The XXI Winter Olympics are past the halfway point in Vancouver, Canada. This gives us a chance to look back and reflect on the first week and then some of these games.
These games have been full of surprises and drama just like any Olympic Games. One of the biggest stories has to be Slovenian cross-country skier Petra Majdic.
While on a practice run before the start of the Women’s Individual Sprint, Majdic fell of the course into a ravine. Majdic had more than just her pride bruised as she went on to win the bronze medal in the event.
After the race, it was found out that Majdic had broken ribs and punctured a lung. The injuries effectively end the rest of Majdic medal hopes at these games.
Tragedy has hit these Winter Olympics as well with the death of Georgia Republic luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during a practice run before the XXI Winter Olympics opening ceremonies.
The death of Nodar put a very somber start on the winter games. The other Georgia luger withdrew from competition after the death of his teammate.
Also the start of this event was moved and exposed beams were covered at the bottom of the track to prevent another tragedy. NBC, which televises the games, faced controversy for showing the video of Nodar’s crash but that is not the only controversy of these games, just the biggest.
Men’s figure skating entered the world of controversy after the final of the Men’s Free Skate. United States figure skater Evan Lysacek won the gold medal over Russian Evgeni Plushenko.
In what will be forever remember as the night of “To Quad or Not To Quad” Lysacek chose not to quad while Plushenko did perform the quad. The difference overall was the quality of the performance.
Lysacek’s performance was nearly flawless even though his degree of difficulty was not as high as Plushenko. The Russians performance was higher in degree of difficulty but was not as technically sound as the American.
One story loved by all media and sports fans is the chance for redemption in sports after a failure. These games had two such moments so far but with two different results.
The first was in Figure Skating Pairs where Chinese stars Zhao Hongbo and Shen Xue who came out of retirement to win a gold medal. The two were the most decorated competitors in pairs skating without a gold medal but did take a bronze medal in both Salt Lake City, Utah in 2002 and Turin, Italy in 2006.
After a personal best score in the short program put Zhao and Shen in first place, an Olympic dream was still in sight for the two. A solid free skate performance gave the gold to Zhao and Shen.
The win by the two Chinese figure skaters broke a Russian streak of 46 years with a gold and silver sweep. The Russians did not even place on the podium while the Chinese got a world record score from Zhao and Shen, along with China’s first ever gold medal in figure skating at any discipline.
An American had a chance at redemption as well in these winter games. That American was Lindsey Jacobellis in Snowboard Cross.
In the Turin Games, Jacobellis was assured a gold medal with a three second lead and only having to just land the final jump on the course. Instead Jacobellis tried to perform a showboating move at the end of the race and fell down.
Jacobellis was able to get back up and finish the race in second and a silver medal but in these games she was looking for redemption and a gold medal. Breezing through qualifying, Jacabellis was a heat away from the finals when she was disqualified from her semifinal race.
The disqualification meant that Jacobellis would not get the chance at redemption in the gold medal race. Without a chance to race for a medal, Jacobellis was in the second final that determined fifth through eighth place, in which she finished first for fifth place overall.
While all these stories are a part of this Winter Olympics, the biggest story could be in the overall medal count. The Norwegians, who have won the most winter medals in the history of winter games, started slowly and it opened the door for the Canadians to “own the podium” on home soil.
The problem was the Canadians also started out slowly and have not fully recovered. The Germans started off slowly as well but have come on as of late. Canada currently ranks fifth in the medal count with nine overall medals and tied with South Korea and Austria.
Germany took time getting going in these games but once the German machine got rolling they have been hard to stop. After falling behind in the medal count to other nations the Germans have come storming back to second place in the medal count with 21 overall medals.
This has been a Winter Olympics nearly to forget for Norway. The Norwegians started out even slower than the Germans and just cannot seem to keep momentum going.
Even with such a bad winter games for Norway, they have battled their way into third place in overall medals with 14 total medals. So while the traditional powers have struggled with Russian having just 10 total medals, one country has stepped up to take the medal lead.
The United States, while being neighbor to the Canadians to the south, has made Vancouver feel like home soil so far. If any country has “owned the podium” it has been the Americans.
In fact the U.S. has felt so at home in Vancouver, one would think the Americans had annexed this Canadian city as part of the USA. The U.S. has 24 total medals so far in these games, one off from the Turin Olympics when the United States finished with 25 overall medals.
The U.S. is only 10 medals away from matching their best effort ever in a Winter Olympics which was in Salt Lake City on home soil. The U.S. should be able to pass the Turin games and have their best performance ever on foreign soil.
Vancouver has felt so much like home to the Americans that they beat the Canadian hockey team on their own home ice. The 5-3 upset by the U.S. over Canada only shows just how comfortable the United States is in the host city.
If the rest of the games go like the week of these games the U.S. might have a chance to break the medal count from Salt Lake City. If the Americans can dominate the rest of the XXI Winter Olympics the Canadians just might let the U.S. annex Vancouver for real.