Heinrich: Ridiculously in-depth Olympic preview – Part II
I’ve been debating on something ever since I decided to make this preview a trilogy. What makes good trilogies? The only thing I could think of was the writer/director knowing it was a trilogy before they started (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Shrek). Since I already decided to do a trilogy, the scary thing is the middle part of trilogies never seems to be the best. There is too much catch up from the first part so that the audience knows how we got from the end of the first one to the beginning of the second. Then there is too much set up for the climactic end in the third part. How do I avoid this? Can I even stop the curse of the second of three or am I doomed? Then I figured out how to avoid all of that. Alphabetical order. I ended with Curling in Part I
Next is Figure Skating. Oh and don’t count out the use of Roman numerals, that always helps. Here we go Part II of this ridiculous preview.
How it Works – Put on a sequenced top, lace up hockey skates with a jagged toe on the blade and see how many spins can be done either while on the ice or in the air. If need be grab a partner and throw said partner in the air and make them spin a bunch then hold them in places my wife yells at me for looking at without asking. If jumping doesn’t work, then just grab a partner and do a salsa on the ice in sequence. Then just leave everything up to a group of “impartial experts” who are from countries that you have either saved from being conquered or that you have conquered. Yeah that would make me feel comfortable.
Best Event – I would say the medal ceremony at the end, but if I can pick a best event for Cross Country skiing I guess I can for the event that will get the most prime time air. I will say the couple’s long program. Not only is couples figure skating the sport behind The Cutting Edge one of my top five Winter Olympic Movies. (We’ll get to these in a minute) Couples (or pairs as the IOC would like to call it) have the greatest chance for a really good wipe out. Throw a 75 pound woman 15 feet while spinning and anything can happen.
Total Medals Available – 12 (How does Curling have less medals than Figure Skating)
Country to Watch – France – Not for any of their competitors, but if there is a French judge in any of the events be prepared for scores that make no sense. Not that anyone understands the French anyway. This is the country that gave more than just a finger to the Irish two months ago in a World Cup Qualifier. What is going to stop them from giving the U.S. figure skaters two’s across the board.
(I have an idea though. As the USA skaters are warming up just skate by the French judge and whisper, “Maybe we won’t be there next time Germany gets angry” and then they’ll be fair. And I know, Marie-Reine Le Gougne, screwed the Canadians in 2002 not the Americans. But if someone can be so rude to Canadians, THE NICEST PEOPLE ON THE PLANET aside from the Welsh, why wouldn’t they try to hurt the Americans? The Welsh don’t get enough credit. Whales is the small country in Great Brittan that is forced to give its best athletes to fly under the Union Jack. Everyone just thinks Great Brittan is England anyway. Why do they get to grab four countries and carry them under one flag? I think the US should do this. Can we just make a flag with Stripes a Maple Leaf and we’ll bring in the something from the Greenland flag (another over looked country) and call it Super Canadicanland and just dominate Great Brittan. Great Brittan won one medal in 2006, in the women’s skeleton. They aren’t very skilled but they are brave. The Welsh also gave us one of my favorite bands: Lostprophets. )
Athlete to Watch – Tanith Belbin (Canada USA) – The pairs dance star was born and raised in Canada, but holds duel citizenship and competes for team USA.
U.S. Chances – I’m sure everyone expects them to medal. If you couldn’t tell yet I’m not a huge fan of Figure Skating. But if you are don’t worry NBC will give it to you. Even on nights when it doesn’t matter, like the “free skate” after all the competition is done where the athletes let loose, skating to songs from the likes of Rascal Flats and Beethoven (instead of Mozart).
There is a good chance I fell into the Part II jinx…stick with me, I’m going to pull this one out.
How it Works – There are really three different events that all fit under the heading of Freestyle Skiing: Moguls, Aerials, and the newest event Skicross.
Moguls: Race against another skier down a hill of moguls (big bumps) and perform two jumps along the way. Judges score the jumps and the ability Olympians have to keep their knees together as they slowly lose their ACL’s. The score from the judges are put together with the time, best score wins. Johnny Mosley changed the sport of freestyle skiing 12 years ago in Nagano with this run. To think before that no athlete had ever added a grab to any of their jumps in the moguls. Watch that run again right before you catch this years event, it will show you how far this sport has come.
Aerials: Ski down a big hill and hit a bigger jump and twist and flip as many times as possible. Two jumps for each skier. Combine the scores for each jump and the best combined score wins.
Skicorss: This is an event that was stolen from the X-games. Four skiers race down an insanely fast and curvy track. The top two racers from each heat advance until only four skiers remain. There is a really good reason this event was added to the Olympics this year. It is fun to watch. More on this sport in a second.
Best Event – Skicross – It’s like mixing Talladega, MMA, and Roller derby into one slightly cooled burrito shell. Pick a racer in each race and just root your heart out, or pick a country for the entire event follow all of their skiers in each race. The most fun is when three or all four of the racers hit a turn or a jump at the same time. Anything can happen and most of the time a few of the racers eat a little snow and that is always enjoyable.
Total Medals Available – 18
Country To Watch – China – Yeah the Chinese had a fantastic idea going into the last Winter Olympics. They took athletes that had been competing in Olympic Diving and put ski’s on their feet and made the aerialists. It’s the same thing as diving except you really shouldn’t land on your head. The spins and flips are almost identical to those in diving. The two medals (one gold, one silver) in aerials were the only two outside of speed skating for the Chinese.
Athlete to Watch – Cypress Mountain – Okay so Cypress Mountain can’t win a medal but it will have a huge impact on the all the events. The lower elevation mountain has been suffering from a lack of snow. Snow has been trucked in and flown in by helicopter from higher elevations, but hay bales have had to be used to help structure some of the jumps. If more now doesn’t fall before the games gets under way there could be significant lack of consistency in the course.
U.S. Chances – A poor showing at the 2006 Games doesn’t bode well for the Americans who only received one medal in Torino. However, the addition of skicross should show some love to the Red, White and Blue. Look for a few more medals from the USA but with preference of young Americans leaning towards snowboarding the US Ski team is no longer as elite as it once was.
How it Works – Twelve teams play round robin group stage with the top two teams from each stage advancing to the knock-out round. Three points are awarded for a regulation win. One point is given to each team if the teams are tied at the end of regulation and the winning team (whether it is in the overtime period or in a shoot out) is awarded an extra point. It is the same point system the NHL now uses. What is different about the NHL if you fight you are gone, from the tournament. No wonder Donald Brashear didn’t make the roster.
Best Event – Men’s Tournament. Sorry Ladies but the Men’s game is much more exciting.
Total Medals Available – I guess you could technically say it is about 180 if you count how each player, coach and training staff receives a medal but really it’s only six.
Country to Watch – Sweden – Headed up by Peter Forsberg a.k.a. The Stamp, the Swedes are hoping to defend their improbable Gold from 2006 and could win there third gold in four Olympics. A feat that hasn’t been seen since the 70’s and 80’s USSR teams. (If you don’t know the story of “The Stamp” here you go. In 1994 Peter Forsberg was a young 20 year old phenom playing for Sweden in the Olympics. The Swedes make the gold medal game against the heavily favored Canadians and force a shootout. Forsberg scored the winning goal in the shootout by pulling the puck back away from the goalie and letting it just slide by Corey Hirsch. The overhead shot was put on a stamp in Sweden and Forsberg was immortalized. He would start his NHL career the next season. Here is the goal.
Athlete to Watch – Ilya Bryzgalov (Russian Federation) – I need to upgrade to Vista. Word says Bryzgalov is spelled wrong. Can we get a Hockey patch for Microsoft Office please? Bryz, as he affectionately known here in the valley of the sun, will most likely back up Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov but could see playing time if Nabi shows any sign of weakness. Bryz has been the main reason the Coyotes are sitting in fourth (third in points) in the Western Conference and could play a big part in the Russians run to the podium. There has not been an official starter named for Russia and although it is rare in these international tournaments Bryz could get a start or two in the round robin to see what hot goalie to ride through the knock out round.
U.S. Chances – This is truly a wide open tournament. The Screaming Eagles (That is my new nickname for them. I think more national teams need nicknames; it will really allow fans to rally around them. Plus it sounds cool.) finished eighth in 2006. The biggest advantage the Eagles have is probably the deepest and best goaltending of the whole tournament. Ryan Miller might be the best goalie in the NHL (sorry Marty) and his backup Tim Thomas can be a stone wall when he is on. And as many of you saw in 1980, hot goaltending can lead to amazing things. (I was not yet alive in 1980 and my all of my mental images of Jim Craig are actually those of Eddie Cahill.)
How It Works – Throw on some spandex a helmet jump on a sled and just go. Fastest combined times over all heats wins. Here is a video of the luge track in Salt Lake City. A pretty wild video, even though I don’t want to know where the camera is mounted. The one thing missing from this sport is the creative helmets of NHL goalies. There is no way I’m not rooting for a guy who hops on a luge with a helmet depicting a cracked open skull.
Best Event – Mixed Luge – Normally this is referred to as the two man luge but it is actually open to any mixed duo. Women rarely compete, which creates high comedy as two men in spandex climb on one sled, in pancake formation. Watch this event with a keg and six or seven buddies and high comedy will ensue. This is another one of the Winter Olympic events that most people are watching waiting for the big crash. And I am also one of those people. I still am waiting for someone to do this.
Total Medals Available – 9.
Country to Watch – Germany – The German Sliders (sounds like a delicious appetizer at Applebee’s) are strong, and always seem to do well in these events. What would German Sliders be comprised of? I’m thinking beer boiled bratwurst/hamburger combination topped with sauerkraut, pickles, and spicy mustard.
Athlete to Watch – Mark Grimmette (USA) – Grimmette is competing in his fifth Winter Olympics. The mixed lugger (I have no idea how to make luge into a verb) was picked by his fellow American athletes to carry the Stars and Stripes in the opening ceremonies Friday night.
U.S. Chances – No medals in Torino isn’t always a bad thing. It can be a motivating factor to veterans who expect better of themselves, like Grimmette. This sport is normally dominated by the Europeans, and most likely will be again this year. Don’t count out the U.S. however as one wrong turn can open the door for anyone.
How it Works – A sport I know some people just don’t get. The only way you might have heard of it is if you went to Wikipedia and typed in “Winter Olympic Events” to pull a random event to ask your friend about. Well no need to go to Wikipedia, you have me, and I’ll feed you baby birds.
It consists of one ski jump (the long distance jumps with the really long ski’s) and then some cross country skiing. How well you do on the jump determines your starting position in the cross country section. The jumps are scored based on the Gundersen system which awards four seconds for every point and one minute for 15 points. Then everyone starts the cross country portion based on their time differences to the leader. First one across the finish line wins. The only Winter Sport in which women do not compete.
Best Event – The Large Hill – The jump is off the 120meter hill. One hundred and twenty meters only increases the chances of someone not landing right, and in the Nordic Combined that is really the only draw. One more sport that could benefit from adding a CIRCLE OF DOOM!
Total Medals Available – 9 – Three for the normal hill, three for the large hill and three for the team event.
Country to Watch – Austria – The Austrians claimed the team gold in 2006 and have always been a solid contender in the NC. I think we need to change the name of this event to something a little catchier. I don’t have any ideas I just think Nordic Combined is a little to vague.
Athlete To Watch – Tommy Schmid (Switzerland) – At only 139 pounds I’m frightened that a strong wind during the jumping portion of the event will blow him off course and into the half pipe. Try to convince me that isn’t something to watch for.
U.S. Chances – Todd Lodwick is the United States top Nordic Combined competitor and is a favorite to medal in these years Olympics. No medals in Italy four years ago for team USA anything this year would be a bonus.
Part II of the Trilogy is over and I believe I might have been hit by the curse. I’m going to blame having Figure Skating lead us off. The flawless alphabetical order ended up being my demise. The good news is the always strong conclusion to the trilogy is coming up later Friday. Part III features: Short Track Speedskating, Ski Jumping, Skeleton, Snowboarding and Speedskating. And don’t forget the Opening Ceremonies are on Friday night at 6:30pm. (That is Arizona time, which I believe is the same as Mountain Time, but if they turn daylight savings back any more we’ll be switching to Pacific Time mid Olympics)