2010 Winter Olympics: The 20 Best and Worst Memories from Vancouver
For 17 days, the eyes of the world were on Vancouver as the 2010 Winter Olympic Games unfolded before us.
There were thrills and spills at every turn, as the excitement of elite competition collided with passionate international rivalries, the joys of success, and the tears of sorrow.
There was non-stop action on the ice, in the snow, and through the air, as thousands of athletes from across the globe competed in 15 different events, all for a chance to represent their country and stand tall on top of the podium.
For some, it was not about winning. It was about fulfilling a life-long dream, seizing the moment, making your family proud, and doing the very best they could.
That is the Olympic ideal, and nobody failed in their goal to bring sport to the world.
From Kim Yu Na's historic gold-medal performance in the women's figure skating and the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili to Bode Miller's redemption and the thrilling overtime climax to the men's hockey, here are my memories from Vancouver.
Men's Figure Skating Cold War
Who would have thought there would be this much controversy over a single jump? Evgeni Plushenko landed a quad and only finished second, while American Evan Lysacek opted for a triple and ran off with the gold.
There were world-wide debates after the men's figure skating program over whether the most deserving person claimed the top prize, with Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin even weighing in on the debate.
Plushenko essentially said he got robbed and that Lysacek didn't deserve to win the gold, but few who watched the competition can deny the quality of the American's performance.
I'm not going to get into the debate about the scoring system—after all it's not that new—but I would like to see the judges go on a few more training courses before the 2014 Games to ensure consistency throughout.
We wouldn't want the Russians to whine and cry in their own back yard now, would we?
Click here to read my opinion on why Plushenko's a sore loser.
I'm not going to bash NBC's coverage of the Games too much. It wasn't perfect and there was lots of room for improvement, but overall it wasn't bad in the end.
One of the things that I enjoyed, especially early on, was the commercials featuring the Olympians. Being in an American market here in New York I didn't exactly get the full range of international adverts that the rest of the world got, but I wanted to share a few of my favorites.
The Dan Jansen Visa commercial was really well done, retelling the story of the promise he made to his sister Jane when she died just before the 1988 games. The advert said he promised his sister he would win gold. He didn't. Until six years later in Lillehammer when he carried his daughter on a victory lap around the ice. He had named his daughter Jane.
In fact, several of the Visa commercials were good. The Julia Mancuso advert of her drawing a picture of herself winning a gold medal at the Olynmpics to hang on her bedroom wall as a child was especially nicely done.
AT&T had a few good ones too, including Apolo Ohno creating a spinning record on an ice rink and Rachel Flatt leaping and spinning around outside.
Ohno also appeared on the Vicks Dayquil commercial which wasn't really that good at all, and the company apparently decided to drop the Lindsay Jacobellis spot when they realized she was actually rubbish at the Olympics.
On a side note, notice how hyped up Jacobellis was before the Games, with all the talk being on redemption for her stupidity in Torino. And then *poof* she doesn't even make the final of the snowboardcross and her name is never mentioned ever again.
Nobody Cares About Nordic Combined
America finally wins some Nordic combined medals and nobody really even cared. It's not that surprising considering the guys leading the US charge weren't household names, but I would have expected at least a little more fanfare for their achievements.
Todd Lodwick, Billy Demong, Ryan Spillane, and Brett Camerota claimed second in the team relay, Spillane finished second in the normal and large hill competitions, and Demong won gold in the large hill.
Before these games, the only Olympic medals won by the Americans in Nordic sports were a silver by cross-country skier Bill Koch in 1976 and a bronze by ski jumper Anders Haugen in 1924.
This should have been a perfect opportunity to sell the sport to the masses, but unfortunately there's just not enough interest. If you ever want youngsters to get involved, there may never be a better time than on the heels of these victories.
It may not be as glamorous as half pipe or as mainstream as hockey, but if you want to see the sport grow in a country that doesn't use the Euro as its currency, now is the time to strike.
Kim Yu Na: One of the Brightest Stars in Vancouver
The pressure on South Korean Kim Yu Na was ridiculous. She wrote about the expectations of her own nation, and how people would essentially disown her if she didn't return with the gold medal.
She's the country's most prominent and marketable sportsperson, and she turned in one the greatest performances of all-time.
Few teenagers came into Vancouver with the same pressure that she carried on her shoulders but, like all great champions, Yu Na delivered a program that broke all modern records.
The women's figure skating competition is always one of the most popular at the Winter Games, and she turned in an elegant display that will go down in history as one of the finest on-ice shows ever.
Bode Miller: Redemption
Rogue skier Bode Miller came into Vancouver with considerably less aplomb than four years ago in Torino when he crashed, burned, and stunk up the slopes in a forgettable 0-for-5 performance.
Remember all the promotional work he did heading in to the 2006 Games? Well there wasn't really any of that this time around. Advertisers apparently didn't want to take a chance on Miller just in case he embarrassed them again in front of a few billion pairs of eyeballs. Even a pasta company decided they didn't want to renew his contract.
But Bode will leave Canada with the last laugh, knowing that he fulfilled his potential as many thought he would at the last Winter Olympics.
He seemingly matured before our eyes—becoming a father will do that for you—and his haul of gold, silver, and bronze was just what the alpine skier needed to put himself back on the map.
Bode Miller is relevant once again. Click here for more on his record-breaking achievements.
Colbert is a comedy genius, but fans in North America watching on NBC got more than they bargained for when he made an appearance for an interview with Bob Costas.
He joked about Shani Davis and the men's speed skating team, Lindsey Vonn's “fake” injury, and sibling rivalry, and he topped it off by climbing inside the “fire” at the back of the studio.
In return, Costas took part in one of Colbert's outside shoots for his own show, culminating in him climbing aboard a moose and being adopted by the Canadians as one of their own.
At a time when Mary Cirillo was boring me to tears with her late-night show and manly lumberjack voice, it was nice to get some light comic relief instead a 10-minute piece on location about a blind sled dog.
Par Lay Vooos Fron Say?
John Furlong provided viewers with one of the best memories of the Games when, at the Closing Ceremony, he decided to try and speak French for the first time in his life.
Wait, this wasn't the first time?? What!
Furlong butchered the French language during an embarrassing attempt at showcasing Canada's supposed bilingualism. It was a case of trying to be honorable and respectful, but it had the same effect as a three-legged cat trying to bury a turd on a frozen lake.
My French is spotty at best, but to try this on a global stage made me cringe. We get the idea behind it, but it was the wrong time to try and be a hero.
It's such a shame really, because the actual message was solid and poignant. When you decide you need more French content, step one is finding someone who speaks the language.
It was something totally different from the Opening Ceremony, and you can re-live the Opening festivities in this slideshow.
26 different nations won medals in Vancouver, but only one country had the distinction of winning a single gold medal and nothing else...Great Britain.
While Team GB was never expected to mount a serious threat to the world's elite, it was really good to see them come away from the Games with something to show for their efforts. That came in the way of a gold in the women's skeleton from Amy Williams.
Despite the attempts of the Americans to get her disqualified from the competition for having an illegal helmet, Williams put the nonsense behind her to claim Britain's first individual Winter Olympics title since figure skater Robin Cousins prevailed at Lake Placid in 1980.
The International Federation of Bobsleigh and Tobogganing said it denied two protests questioning the legality of the helmet she used to win the Olympic gold medal. Protests were filed after the race Friday by Canada and the United States. The U.S. also filed one on Thursday.
Each protest said Williams' helmet does not conform to aerodynamic standards. Here's an idea, North America. You won 63 medals between you...let Williams have her moment in the spotlight. She was a deserving champion and it's pretty low that you would try to have her thrown out of the competition even though her helmet had been inspected and ruled suitable before the Games begun.
The only other countries to win just one medal at the Games were Estonia and Kazakhstan. They won one silver each.
It will probably get lost over time, but Canada took a bit of a beating this fortnight over several organizational issues...some not even in their control.
There was the fiasco with the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony where one of the mechanical arms failed to launch and the death of Georgian luger when a lot of people suggested the track was made too difficult.
There was the organizing committee being forced to cut a hole in a fence outside BC Place so visitors could take unobstructed views of the Olympic flame in the courtyard, and there was the debacle with all three ice resurfacing machines breaking down at once at the Richmond Oval.
Add into that the cancellation, postponement, and rescheduling of events because of rain, snow, and fog, and you have any number of things for people to remember the 2010 Games for all the wrong reasons.
Alex Bilodeau: Doing It For His Brother
22-year-old Alex Bilodeau from Montreal won Canada's first gold medal of the games with an inspired moguls run. But his victory was so much more than the result alone would suggest, as he dedicated his medal to his older brother Frederic, his biggest fan, who suffers from cerebral palsy.
It was a touching moment filled with love and joy, and as much as it meant to the host nation to finally clinch a gold on home soil, that was the last thing that mattered to Alex as he hugged his brother at the bottom of Cypress Mountain.
Olympians are known to often inspire others—that was in fact one of the messages of last night's closing ceremony—but there is something heart-warming when members of your own family inspire you.
To me, that is what the Olympic Games are all about. Don't believe me? Just ask the Bilodeau's.
The Most Decorated US Winter Olympian Ever
Apolo Anton Ohno became the most decorated Winter Olympian in US history on Friday when he took bronze in the men’s short track 1,000-meter final at Pacific Coliseum.
The medal was the seventh of Ohno's Olympic career, moving him ahead of six-time medalist Bonnie Blair and giving him the most Olympic podiums by any short track speed skater of any nation.
The third-place finish ties him for 15th on the career Winter Olympic medals list, and it makes him just the sixth short track speed skater to win silverware at three Winter Games. No other male Olympian from any country has won more medals than Ohno.
For me though, I will take take the achievements of Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden over Ohno. I'm not hating on Ohno, because what he has achieved in his career is remarkable, but I don't think Blair and Heiden's successes should be forgotten either.
Blair competed in four Winter Olympics between 1984 and 1994, winning five golds and a bronze, including back-to-back-to-back first place finishes in the 500-meter event in Calgary, Albertville, and Lillehammer.
Heiden meanwhile won all five events—the 500, 1,000, 1,500, 5,000, and 10,000-meter competition—at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.
Ohno could have made a stronger case for himself with at least one gold here in Vancouver, but it's not like he has anything left to prove to me or anybody else. In his generation, he's as good as they come.
Click here to read my views on why he'll never be the best American speedskater, let alone the best Winter Olympian of all time.
Dutch Speed Skating Flop
Once upon a time, the Dutch were great at speedskating. Then their star became an ignorant jerk, his coach cost him a gold medal, and the team managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the semifinals of the team event.
Sven Kramer is a stud back home, but he will leave Canada with a bitter taste in his mouth even though he'll be carrying a gold medal onto the trans-Atlantic flight.
After winning gold in the 5,000-meter, Kramer was well on his way to a repeat performance deep into the 10,000.
With the race more than under his control, Kramer crossed the line well ahead of his rivals. Unfortunately for the arrogant skater, who responded to a NBC reporter's request to state his name and what he had won by saying “Are you stupid? Hell no I'm not going to do that,” things got a lot worse.
The coach had inadvertently sent Kramer into the wrong lane during the latter stages of the race, causing him to be automatically disqualified and his first place nullified. Then in the team event, a communication problem saw Team USA pip the Dutch for a place in the final by 0.40 seconds.
Am I going to feel sorry for Kramer? Hell no I'm not going to do that.
Lindsey Vonn: Fuss Over Nothing?
Fans of Lindsey Vonn got their chance to see the glamorous alpine skier at every turn over the last 17 days.
In the same way, those who were never fond of the blonde Sports Illustrated covergirl to begin with are probably thoroughly sick of her. After all, the first week of the Games might as well have been called the Vonncouver Olympics.
The pressure from the media, already set to chart Vonn's hunt for multiple medals, became even more intense when she revealed a right shin injury could keep her out of the competition.
As a result, “Vonn Watch” updates became the order of the day.
After a bunch of postponements to the women's alpine ski events, Vonn, who was able to use the extra time off to rehab her leg, came out strong in the first race when it was finally given the go-ahead.
The fact that it also just happened to be her favorite event—the downhill—wasn't lost on Vonn, who raced to the gold medal, further sparking speculation that she could be a real threat in all five events. I don't want to brag, but those who were really in the know knew that even a healthy Vonn was unlikely to be a main challenge in more than three.
As it was, Vonn won a bronze in the Super-G and was in with a chance of a medal in the super-combined until she crashed out in the slalom.
All in all, Vonn's allure seemed to diminish throughout the Games, even when she made headlines again by breaking her pinky. Still, Vonn was one of the biggest stories from Vancouver, and I am sure you'll be seeing a lot more of her in the coming months...her endorsement potential is set to skyrocket very, very soon.
Who Really Owned the Podium?
Team USA broke the record for the most medals won at a Winter Olympics with 37, but Canada claimed the most gold medals with 14.
Team USA topped their previous high of 34 medals won at Salt Lake City in 2002, and they also narrowly edged past Germany's previous record of most medals won by a single nation at the Games by one.
America led from tape to tape, equalling the feat achieved only once before when the Soviet Union owned the medal count from start to finish at the Innsbruck 1976 Olympic Games.
In fact, in the 20 previous Winter Games, the U.S. had led the medal count outright on just seven days: five times at the Lake Placid 1932 Olympic Winter Games; on Day Five of the Grenoble 1968 Olympic Winter Games; and on Day Four of the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
But while the US had the MOST medals, Canada captured the most GOLD medals, more than any other nation in history. What's better? I'll let you decide.
Canada (26) and Norway (23) also exceeded their medal counts from the 2006 Games, but Austria (16) and Russia (15) each grossly understepped their medal count from Torino.
Click here to read the history of the medal count.
Torah Bright: Aussie Gold
The women's half pipe event was supposed to be a showcase of American talent...Gretchen Bleiler, Kelly Clark, and Hannah Teter, but one Aussie Mormon stunned them all.
Torah Bright turned in a stunning second run to upset the apple cart and run away with a gold medal for the Boxing Kangaroos. The 23-year-old has been shining at the super pipe events across the world and at the X Games for the past few years, but it was great to watch her succeed on the biggest stage of all.
For those who forgot that Australia has mountains, ice, and snow, Bright is a timely reminder that the Aussies bring more than cricket and beach barbecues to the party.
On a side note, Bright has been training in Utah, so expect the Americans to claim her as one of their own pretty soon.
Shaun White's Continued Dominance
How great is this guy?? He looks like a rockstar and he has all the moves to back up his reputation. Nobody can touch White on the halfpipe, and the only disappointment is that there's only one event for him to compete in.
He threw down his Double McTwist 1260 in the victory lap of all victory laps, and his style and attitude is only matched by his humility and his passion for the sport.
White is something special and he came into the Games as one of the USA's biggest stars. He lived up to every bit of the hype and shone on the grandest stage of them all.
One of my proudest moments of the Games was interviewing Shaun White. You can read the interview here.
Norwegian Cross-Country Supremacy
Marit Bjoergen was not on everyone's radar before the Olympics. Heck, a lot of people still probably don't know who she is.
Let me help you out, because she is someone worth knowing. She only collected five medals in Vancouver, three golds, a silver, and a bronze.
That's as many as Great Britain, Latvia, Estonia, and Kazakhstan combined. It's as many as Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller took home between them.
It's five more medals than what 50 countries won at the Games, and five more medals than you or I will ever win. Unless "you" is Shaun White, in which case you're still three medals behind.
Yeah, it's pretty incredible. The Norwegian won gold medals in the individual sprint classic, 15km pursuit, and team relay, silver in the 30km mass start, and bronze in the 10km free. No other athlete won more medals than Bjoergen at the Winter Olympics.
An Olympic Dream Cut Short
The death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili sent chills down the very spine of the Olympic Games just hours before the Opening Ceremony was due to get underway.
His death prompted criticism about the safety of the world's fastest track and it forced organizers to make a number of changes to the event, including starting further down the ice and adding safety fences and protective padding.
There may have been some 30,000 test runs on this track before the Games got underway, but that's no excuse for a tragic death of an athlete, especially when the remedy was so simple...padding on metal beams. Really, Canada, you hadn't thought of this before?
Hindsight is 20/20 but it should never have come to that. If you take pride in having the world's fastest course, you better have the world's best safety engineers making sure it's spot on.
Men's Hockey Gold Medal Match
It was the gold medal game that everyone wanted to see: Team USA and Canada going head-to-head with North American bragging rights on the line.
Canada invented hockey and they were intent on imposing their strength in front of an expectant crowd.
America, sometimes never even discussed as a serious medal threat ahead of the Games, was looking to silence the hosts in their own back yard.
Less than a week after recording their first win over Canada in 46 years, America entered the final game full of confidence. The game lived up to every billing it received, joining the discussion about the very best hockey games of all time.
It had drama, excitement, and suspense. The USA came back from a 2-0 deficit with a game-tying goal inside the last 30 seconds and the face of the Canadian games Sidney Crosby won it in overtime.
It was the perfect way for Canada to end the Games and, if it's the last time we see NHL players at the Olympics, it was a perfect way for the best in the world to showcase their talents to the world.
Joannie Rochette's Unwavering Courage
The Daughter of Canada, Joannie Rochette showed courage beyond her years when she skated out to perform her short program just two days after the death of her mother.
She was everything great about the Olympic Games—determined, poised, and passionate. Everybody who watched her skate shared the same emotion, and viewers were no doubt willing her through every turn, spin, and jump. As her program came to a close, she looked up to the Heavens and burst into tears. I'm sure she wasn't the only person with tears rolling down her cheeks.
Two days later she captured the bronze medal after another moving performance in her free skate program. Never has there been a more deserving standing ovation.