This Valentine’s Day weekend is normally an entertaining one for sports fans, as the NBA holds their annual All Star game during this time.
(Although, one would think their ratings would be even higher if they didn’t have to compete with the holiday of “love.”)
While the game was a gem, the buildup before were overdone and boring overall.
But, 2010 is a special year, a year of the Winter Olympics as well. This time they are in Vancouver Canada, and the US is doing well in many events so far.
The following slides are a composite of my particular sports weekend, one of the most memorable (and forgettable) of my life.
After all the media coverage following Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili’s death on a practice run Friday, I was drawn into watching the races more intently.
The luge is amazing for the pure speed that these athletes travel. This course was billed as the fastest in the world, and originally, the lugers were moving around 98 mph.
But, the Olympic committee decided to move the Men’s start to the Women’s original beginning point, which slowed things down a bit.
Over 600 feet and nine stories worth of track have been lost with the move, but the Men can still reach speeds of 90 MPH’s with a good run.
All that speed adds up to 5Gs on the athletes' bodies and it’s amazing that these guys can control their sleds with an a delicate and powerful precision.
Sadly, the USA is not one of the main competitors, they hover around the middle of the pack, as the Germans are the powerhouse. Loch and Moeller were dominant and jumped out to an early lead.
American Hannah Kearney was the first US medalist as she won a gold in Women’s Mogul skiing. At night, the rain came down and the course was sloppy, but it couldn’t stop Kearney from skiing the fastest run of the day.
Her run in just over 28 seconds and perfect execution of tricks landed her a 26.63 score, .94 better than Canadian Jennifer Heil, who was looking to win Canada’s first gold medal at home.
When asked about stopping Canada from taking the first gold medal in the third time they have hosted, Kearney said, “I know Canada hasn’t won a gold medal on their home turf, but I have a feeling they’ll do it these games. But I’m pleased that I could stop that for now.”
All in all, the NBA All Star game is the best of the major US sports but the events that lead up to the game can be too much at times.
One of those times was undoubtedly yesterday as, sad to say, all the competitions were slow and boring.
The night started with the NBA’s H.O.R.S.E. contest that took over an hour and was interrupted multiple times by commercial breaks.
Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo and Omri Casspi played against one another, which made for a snorer of a competition.
At the end, since TNT ran out of time, Rondo and Durant had a mini three-point contest that Durant won. He’s now the back-to-back champion but the NBA needs to cut loose this silly contest.
Like the H.O.R.S.E. competition, the Shooting Stars contest is absurd and not entertaining.
Sure, it’s great that the NBA has found a way to incorporate ex-players, WNBA, and NBA stars together but who wants to watch Chris Webber brick threes over and over?
Next up was the Skills Challenge, which was arguably the best of the night.
Russell Westbrook, Daquon Cook, Deron Williams and Steve Nash all ran the course but it came down to 2008 champion Williams and last year’s winner Nash in the end.
Nash went first and made all his passes, and even though he missed the first shot from the top of the key, his time of just over 29 seconds were enough to win.
The three-point competition is one of my personal favorites and it can be amazing to watch when the NBA’s best shooters are on.
On this night though, no one had that “something special” as it was difficult for anyone to get on a long run of made shots.
Chauncey Billups, Stephen Curry and Paul Pierce made it to the final round and Pierce won with 20 points in that round.
Most times, a score in the mid-20s will win the contest and no one made the crowd “ooh and ahh,” making it sub-par.
The best part of the contest was Pierce wearing his warmup ala Larry “The Legend” Bird in the 1980s three-point competitions.
It was classy, although Pierce naming himself one of the 10 best shooters in NBA history was not.
Then came the Slam Dunk contest, the biggest and best of all, most years.
This time around, the Slam Dunk was a snore-fest, as the competitors didn’t seem to care about the quality of their dunks.
Gerald Wallace gave two sorry efforts and Shannon Brown’s dunks were high-flying but didn’t have the flair necessary to move onto the final round.
Back-to-back champion Nate Robinson moved through with two decent dunks and Demar Derozan was so-so.
Derozan did have the best dunk of the night though as Sonny Weems bounced the ball off the side of the backboard and Derozan took the ball through his legs before throwing it down.
Robinson won for his third straight time, but many NBA and NFLers tweeted that there must be superstars in the dunk contest to make it interesting once again.
The Germans were once again spectacular in the third round, as they not only jump out to quick starts, but they can follow the lowest lines without wobbling up and down the turns like everyone else.
One of the commentators hinted that their sleds are tuned with precision and it seems to be giving them a large advantage.
Still, American Tony Benshoof sat in seventh overall and had a chance to medal with one heat remaining.
In the fourth and final round, German Felix Loch flew down the course once again as the fastest competitor and won the gold medal with a final time of 3:13.085 seconds.
Silver was taken by teammate David Moeller and bronze was won by Italy’s Armin Zoeggeler.
Team USA’s Benshoof finished in eighth and was upset with the course changes that took place.
He told universalsports.com, “This was a big letdown. This was my track. It is my track. I excel at high speeds and high risk. Unfortunately, they lowered the start and it's like running the downhill men's ski race down a bunny hill. It's a whole different deal.”
Team USA finally won their first ever medal in Men’s Nordic skiing as Johnny Spillane won silver today. The US also had finishers in fourth and sixth.
This was the smaller of the two events of the weekend, but the 10k race takes around 25 minutes to complete.
For much of the race, American Todd Lodwick was leading, but in the third of four laps he was caught and fell back to fourth.
In the final lap, Japanese Skier Kobayashi charged and took the lead, and Spillane caught his too early move.
Then, Spillane stretched his lead to 10 seconds, but on the two final downhill turns, the grouping of four was separated by 1.5 seconds.
Spillane sprinted as fast as he possibly could but Itallian Jason Lamy Chappuis stole the lead, and gold, within the last 20 meters. Spillane was in second by only .4 seconds but it was a great race overall.
Spillane after the race to NBC, “I was a little tired at the very end, but overall I’m very satisfied with the race.”
About finally breaking through, “It was great, we were very excited. We’ve worked hard for many years and for it all to be finally coming together for everybody at the right time is awesome.”
Both Spillane and Lodwick are from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, which is nicely nicknamed “Ski Town USA” and lived up to the hype today.
It was the first time the US took home a medal in the event that has been with the Winter Olympics since its 1924 inception.
The USA won its sixth medal, tying the mark they got in the 1988 Calgary games. Apollo Anton Ohno earned a silver in the first Men’s short track final and medical wonder Jason Celski won bronze in that same race.
His story is amazing, just the fact that he was on the ice in Vancouver is a marvel all its own.
Celski was racing in September, the qualifying race for the Olympics when his skate cut his leg just missing his femoral artery. The cut was six inches across and went all the way down to the bone.
His doctor was Eric Heyden, a five-time Olympic champion, and Celski told Al Michaels he, ”guided me all the way through my process and told me everything was going to be okay. And it was okay.”
Okay to say the least, as this 22-year old won his first-ever Olympic medal.
The crown jewel in the NBA's All-Star weekend was the actual All-Star game, and it did not disappoint.
The Denver Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 17 in the first half, although the West trailed 76-69 at halftime.
Melo talked about the spectacle that was the All-Star game saying, "When we were on the bench we were just looking around, talking about how many people there were and how excited we were just to be a part of the situation.
"We were on the court during free throws, waiting to come back from time-outs, we were looking and we were amazed by everything that was going on."
In the third quarter, the East took over, especially Dwayne Wade and LeBron James. James ended with a strong 25 points and had some explosive plays as usual.
But Wade was magical, soaring through the air, dunking the ball seven times while scoring a game-high 28 points with 11 assists.
The game really tightened up in the end, and the two teams were close down the stretch. The East ended up winning the game 141-139 and Wade won the MVP.
"I've had a little luck in Dallas," Wade said. "To come and do it again is special."
And really, the whole game in Dallas was special, as was the entire sports weekend this year.