, says he has no plans to retire, and expects to compete in 2014 at Sochi.
One Hundred Percent
Downhill skier Aksel Lund Svindal took gold in the men’s Super-G on Friday. The likable Norwegian has struggled with injuries in the past, especially in 2007, when he suffered multiple broken bones from a terrible training-run crash. With a gold medal to add to his silver in the downhill, Svindal has proven that he is once again in top form.
Use the Force
The Whistler hill is something special for ski jumper Simon Ammann. The Swiss athlete has a history of competing well there, and continued that tradition on Saturday when he won gold in the large hill event. This is Ammann’s fourth gold medal, making him the most decorated ski jumper of all time.
“I always have this magical force to jump far here,” said Amman after his win. “That is amazing.”
The Harry Potter lookalike is also known as “The Wizard.”
God Save the Queen (of Speed)
Skeleton, the faster, more frightening version of luge, concluded on Friday with Amy Williams, Britain’s “Queen of Speed,” taking gold in the women’s event. This was Britain’s first Winter Olympic individual gold since 1980. Williams set a women’s course record of 53.86 to win. Her helmet, which has small ridges, was the subject of two protests after the race. Both Canada and the US claimed that the helmet was illegal, but their objections were dismissed by FIBT, the international governing body for skeleton, luge, and bobsled. Men’s skeleton gold went to Canadian Jon Montgomery, who later apologized to his competitors for his victory celebration.
After nabbing a bronze medal in the 1000m short track, Apolo Ohno became the most decorated American Winter Olympian of all time. He has won a total of seven medals in his career and will have a chance at two more in this Olympics. Ohno is still short of Norwegian skier Bjørn Dæhlie’s record of twelve Olympic medals.
The 1000m was won by Lee Jung-Su of South Korea in what is proving to be a breakout winter Olympics for that country. American J.R. Celski also competed in the 1000m, but was disqualified for interfering with Canadian Francois Hamelin. The 19-year-old Celski already has a bronze medal from this Olympics' 1500m race, a race in which Ohno took silver.
I usually try to keep my opinion out of these posts, but in this case I think the debate over why Lysacek won is just so interesting. Keep in mind, though, I’m not a figure skater, just a (reasonably educated) amateur. I think ultimately, there was no judging bias—it just came down to choreography. The new scoring system rewards greater difficulty in the second half of the program. Lysacek had five jumps here, while Plushenko only did three. NBC analysts think Plushenko just “missed the boat” and wasn’t choreographically savvy. He has proven he can win under the new judging system. He did it in Torino and at multiple European Championships and Russian Nationals. The difference this time is that while Lysacek is in peak shape, Plushenko is coming off a 3.5-year retirement. He just isn’t fit enough to stack the jumps at the end of the program. This, combined with some slightly shaky landings, was what cost him gold. Skater Sparklers, I’d love to hear your take on this. But please, no Plushenko-bashing. He’s an innovative, charismatic, breathtaking skater with a touching story. [ed note: can we Plushenko-bash? He was such a brat during the medal ceremony and in interviews!]
What do you think about Plushenko and Lysacek?
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