Sunday, February 12, 2006

Olympic Update

Pursuit of Happiness
So I turn on the TV today, and what's the first thing I see? Cross-country skiing, thereby ruining one of the best jokes in my preview (see below). Analysis of this event comes from a guest blogger, my six-year old son. "Why are they all in a line? Why are they going so slow? That's not skiing, that's skating." Either he is remarkably precocious, or I have the mind of a six-year old because I could not have said it better myself. But I watched long enough to learn that this was the men's 30 kilometer pursuit; competitors ski the first 15 km in "classical" style and then switch equipment to ski the second half of the race in "freestyle." The equipment change is very important; the announcers compared it to a NASCAR pitstop except that you have to do it by yourself. NASCAR races would take days if the drivers had to do that. Not that the fans would mind. They probably wouldn't even notice.

Just before the equipment change, NBC showed how one of the German skiers, a favorite in the race, carefully lined up his skis and poles exactly where he wanted them. They went on and on about the "German precision, " even affecting German accents. I was waiting for them to tell us he puts his skis on one at a time, just like all the other athletes. So of course, he botched the exchange during the race and lost time coming out of pit row. "He keeps fussing at his straps!" the announcer told us, "He can't seem to get them adjusted properly!" I'm telling you, I was on the edge of my seat.

Honestly, I probably couldn't have done any better behind the microphone. Those are some tough names, and then you have to resist the urge to make all those "hot pursuit," "trivial pursuit," and D.B. Cooper jokes.

The best U.S. time was posted by Carl Swenson, who finished 40th. Swenson's pit time was 30 seconds flat, 0.9 seconds faster than the winner (I'd tell you his name, but he's not American, so why would you care?). I guess Swenson lost time during the skiing part of the competition. Tough break, but he did move five spots ahead of his 45th place finish in Lillehammer in 1994. Twelve years to move up five spots, I guess he'll be the odds-on favorite in 2102.

Short Tracks
Michelle Kwan withdrew from the figure skating competition after she strained a groin muscle in her first practice on Saturday. She waited a day to finalize her decision, but USOC and NBC executives put the time to good use, imploring children all over the world to repeat over and over, "I do believe in Michelle Kwan, I do believe in Michelle Kwan."

Bode Miller apparently overindulged at the Opening Ceremonies after party. Stumbling back to his accommodations in the Olympic Village, he vomited just outside the front gate. Passersby claimed to see the image of the Virgin Mary in the stain, which has become known as the Spew of Turin.

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