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Heinrich: Ridiculously in-depth Olympic preview – Part III

I might have fallen into the Part II of the trilogy curse, but I’m ready to pull and Episode III, a Return of the Jedi, or Return of the King…really any return. If this were a the final chapter of some dramatic three part made for TV movie that cool voice over guy would come on and say “And now for the dramatic conclusion of the Olympic Preview.” However, since this is just an article on a website, then you’ll have to make your own voice. And now for the dramatic conclusion of the Olympic preview.

Short Track Speed Skating:

How it Works – Racers hop on a track, this one happens to be shorter than the normal speedskating track, and race as fast as they can for the pre-determined distance. There are strict rules that prohibit cutting another racer off or sticking a leg out to trip someone. It takes half the fun out of it but with blades as long as my forearm it makes sense, as they don’t want everyone in a messy heap in the corner of the ice. The rules got Apolo Ohno gold in Salt Lake City when he crossed the finish line second but was awarded Gold when it was determined South Korean skater Kim Dong Sung was called for cross tracking (Cross tracking is just cutting someone off. Whatever happened to “if you aint rubbin it aint racin”)

Best Event – Team Relay – Eight teams race around for a predetermined distance. Unlike track and field relays, the racers go as many laps as they feel comfortable and then the next strongest skater comes from the center of the rink to tag in. The best part of the short track relay is the seeing the entire teams trying to fit in the center of the rink and skating around in little circles. I’m honestly surprised there have never been fisticuffs in the center of the rink. It normally turns into a tight race that rests on the hands (or feet) of the last skater for each team. This is probably the closest thing to roller derby on ice that you can get. Except the punching and elbowing aren’t legal.

Total Medals Available – 24 – There are three different distances for the individual races and the one relay. Men and women both compete but not together.

Country to Watch – South Korea – The South Koreans dominated the last Olympics in short track, bringing home ten of their eleven medals in the fast-paced sport. They scored six of the possible eight gold medals, missing out only on the sprint distances (500m). Look for the Koreans to dominate again this year, being challenged only by the Chinese.

Athlete to Watch – Charles Hamelin (Canada) – Hamelin is the reigning World short track champion and may be able to bring home gold on Canadian soil. The gold medal would be the first for Canadians Olympics (Summer or Winter) hosted in the land of the Maple Leaf. Isn’t there supposed to be some sort of home field advantage for the Olympics? Canada has never won a gold medal on their own soil. Here are the medal counts by the host country at the last three Winter and Summer Games:
2008: China – 51 G – 21 S – 28 B -100 Total
2006: Italy – 5 G – 0 S – 6 B – 11 Total
2004: Greece – 6 G – 6 S – 4 B – 16 Total
2002: USA – 10 G – 13 – 11 – 34 Total
2000: Australia – 16 G -25 S – 17 B – 58 Total
1998: Japan – 5 G – 1 S – 4 B – 10 Total

Can you imagine an NBA team losing every game at home? They would get moved. No wonder the likes of Tanith Belbin decided to compete for the USA. If Hamelin can pull it off he would become a National hero.

U.S. Chances – The US should be able to pull a few medals in short track. Ohno is in his third and possibly last Olympic games, and it is sure he would like to leave on top. Perhaps this time without a disqualification.

Ski Jumping:

How it Works – Skiers compete in either the normal hill (90 meters) or the large hill (120 meters). The easy break down is to jump as far as possible and not fall.

Best Event – Large Hill – Bigger jumps always are a little better. The best part is when one of the skis gets a little wobbly on the landing. Watch that ski shake just a bit and just hope the skier can hold on. And if they don’t it’s pretty entertaining too.

Total Medals Available – 9 (No women in Ski Jumping, but there is a team event!)

Country to Watch – Norway – The Norwegians seem to have invented 95 percent of the Olympic events, yet it seems like they never dominate the sport. You would think if your country invented a sport you could win a few more medals. Well, Norway is pretty good at the ski jump. Something about their blond hair and blue eyes allow them to hold good form and fly for long distances. Norway, by the way, has one of the best flags. All red with a lighter blue cross and white trim. Just solid. There are a lot of countries out there with red white and blue, but it seems like Norway just pulled it off so well.

Athlete to Watch – Thomas Morgenstern (Austria) – At 19 years old the kid from the Govanator’s home land pocketed himself two gold medals in Torino. He is back and looking to repeat as champ of the 120 hill and add the 90 to his resume.

U.S. Chances – This is a sport for the Nordic countries, sadly. I don’t know what all of our aerodynamic athletes are doing but it doesn’t seem like they are throwing themselves into the ski jumping too often. How do you determine if you are properly aerodynamic for ski jumping? Can we get one fat guy out there to try his hand and see how far he goes? Would he even make the landing area or would he just hit the flats? Is Shaq available? He didn’t make the all-star team right? Someone call Shaq and see if he’ll try ski jumping this weekend.

Skeleton

How it Works – Go insane and then decide to become an Olympic athlete. The luge on acid. I have a deep seeded opposition to head first sliding. When I was four yearsI went down the slide in my back yard headfirst and didn’t have my hands out in front (much like the skeleton) and when I got to the bottom I ended up with five stitches in my forehead and six in my lip. That was on a five foot high slide with little pebbles at the bottom. These athletes are going 70-90 miles per hour. And there are no brakes on the skeleton sled. You simply wait until the end when your sled slows down. Absolutely ridiculous.

Best Event – There are only two events. One men’s and one women’s.

Total Medals Available – 6

Snowboarding:

How it Works – Glue two skies together and go down a mountain sideways. There are three events for snowboard: Parallel Giant Slalom, Half Pipe and Snowboard cross. PGS gets points for using the word Giant. It also receives points for escentially making the competition a tournament. After each competitor takes a solo run the top 16 times are paired up (1st facing 16th and so on) and each race becomes a knockout. If you beat your foe, you win. Half Pipe is a judged event where each Athlete takes two runs, best score counts, worst score thrown out. Highest score wins. Snowboard cross is just like skicross, except it is on a snowboard. Four racers try to be the first down the hill. I really am annoyed that there are still judged events in the Olympics. I hate Judges (Except Judge Dredd. Can we all admit that even now Judge Dredd is still remarkably hilarious? I want to make friends with a cop just so we can hang out at a bar and I can get him to yell “I AM THE LAW” in a bad Stallone voice.)

Best Event – Women’s Half Pipe – This could be the most competitive event in the entire Games. Gretchen Bleiler (USA), Kelley Clark (USA) Sarah Conrad (CAN) and Hannah Teter (USA), are going to make it very tight at the top of the leader board. The top lady trick is a 900 and all four of these ladies can throw it. The big issue is going to be the amount of snow at the halfpipe. Cypress Mountain got snow on Thursday, but it is still yet to be determined if this will be enough to make a for a solid track.

Total Medals Available – 12

Country to Watch – USA – The American’s helped popularize the sport and with its addition to the Olympics have continued domination. In 2006 USA won three gold medals and seven total snowboarding medals.

Athlete to Watch – Lindsey Jacobellis (USA) – Lindsey Jacobellis competes in snowboard cross for the Americans. Lindsey had a chance for gold in Torino and tried to clear the last jump with a very styley grab. The style backfired as Jacobellis crashed and could only manage silver. 2010 is her time for redemption.

U.S. Chances – Don’t be surprised if the United States leaves Canada with eight snowboarding medals. Shaun White leads the charge for the USA, looking for his second gold medal. The Flying Tomato is not only the reason my wife will be watching the snowboard half pipe competition, but he is probably the biggest star coming into the games. He has his own video game! Here is the list of athletes with their own video games: Tiger Woods, Tony Hawk, John Madden and Shaun White. Madden doesn’t have a clothing line at Target. If John Madden did have a clothing line what store would carry it? Is he a Ross guy or maybe Casual Male XL? Be prepared for plenty of stories on America’s pioneer of Snowboarding.

Speedskating:

How it Works – A one side and the other kind of sport. With sprints and endurance races there are athletes that are built for one or the other and rarely both. The distances of the races rang from 500m – 10,000m. Even though the Olympians are racing at the same time as another competitor the race is really against the clock. Fastest time wins. I’m always for any sport where either highest number of points scored wins or fastest time wins. There is no “impartial jury” to mess things up.

Best Event – Men’s 500 meters – The 100 meter dash of speed skating. One time around the rink as fast as can go. Second and third place in 2006 were separated by .02 seconds. That is right two one thousandths of a second. If an athlete looses his edge even just a little bit they can forget medaling. They might as well just spin out and have some fun from there.

Total Medals Available – 36 – Tied for the most medals awarded at these Olympic games. However they are tied with cross country which has yet to incorporate a CIRCLE OF DOOM! or any other obstacle that might make the event a little more appealing. Speedskating is almost done on a circle track (the track is oval, which is close enough).

Country to Watch – The Netherlands – And not just because they are the only other country that start with “the” besides The United States of America. It also has nothing to do with the fact that I picked them to win this years World Cup in South Africa (three soccer references so far I’m doing pretty good). It is entirely do to the fact they were orange even though their flags colors are red white and blue. They wear orange to honor the prince and orange is apparently the princely color in Holland. I can honestly say there is nothing I don’t like about the Netherlands. I even love tulips.

Athlete to Watch – Shani Davis – The first African American to win a gold medal in speed skating in 2006 is back and more relaxed than ever. Davis has said he is just looking to have fun and skate well in Vancouver. Whatever he is looking to do, most experts expect him to defend his 1,000 m title.

U.S. Chances – With Joey Cheek, Shani Davis, Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr. and others the US has a good chance of racking up the most medals in speed skating. Let’s go back to those athletes again, how is Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr. a junior? I’ve never heard of a woman being a junior before. I’m sure it can happen, but the thing that baffles me is that she is a hyphenated junior. Is she married and decided to keep the Jr? Did she marry into the Jr? I need Matt Lauer on this story ASAP. Forget Lindsey Vonn and her bruised shin can we figure out how Nacy Swider-Peltz Jr. became a Jr. There are pressing questions that need to be answered.

Tonight the Opening Ceremonies will kick things off for the 21st Winter Olympiad. All of the countries will walk into B.C. Place Stadium many of them will be wearing funny hats (What a horrible name for the main arena for an Olympics. I really hope the Canadians can turn it around from that bad name and put on a good show). It seems the Winter Games have a much higher ratio of athletes to funny hats. A huge plus for the Winter Games. Please send any questions for me to gheinrich@ktar.com