Pop Culture Junkette

Addicted to pop culture.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Olympics 2010, Saturday, Feb. 27

Today I watched:
Speedskating, women's pursuit, semifinals and finals
Speedskating, men's pursuit, finals
Snowboarding, men's parallel giant slalom, qualifications
Skiing, women's cross-country 30,000m mass start
Ice hockey, Slovakia vs. Finland, bronze medal match
Skiing, men's slalom
Bobsled, men's four-man, runs 3 and 4
Figure skating, champions gala
Curling, men's, Canada vs. Norway, gold medal match
Curling, men's, Sweden vs. Switzerland, bronze medal match

Most exciting event of the day? Cross-country, of course. It amazes me that the skiers are racing for over an hour and a half and yet the race still ends in a sprint: the gold and silver medalists were separated by just .3 seconds at the end of the race. Perhaps more surprising is that the bronze medalist was more than a minute and a half behind the first two finishers. It seems that almost every cross-country and biathalon event in these Olympics has had a dramatic finish, and this was no exception.

The bronze medal hockey match was exciting as well. Slovakia led 3-1 in the third period when Finland scored three unanswered goals, gaining the lead. With three minutes left in the game Slovakia went on a two-minute power play and by the end of the power play they had pulled their goalie, meaning they had six skaters on the ice to Finland's four. Despite several great scoring chances, Slovakia came up one goal short for the second night in a row, and Finland earned the bronze.

The speedskating pursuit events were exciting, even if the US didn't win, and the figure skating exhibition was entertaining, although not something I would have aired in HD instead of hockey.

The bronze medal curling match turned out to be more entertaining television than the gold medal match. The Canadians won the gold pretty easily. The bronze medal game was 4-3 in the ninth end when Switzerland had four stones in the house and Sweden had one stone left. They managed to knock all four stones out of the house, retaining their 4-3 lead. The tenth end was dramatic, since the score was separated by just one point, and Sweden made a mistake with its last stone, leaving the door open for Switzerland to score two points with the final rock of the match. Switzerland came through by just inches, winning the bronze.

Tomorrow is the final day of the Olympics, and there is very little left to watch, but that which is left is great: the men's hockey gold medal match between the USA and Canada, and a final men's cross-country race. Of course, the Olympics will end with the closing ceremonies, and I hear that my Olympic Boyfriend will have a special role as the games are passed from Vancouver to Sochi. Then he can return to DC and we can start watching the NHL again.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Olympics 2010, Friday, Feb. 26

Today I watched:
Ice hockey, men's, USA vs. Finland
Ice hockey, men's, Canada vs. Slovakia
Curling, women's, Sweden vs. Canada (gold medal)
Speedskating, men's team pursuit, quarterfinals, semifinals
Speedskating, men's short-track, 500m quarterfinals, semifinals, final
Skiing, women's, slalom
Speedskating, women's short-track, 1000m quarterfinals, semifinals, final
Speedskating, men's short-track, 5000m relay
Bobsled, men's four-man, heat 2
Snowboarding, women's parallel giant slalom
Biathalon, men's 4x7500m relay
Speed-skating, women's team pursuit, quarterfinals

Today I watched two of the most exciting finishes of the Olympics. First was the gold medal curling match between Sweden and Canada, which went to extra innings and came down to the last stone of the eleventh end. I feel like the sentence I just typed was in a foreign language. I will call that language Canadian. The second exciting moment were the last seconds of the Canada-Slovakia hockey game. Canada was up 3-0 with six minutes left in the game when Slovakia scored two goals in very quick succession. Slovakia tried to tie it up and had a number of good chances in the last three minutes, with a few notables in the last 20 seconds. It would have been great to see them come up with an upset, but it wasn't going to happen.

The USA-Finland game was not a close one--the US won 6-1. When the US scored their fourth goal halfway through the first period, Finland goalie Miikka Kiprusoff pulled himself. Nikolas Backstrom replaced him and promptly gave up two goals fifteen seconds apart. Absent injury, I don't think I have ever seen a goalie pull himself out of a game, but I give Kiprusoff credit for realizing he wasn't helping his team at all and deciding to do something about it. I only wish Nabokov had done something similar after letting up his fourth goal against Canada two days ago.

This produces the Canada-USA gold metal game that Gary Bettman has been praying for. Bettman actually did a spot with Al Michaels and was his usual annoying and moronic self. I do not understand how he has retained his job--no commissioner has done more to ruin his sport.

As for the rest of the day's events: Gobo thinks that Apolo Anton Ohno is a dirty speed-skater. Of course, the Koreans have been saying this for years, but Gobo wasn't aware of their allegations (he completely ignores the pieces done before and after the matches), yet after watching Ohno's performances, he has come to this conclusion. Is thinking such a thing unpatriotic?

I don't understand why NBC couldn't show us more parallel slalom. I really enjoyed the semi-final matches that they showed us, and wish they could have aired more. The coverage on NBC's secondary networks has not been extensive--surely they could have added an hour to one of the daytime slots on CNBC or MSNBC.

The high point of the night might have been finding out that there would be more biathalon. I thought that the sport had seen its last race days ago, so this was a wonderful surprise. It was great to hear the name Ole Einar Bjorndalen one more time. Maybe I should have made him my Olympic boyfriend. (Just joking, Ovi!)

Just two days of Olympics left. Tomorrow is the bronze medal match in men's hockey, which will be aired on the non-HD MSNBC so that the figure skating exhibition can air on NBC. Good work again, NBC, thanks for the coverage!


Friday, February 26, 2010

Olympics 2010, Thursday, Feb. 25

Today I watched:
Skiing, women's cross-country, 4x5000m relay
Ice hockey, women's, USA vs. Canada, gold medal game
Skiing, women's giant slalom, run 2
Nordic combined, men's large hill
Skiing, men's aerials
Figure skating, women's free skate

Wow. The Olympics are quickly drawing to a close, and I guess there aren't all that many events left. I have mixed feelings about this--one the one hand, I love the Olympics, but on the other, I am becoming absolutely exhausted. It's difficult to watch so many events on a daily basis.

Today was an easier day than most. The women's figure skating was the main event, and the top competitors all skated pretty clean programs. It's always so nice when everyone lands their jumps and they are all judged on their best performances. Canada's Joannie Rochette was the story of the night (and perhaps the entire Olympics), as she skated her short program two days after her mother's unexpected death and her long program just two days after that, earning a bronze medal. Japan's Mao Asada might have been the saddest story of the night, as she looked absolutely devastated after winning a silver medal. She reminded me of Midori Ito after the 1992 Olympics, apologizing to Japan for getting a silver rather than a gold.

I was expecting to watch the entire gold medal women's hockey game, but I wasn't home in time to catch the beginning and had forgotten to record it, so I only watched the third period. I fear the men's gold medal game will have the same competitors and the same outcome, but I guess we can hope otherwise.

I think it's interesting that the scores for the two runs in aerials are added to determine placement, while in half-pipe only the best of two runs counts. I would have thought the scoring would be similar between the two events. I prefer the half-pipe scoring system, because it doesn't discourage the competitors from trying a riskier, more exciting program. I was glad that Jeret (oops, I mean Speedy) Peterson went for the more difficult jump in his second run, even though doing so four years ago may have cost him a medal. It was great that this time he was rewarded with a silver.

Tomorrow is a slightly more active day: slalom, speedskating, curling, bobsled and, of course, the hockey semi-finals.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Olympics 2010, Tuesday, Feb. 23

Today I watched:
Ice hockey, men's, USA vs. Switzerland
Ice hockey, men's, Russia vs. Canada
Ice hockey, men's, Czech Republic vs. Finland
Curling, men's, Great Britain vs. Sweden
Cross country, men's 4x1000m relay
Skiing, women's giant slalom, run 1
Bobsled, women's two-man finals
Skiing, women's aerials finals
Ice hockey, men's, Sweden vs. Slovakia
Speedskating, men's short-track 500m qualifiers
Speedskating, women's 3000m relay
Speedskating, women's 1000m
Speedskating, women's 5000m

I already shared my thoughts on the hockey in my very long earlier post, and I don't have the energy to have an opinion on much of anything else. I did think that Julia Mancuso needed to control the crying a bit. Sure, I'm sure she was upset that she was stopped in the middle of her giant slalom run, and it does suck. But the non-stop crying certainly wasn't going to help. And she's won two medals in this Olympics already--ones no one was really expecting her to win.

The US women's bobsledders (USA2) won a bronze medal today. Normally I wouldn't really care, but the brakewoman for the team, Elana Meyers, is the friend of a friend. Pretty cool.

Tomorrow...no men's hockey. The one women's hockey game I have been planning to watch, USA vs. Canada, is tomorrow, as is the women's figure skating long program.


Russia loses, Mike Milbury remains an idiot

The Russia-Canada game tonight was awful. Russia got behind early, failed to gain any momentum, and didn't play well. Other than Bryzgalov, no one looked great.

The loss was disappointing, but not entirely surprising. I have been saying since the beginning of the Olympics that the Russians have looked disorganized on the ice, and that disorganization finally came back to haunt them. The team has appeared to be poorly-coached from their first game against Latvia. After the shootout loss to Slovakia, the Russian coach, Bykov, admitted that he hadn't had a plan in place for the shootout and randomly chose his shooters.

I can't fathom how the coach of a team in the Olympics can begin the tournament without a plan for the shootout. The game is three periods long, and if it is tied after those periods there is a five minute overtime. If it's still tied, it goes to a shootout. Thus, it would seem that having an idea of what you want to do when the shootout comes would be a good idea. The fact that Bykov was so unprepared in such a basic way did not bode well for Russia's chances.

Bykov's biggest mistake today was not pulling Nabokov earlier. Nabokov gave up four goals in the first period, a few of which were very weak. The team might not have been playing incredibly strong hockey, but the goalie really needs to stop the easy shots--and the hard ones--to keep his team in the game. Nabokov looked horrible. Rather than pull Nabokov after the first period (or earlier--many coaches would have pulled Nabokov after the third goal), Bykov put him back in. Soon after the start of the second period, the Canadians scored a fifth goal, but Bykov still refused to pull Nabokov. This was particularly shocking because Bryzgalov looked strong in the game against Slovakia (despite the eventual loss), and I actually thought Bryzgalov should have been the starting goalie from the beginning of this tournament. It was only after the sixth goal, when the Russians had pretty much no chance of getting back into the game, that Bykov pulled Nabokov.

Not one Russian skater had a good game, but if I had to pick out the player with the worst game, I think it would be Malkin. Malkin had a great game against the Czech Republic after having two poor games against Latvia and Slovakia, so I was hopeful he would be able to create some offense. Instead he allowed for a turnover that directly lead to Boyle's breakaway goal, and lost the puck throughout the game.

Of course, the Mike Milburys of the world would prefer to blame Ovechkin because it's easy to point to the biggest star (and in Milbury's case, because he clearly dislikes Ovechkin). Mike Milbury is a total idiot. In his commentary after the game he said he was disappointed in Russia for playing a "Eurotrash game." The fact that Milbury, who adds no valuable insight in his commentary, has a job with NBC Sports is ridiculous. But NBC seems to like Milbury doing racist things like calling the Russian game Eurotrash--I guess they think that it creates press, and they don't have a problem with commentators continuing to espouse the view that the way the Canadians play the game is somehow "pure," while the Europeans have defiled it in some way. (In the past, the Europeans failed the play hockey properly because they weren't passionate, weren't physical, didn't finish their checks, and didn't really care about the outcome. Now that the biggest star in the league is a European who exuberantly celebrates goals, wants to win more than anything, and is not only the best scorer in the league, but also lays down some of the hugest hits, the complaints are that they celebrate too much, and they are too physical.)

Milbury also defended Boyle's slew-footing of Semin. He claimed that Semin deserved it (despite slew-footing being against the rules) because of Semin's "dangerous" check on Boyle. I looked at the check several times, and I don't think it was illegal. Even if we give Boyle the benefit of the doubt and say the check was illegal (that it was late or that it was high), it was at the very least a play that could have been ruled either way. To slew-foot in response is not an appropriate retaliation, but Milbury applauded Boyle's actions.

Of course, the idea that the worst general manager in the history of hockey--the man who traded away Roberto Luongo (who looked pretty great in goal for the Canadians), Zdeno Chara and Tim Connolly--is providing commentary on hockey is ridiculous. He completely decimated the Islanders in his ten year reign of terror. That CBC and NBC think he is worthy of talking to anyone about hockey is misguided at best.

The other hockey games of the day were far more interesting. Switzerland and the US were tied at 0 for the first 50 minutes of the game, the Czech Republic and Finland were tied at 0 for the first 50 minutes of the game, and Slovakia beat Sweden 4-3, with Sweden having a few big chances in the closing seconds of the game. I'm really shocked that Sweden lost, and the road to the gold medal just became much easier for Canada. I know a lot of USA fans are hoping for a Canada-USA rematch, but I don't see the US beating Canada twice in this series. Miller had to stand on his head for the first win, and repeating that will be difficult.

I always love seeing teammates shake hands at the end of the game, and Lunqvist and Gaborik didn't disappoint, really looking like friends when the game was over. Not so much for Crosby and Malkin, who just gave each other a cursory handshake, as if they were total strangers.

Today started with five Capitals in the Olympics, and ended with no Capitals left. The big positive: no more worries about Ovie, Semin, Backstrom or Fleishmann getting injured in a game (I wasn't worried about Varlamov, since he has been hanging out in the team's box with Tretiak). Another big plus: all five of those players get a full week to rest. There's still a lot of NHL hockey left, and the less worn out and tired they are, the better.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Olympics 2010, Tuesday, Feb. 23

Today I watched:
Curling, women's, US vs. China
Ice hockey, men's, Switzerland vs. Belarus
Ice hockey, men's, Canada vs. Germany
Skiing, women's ski cross
Skiing, men's Nordic combined, team
Speed skating, men's 10,000m
Figure skating, women's long program
Bobsled, women's two man
Skiing, men's giant slalom
Ice hockey, Czech Republic vs. Latvia
Ice hockey, Slovakia vs. Norway
Biathalon, women's 4x6000m relay

After a relatively light Olympics-watching day yesterday, I was very busy today. I have to admit I haven't finished watching the women's biathalon relay--I am watching it as I type.

Today was a pretty exciting day in the Olympics. The most emotional moment was clearly Joannie Rochette's short program in women's figure skating. Rochette's mother had a heart attack and died at the age of 55 two days ago. Rochette still managed to skate a clean program and ended up in third place going into the long program. The US figure skaters were a disappointment. Apparently they both skated as well as they have in the past, it's just that their best isn't as good as the rest of the world's. The US has had great female figure skaters my entire life, so it's sad to see a competition where no one even expects our skaters to be serious medal contenders.

When NBC switched over to the final pair of the men's speedskating 10,000m race with seven laps left, I wondered why they even bothered to show us the skating at all. The lead skater in that last pairing was Sven Kramer, who was comfortably in the lead and on pace to break the Olympic record. When he finished his race the commentator declared Kramer the winner and said that he was "a short few seconds before celebrating officially." Those few short seconds never came. Kramer was disqualified because he ended the race in the wrong lane. Watching replays, it was clear that his coach had erroneously instructed him to switch lanes, costing Kramer the medal and Olympic record. NBC was, shockingly enough, airing the end of the race live, so watching Kramer learn he had been disqualified, and his angry reaction, was fascinating television.

I hadn't expected to watch all four hockey matches, but I ended up doing exactly that. I watched Switzerland vs. Belarus in its entirety. I ended up watching the third period at the gym, and had to extend my workout because the game went into overtime and I couldn't leave before the game was over. I watched the first half of Canada vs. Germany, changing the channel when the score was 4-1. I thought Germany did a really good job of challenging Canada through the first period, but they just couldn't sustain the effort. It was nice seeing Crosby miss a penalty shot.

Slovakia vs. Norway and Czech Republic vs. Latvia were both shocking games. The Czech Republic game went to overtime, with Latvia letting up a goal about six minutes in. Slovakia was tied with Norway until midway through the third period, when they finally scored to lead by one, and then barely held onto the one-goal lead for the rest of the game.

Tomorrow: Russia vs. Canada. I'm sure there are a lot of other events as well, and I'm sure I'll watch them, but all I can really think about is Russia vs. Canada. I'm worried for Ovi and friends, and it particularly concerns me that Ovechkin has said that he had trouble scoring on Luongo when Luongo played for the Panthers. (And speaking of Luongo, every time Mike Milbury says his name I feel hatred. Thanks again, Mike, for making the worst moves ever when you were Isles GM.) Game is at 7:30 on CNBC (no HD for hockey, yet again).


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Olympics 2010, Monday, Feb. 22

Today I watched:
Ski jumping, men's team, large hill
Skiing, men's aerials, qualifiers
Figure skating, ice dancing, free dance
Cross country, men's team sprint
Cross country, women's team sprint

Today was a very light day for watching the Olympics. I just wasn't in the mood to watch curling today, and you know my rule about no women's ice hockey until the gold medal match, and those were the only other sports offer. NBC just did not have a lot on the roster today.

I don't have much to say. I have come to realize that ski jumping might be my least favorite winter Olympic event other than bobsled, luge and skeleton. It's just not very exciting.

I enjoyed tonight's ice dancing. I decided to skip the cellar dwellers NBC showed at the beginning, and just watched the better teams. Once I cut out the weaker teams, the competition lost its tedium and became far more interesting. I personally enjoyed the free skate of the silver medalists, USA's Davis and Charlie White best, but I'm not an ice dancing expert.

Tomorrow should be a more active day. All of the hockey elimination round matches are going on, so that's four hockey games. Three of the four games are foregone conclusions (Belarus vs. Switzerland is the only game with some suspense regarding the victor), although I guess we can all hope for Germany to pull off the biggest upset of the tournament by beating Canada.

I'm not feeling good about the Russia-Canada quarterfinal match, but that's not until Wednesday. Also on Tuesday is speed skating, biathalon (yay!), Nordic combined (double yay!!) and the women's figure skating short program.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Olympics 2010, Sunday, Feb. 20

Today I watched:
Ice hockey, Russia vs. Czech Republic
Ice hockey, USA vs. Canada
Skiing, men's ski cross
Skiing, men's super combined
Skiing, men's biathalon, 15,000m mass start
Figure skating, ice dancing original dance
Speed skating, women's 1500m
Bobsled, men's two-man
Ice hockey, Sweden vs. Finland
Skiing, women's biathalon, 12,500m mass start

I already shared some of my thoughts about the ice hockey in my previous post, so I'll keep the comments here brief. After the USA-Canada match, one thing that struck me was the interaction between Blackhawks teammates Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in the handshake. Kane, who plays for Team USA, broke into a smile when he saw Toews, who plays for Team Canada. Kane gave Toews a hug and said something to him as they shook hands. The look on Toews' face, however, was of someone completely shell-shocked. Contrasting the expressions of the two teammates was pretty dramatic.

Also, a bit of criticism about NBC. I haven't really complained about the broadcasting of these Olympics, because I would rather just focus on the fun of the Games. But I have to wonder why NBC even bothered to break into the USA-Canada game when they did: after the USA scored its empty net goal, the score was 5-3, and there were only 20 seconds left in the game. What was the point? The three minutes immediately before that had been incredibly exciting: Canada scored to bring them within one goal of a tie, and then proceeded to control the puck, shooting at Miller mercilessly. They had so many chances to score; it was truly edge-of-your-seat hockey at its best. Yet NBC didn't cut over for any of that--at the very least, I would have thought they would have shown the final three minutes after Canada scored. Total miss on the part of NBC. Big shock.

As for the other sports: Biathalon is exciting! I'm sure you're shocked. Really, I love biathalon and any other sport that has cross-country skiing. Biathalon is my favorite because of the added drama of the shooting and penalty laps, but cross-country has not bored me once during this Olympics. To think that at the beginning of this Olympics I didn't even know who Magdalena Neuner was. Now I feel like I've known her forever.

Today was the debut of skiing cross, and I loved it. It's just like snowboard cross, but on skis! I love watching the skiiers race head-to-head.

If I weren't so tired, I'm sure I could say an awful lot about the original dance competition in ice dancing today. Alas, I'm tired. Suffice it to say, the costumes were quite special. After the compulsory dance round, my favorite team was Russia's Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin. They are now in third place, and according to the LA Times, they probably can't catch the first place team. I'm not really sure why that's the case, since they were in first after day one, didn't make big mistakes, but fell to third. Seems that the same could happen to the other teams tomorrow, but what do I know? I did think that the teams in first and second did skate the best today, Canada's Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue and the US's Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

Looks like I might get to bed before 4 a.m. today, which I now consider an early night. Tomorrow is a hockey-free day (well, women's hockey semi-finals, but as I have written in the past, I'm only going to watch the USA-Canada gold medal game because the other teams are horribly overmatched and the games just aren't fun to watch). Tomorrow: more cross country and ice dancing!


The nightmare scenario

Today was an absolutely great day in Olympic hockey, and was particularly wonderful if, like me, you were cheering for Team Russia and Team USA. It was also great day for fans of the Capitals, as Ovechkin had a great game (and leveled Jagr--a player most Caps fans loathe--mid-ice, which led to Russia's third goal of the game), as did Backstrom, who had a hand in all three of Sweden's goals, with a goal and two assists. But then I started thinking about the elimination bracket and how that would play out through the rest of this tournament. And then I wasn't quite as excited as I had been.

Russia and the USA won important and dramatic victories today: Russia against the Czech Republic, and the US against Canada. Both teams secured byes in the next round of play and will go directly to the quarterfinals. All was wonderful until I realized that as the number 3 seed, Russia will face the winner of the Canada-Germany match in the quarterfinals. Germany is a pretty weak team, so unless Canada completely collapses, that means that either Russia or Canada will not make it out of the quarterfinals. A lot of people thought that Russia-Canada would be the gold medal match, and Russia will certainly be facing the toughest opponent in the quarterfinals.

However, even if Russia wins, they then face the winner of the Sweden vs. the winner of Slovakia vs. Norway. My guess is that Sweden will face and defeat Slovakia. If Sweden doesn't manage to win, I can't imagine Russia will fold to Slovakia twice in this tournament. But if Sweden does advance--which I strongly suspect they will--Russia will have to face the *other* most dangerous team in the tournament. That would mean that before making it to the gold medal round, Russia will have to face the two teams everyone thought would be their most difficult competition.

And then even if they do win, they could very well be facing Team USA in the gold medal match. I have been talking about cheering for Team Russia in the Olympics for over a year, but now that the games are here, I feel guilty cheering against Team USA. I would rather avoid having to deal with conflicting loyalties in a gold medal match.

Interestingly, the Czech Republic, the team that Russia beat today to earn the bye, has what is probably an easier road to the finals. They will have to face Latvia in the next round, which is as close to a free pass as a team could have hoped for, and they will then play against Finland (not an easy match by any means, but I would rather play against Finland than Canada), and then the winner of the US vs. the winner of Switzerland and Belarus (in other words, the US). Not a bad road at all.

Among the top four seeds, Russia certainly seems to have the most difficult road ahead of them. The US has a far easier path. They should be able to handle the winner of the Switzerland-Belarus match with relative ease. After that, they will compete against the winner of the Finland-Czech Republic match (to be precise, I should say the winner of the match between Finland and whoever wins the Czech Republic-Latvia match, but that's just not one I have any question in my mind about). That will give the US a lot of trouble, and if I were a betting woman, I would bet against the US in that situation, although I wouldn't be surprised if they did win. But it is still a more favorable scenario than facing Sweden, Canada or Russia. But I guess the number one seed having the easiest road is way it should be.

The rest of the hockey in this Olympics should be very interesting. An update on the rest of my Olympic Sunday coming up soon.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Olympics 2010, Saturday, Feb. 20

Today I watched:
Ice Hockey, Norway vs. Switzerland
Ski jumping, men's large hill, finals
Skiing, women's aerials, qualifcations
Cross country, men's 15,000m pursuit
Speed skating, men's 1500m (long track)
Two-man bobsled, men's
Skiing, women's Super G
Speed skating, men's short track, 1000m, quarterfinals, semifinals, finals
Speed skating, women's short track, 1500m, heats, semifinals, finals

We're more than halfway through the Olympics!

I don't think I have ever watched aerial skiing in the Olympics before, which is difficult to believe, since my research tells me it has been an Olympic event since 1994. I really loved the event and am excited for the finals.

The cross country was, yet again, exciting! The race featured a Swedish skiier, Johan Olsson, who took off during the freestyle portion of the 15,000m pursuit, which the commentators said was unheard of. They said that the field usually remains tight until near the end of the race. Apparently skiing at the front all alone is more difficult than skiing with the pack. Olsson did get tired near the end of the race, and ended up with a bronze, but he seemed thrilled with the result.

The Super G was less crash-filled than the women's downhill was a few days ago, which was good for the competitors, but not quite as good for the drama. Today also featured a lot of speed skating, which is always fun and easy to watch.

I wasn't planning on watching hockey today, but am really glad I caught the Norway vs. Switzerland game, which was far more exciting than I had anticipated. It went to overtime, with Switzerland winning 5-4. It was great to see two of the weaker teams in the tournament play so well.

Today's events were exactly what I needed after being so exhausted yesterday and having a big day ahead of me tomorrow. I liked everything I watched, other than the bobsledding. And it's not that I don't enjoy the bobsled, but as I have said before, races like luge, skeleton and bobsled can get boring to watch after awhile--they are all going down the same track of ice and there is no way to really know how they are doing compared to the field.

Tomorrow is going to be a huge day. There are three major hockey games: Russia vs. Czech Republic, Canada vs. USA, and Sweden vs. Finland. The first match features two great teams, and the Russians really need to pull out a win so they can get a bye in the first elimination round of the tournament. I also just read an article that says Malkin is being moved up to Russia's first line to play with Ovechkin and Semin, and Datsyuk will be playing on the second line with Kovalchuk and Afinogenov. I was actually thinking that the team should do that during the game against Slovakia, because Datsyuk didn't seem to be fitting with Ovi and Semin, and the Malkin line was going absolutely nowhere. Canada vs. USA is obviously going to be huge--the two teams are the only ones that are made up exclusively of NHL players. Sweden vs. Finland is a rematch from the gold medal game in the 2006 Turin Olympics (Sweden won the gold, Finland settled for silver). That's 7.5 hours of solid hockey.

But there's more than just hockey tomorrow: there's more ice dancing, the men's Super G, women's speed skating and women's cross country. Additionally, the event of ski cross makes its Olympic debut. I loved the snowboard cross, so I'm sure I'm going to love ski cross as well.

I'm going to rest up for a very big day tomorrow!


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Olympics 2010, Friday, Feb. 19

Today I watched:
Skiing, cross-country women's 15,000m pursuit
Ski jumping, men's normal hill, qualification round
Skiing, men's Super G
Ice dancing, compulsory dance
Curling, men's, USA vs. France
Snowboarding, women's half-pipe final (taped on Thursday, watched on Friday)
Skeleton, women's, 4th (final) run
Skeleton, men's, 3rd run
Ice hockey, Finland vs. Germany
Watched clips only: Ice hockey, Sweden vs. Belarus

Watching the Olympics is hard work. I'm officially exhausted. I have been planning my days around Olympic viewing, and when I couldn't devote my entire day to the Games yesterday it really threw me off. Regardless, I am caught up and am hoping for a good night of sleep so I can start out strong tomorrow.

Yet again, cross-country skiing was really exciting. Today was the women's 15,000m , cross-country women's 15k pursuit, which is a race that starts using the classical technique, and at a point during the race the skiiers change skis and ski using a freestyle technique. The race came down to a photo finish for the bronze medal, with Justina Kowalczyk of Poland just edging her Norwegian competitor. Gobo and I were cheering for Kowalczyk because she was the only racer wearing short sleeves. It was over 50 degrees today in Vancouver and the race looks really grueling, so I'm surprised others didn't opt for the cooler option. Gobo and I creatively called Kowalczyk "short sleeves" throughout the race.

The commentary during this Olympics leaves much to be desired, and today featured a classic line during the 15k pursuit. The announcer said "it's funny how you always ski to the limit of a race. If it's a 10k you're still fried at the end. If it's a 15, you spread out the energy." Wow, what a concept. When you race, no matter the distance, you race as quickly as you can for that period of time. When the distance is longer, you pace yourself a little more slowly so that you exhaust yourself at the end of the race, as opposed to before the end of the race. Who would have thought it? I'm so glad it was brought to my attention during the Olympics.

The repetition of the same ice dancing song and routine for each team was a bit tedious. Ice dancing is by far my least favorite figure skating event because it lacks jumps and excitement. It was interesting, however, to see how different teams dancing the same steps to the same music could differ so much. I don't know much about ice dancing, but it was obvious to me that the Russian team currently in first had the best dance--they seemed to glide more effortlessly than the other teams and they exuded charisma that I didn't get from anyone else.

More than any other Olympic sport, I cannot understand why anyone would ever want to compete in the skeleton. Could there be anything scarier than riding down a huge ice course face first, stomach down on a tiny sled? Terrifying.

In addition to watching the actual events, I also watched about 15 interviews between Bob Costas and Evan Lysacek. Does Team USA mandate that Evan wear his gold medal everywhere? It is so big that it looks a bit silly. Today I found out that Evan is part-Greek. I can't wait to tell my dad tomorrow, I love telling him when I find out some new random person is Greek. Opa!

Tomorrow seems like a pretty easy day: ski jumping, freestyle skiing, women's super G, 1000m short track speed skating and my new favorite sport, cross-country skiing. The hockey matches are Norway vs. Switzerland, Belarus vs. Germany, and Latvia vs. Slovakia, so I'm thinking I will skip those. Sunday will be a huge hockey day, so I should probably take it easy tomorrow and rest up a bit.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Olympics 2010, Thursday, Feb. 18

I was going to post this last night, but when I finally finished watching the Olympics after 4 a.m. and realized I needed to be awake in less than five hours, I decided to wait.

I didn't have as big a day yesterday as some of the others, despite staying up until very late. I didn't get started until late, and then messed up my entire schedule. It also didn't help that two hockey games went to shootouts.

I watched:
Biathalon, women's 15,000m
Snowboarding, women's half-pipe qualifying round
Skiing, women's super combined
Ice hockey, men's, United States vs. Norway
Ice hockey, men's, Canada vs. Switzerland
Ice hockey, men's, Russia vs. Slovakia
Figure skating, men's long program

There were actually a number of events on yesterday that I didn't get to watch because the time got away from me. No worries--they are recorded and I will finish watching them today. Between the hockey games and figure skating, it was an exciting Olympic-watching night for me. I was disappointed that Russia lost to Slovakia (as I said in an earlier post, Slovakia should not be counted out). Russia just didn't have the firepower that they should have in the game. Also, I was flabbergasted that Russia's coach gave Ovechkin so many shootout chances. For those who don't know, in the Olympics, if a hockey game is tied after regulation it goes to sudden-death overtime for five minutes. If it is still tied, it goes to a shootout. Each team must choose three different players to shoot. If the score is still tied after each team has players shoot, the shootout continues with one player from each team shooting in each round until the tie is broken at the end of a round. I absolutely adore Ovechkin (really, I totally worship him), but the one thing he is not great at is shootouts. This is pretty common knowledge in DC. Despite this, Ovechkin was chosen as one of the first three players to shoot for Russia. Again, not totally surprising, because he does have an incredible shot. He did score, but so did someone from Slovakia, so the score was still tied after the first three players from each team went. At that point, Russia had Ovechkin shoot again. At that point they hadn't tried Kovalchuk, Malkin or Semin, so I was surprised. He didn't make it in, so they gave Kovalchuk the next chance. When he didn't make it, they again had Ovechkin try (he missed again). I found it confusing.

Canada's game also went to a shootout. In their case, Sidney Crosby (although I'm not a fan, I will be fair and say he is very good at the shootout) missed on his first try. But after both goalies blanked the three shooters, they put Crosby back out there and he scored for a Canada win. Boo. Canada did not look great against Switzerland at all, Russia lacked firepower against Slovakia, and although the US won, they looked anemic for much of their game against Norway. It will be interesting to see if Sweden looks strong today on their second game of the tournament or if they falter as well.

It was nice to see Evan Lysacek win the gold in figure skating. I have never been a huge fan of Plushenko, and I thought that Lysacek actually skated a more exciting program. It does seems odd to me that there are still men competing who don't have any quad jumps in their programs, let alone that there are men winning Olympic gold medals without quad jumps. I think the most impressive thing about Lysacek was his spins. I know that Todd Eldridge was always known for his spins, but I prefer Lysacek's. I was never a fan of Eldridge's (he seemed very whiny), but I don't think that is biasing my opinion.

I'm going to take a short rest before watching more Olympics and catching up on what I missed yesterday.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Olympics 2010, Wednesday, Feb. 17

Today I watched:
Skiing, women's cross country 1500m sprint
Skiing, men's cross country 1500m sprint
Curling, men's, USA vs. Switzerland
Ice hockey, men's, Sweden vs. Germany
Speedskating, men's 1000m
Snowboarding, men's half-pipe
Speedskating, men's short-track, 1000m qualifying heats
Skiing, women's downhill
Speedskating, men's short-track 5000m relay semifinal round
Curling, women, Sweden vs. Great Britain
Speedskating, women's short-track 500m qualifying heats, semifinals and final
Doubles luge, men's

Between Lindsey Vonn's run and Shaun White's half-pipe, today was a dramatic day for Team USA. I get sick of the White coverage, but today's showing was really phenomenal. Even to someone like me, who only watches half-pipe every four years, it was obvious that he was far better than his competitors. Impressive.

Vonn's win was impressive too, and the event was dramatic. I don't think I have ever seen so many falls in an Olympic race, and the falls all looked awful.

I was confused about something the commentators said today. When discussing the men's 1000m (long-track) speedskating field, they said that they thought Canada's decision to prohibit non-Canadians to train with their team hurt Canada's speedskater. I'm curious as to why Canada decided to force its skaters to train without foreigners, especially if it worked to the detriment of the Canadian skater. Of course, the announcers didn't explain the reasoning at all.

As I said yesterday, I enjoy watching curling. Today I decided that since the commentators couldn't coherently explain anything about how points are scored, I would ask a Canadian friend. So now I understand how to get a point in curling. For anyone else interested, here is what he says: You get as many points as you have rocks nearest the target and inside the rings before the other team has one. So if the order of stones nearest the center is AAABBA, then A gets 3 points and B gets 0. If it's ABBBBBB, A gets 1 point and B gets 0. The trick is that if you score a point then the other team gets to go last in the next "end", which is a big advantage. So teams will usually try to avoid scoring only 1 point if they can; 0 points is often better than just 1.

Doesn't that help? Tomorrow I will try to figure out what "the hammer" is and how it fits into the rest of the game.

One thing I have found that I don't like about curling is that it is a very, very slow sport. I watched some of the USA-Switzerland at the gym today. I spend an hour at the gym, and when I got there the match was in the fifth end (an end is like a round or a set within a larger match or game--you score points after each end, and there are ten ends in all). When I left the gym an hour later, the match was in the...eighth end. I was at the gym for an hour and saw less than a third of the match? That seems ridiculous.

I watched a period of the Sweden-Germany game (would have watched more, but because of the endless curling match, CNBC didn't show the first period of the game, and I was recording too many things during the third period to be able to watch). Capital Niklas Backstrom had a very pretty pass to set up the second goal of the game, which Sweden won 2-0. Germany actually put up a good fight against a team that is considered far better. I'm so happy that former Islander Uwe Krupp is now Team Germany's coach--it's great to see players from my youth resurface.

I thought Sweden looked really good--their passing was nice and they didn't look sloppy. They really just looked like a team that had played together before. I thought the same of both the Czech Republic and Slovakia. I watched that game in its entirety, and thought both teams looked strong. Jagr, in particular, looked great for the Czech Republic. As for Slovakia, no one even the team when discussing medals, but I think that's a mistake. Slovakia has Chara, Gaborik, Hossa and Halat, and that's really not a bad team at all. Tomorrow Russia plays Slovakia, and it will be interesting to see if Russia plays a more organized game than they did yesterday, and it will be interesting to see how Halat and his team handles the Russian firepower.

I really don't know why anyone would want to be a member of a doubles luge team. I wouldn't want to be on the bottom, having someone else sit on top of me, but I also wouldn't want to be on top--I would feel like I was crushing my teammate, and your body is more open to injury. Does anyone see an upside to this sport?


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Russian hockey player or Wonder Woman?

I can't get over the atrocious socks that the Russian hockey team is wearing during the Olympics. The vertical stripes down the front make them look like Wonder Woman. Take a look for yourself:

The fact that some players (like Ovechkin) secure their socks with colored athletic tape makes the look even worse, because the horizontally-applied tape cuts the line of the stripe, making it look like there are two segments of striping on the sock. It's just not a good look.

A few other quick thoughts after the hockey game. As I said in my previous post, Russia looked sloppy, despite winning 8-2. The aspect of their play that worried me the most was the number of no-look passes the players were dishing out. A no-look pass can be great at the right time in a game, but it doesn't make sense to make a pass like that when there are several players from the opposing team between you and your teammate. Hopefully the team will look at the game tape and decide that they don't need to be as fancy when moving the puck.

What bothered me the most, however, was a discussion the announcers (I believe it was Kenny Albert and Joe Micheletti) had about Sergei Gonchar's wife. They mentioned that Gonchar had met her at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, where his wife was an ice dancer for Armenia. They then noted that Gonchar's wife came in last in that Olympics, which was 24th place. They were clearly laughing about her last place finish. After listening to Bob Costas talk about how for most athletes just being part of the Olympic experience is an accomplishment, it was disappointing to hear two announcers laughing about someone who went to the games and competed, even if she didn't do well. They did end the discussion by saying something like "at least she made it to the games," but even that wasn't all that great, and their comment that "at least she found a husband!" was off-putting at best.

More hockey tonight, with Sweden, the Czech Republic and Slovakia being the most notable teams. Russia plays again tomorrow.


Olympics 2010, Tuesday, Feb. 16

Today I watched:
Ice Hockey, men's, USA vs. Switzerland (missed about half of each period)
Ice Hockey, men's, Canada vs. Norway (only a few minutes)
Figure skating, men's short program.
Curling, men's, USA vs. Germany
Curling, women's, USA vs. Japan
Snowboard cross, women's quarterfinals, semifinals, finals
Biathalon, women's 10,000m
Biathalon, men's 12,500m
Ice Hockey, men's, Russia vs. Latvia

Some thoughts:
If I didn't already have an Olympic boyfriend, I might have chosen Swiss figure skater Stephane Lambiel. I loved the sleeves of his outfit, the pant/boot combination, and he's pretty cute. (The photo doesn't do his face justice, but you can see his outfit in all its glory. His wasn't even the most outrageous--not by a long shot. I should do an entire post on men's figure skating costumes.) On the other hand, I cannot stand Johnny Weir. His whole attitude about fur makes me dislike him; of course it's wrong that people are threatening him, but his complete lack of consideration or introspection about the fur issue disturbs me.

Curling continues to confuse me. I like watching it, but I really don't understand how the scoring works. I watched today's match between the US and Germany from the beginning, hoping the announcers would explain the sport to me. But no. I understand a little, but not much. Regardless, I was happy to see that my Olympic dream is not over; some of the curlers are over 30 years old!

Biathalon was exciting today! So much so that Bailey sent me an e-mail that said, in its entirety, "biathalon is exciting!" Both the men's and women's races came down to shooting in the last lap; it was all full of suspense.

I was shocked to see Lindsey Jacobellis go down in her semifinal. She has been such a big story at the Olympics, and I always figure that the big stories will somehow succeed. But not Lindsey. However, it was really nice seeing someone who grew up right outside of Vancouver win.

I have a lot of thoughts on the hockey--so many that I think I'm going to hold most of them and try to write a post devoted to hockey tomorrow. But in case I don't (quite likely), a few quick thoughts. I didn't watch very much of the Canada-Norway game, but I saw about half of each period of the USA-Switzerland game and Russia-Latvia game, and I didn't think USA or Russia looked great. The US won 3-1 and Russia blew out Latvia 8-2, but the Swiss and Latvians were not considered great competitors. The US seemed to lack firepower, and Russia just looked sloppy. It often looked like the Russians were trying to make pretty plays rather than trying to score. I realize the teams are getting used to playing together, and have only been doing so for a few days, so hopefully things will improve. It was nice to see Ovi score twice (bringing his Olympic total to 7 goals in 9 games).

Tomorrow there is more hockey cross-country skiing, snowboarding halfpipe, downhill skiing and speedskating. Speaking of speedskating, my television's online guide said I would be seeing women's speedskating (500m), but I didn't. What happened there?


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympics 2010, Monday, Feb. 15

Today I watched:

Skiing, women's cross-country 15,000m
Skiing, men's cross-country 10,000m
Snowboard cross, men's qualifiers, semi-finals and finals
Skiing, men's downhill finals
Speed skating, men's 500m
Figure skating, pairs long program
Luge, women's, run 2

This was a great Olympic television-watching day for me. I loved watching the snowboarding--it's so fun watching them speed down the hill, and it's always so exciting when there are four snowboarders going head-to-head(-to head-to head).

Pairs skating is one of my favorite Olympic events, so watching the long program was great. I have to admit that some tears may have sprung into my eyes when Shen and Zhou won the gold medal. NBC has been shoving their story down our throats for two days now (they are 31 and 36 years old, have been skating together for 18 years, are married, and came out of retirement for one last chance to win the gold--the one goal they hadn't accomplished in their skating career), and it is compelling! I also thought they had chemistry on the ice.

The commentary that accompanies the skating, however, leaves much to be desired. Dick Button is clearly far past his prime, and his comments can sometimes seem non-sensical, awkward, or slightly incoherent. He talked with Al Michaels some of the issues he has with the grading system, and Al could not have looked more bored. Way to put on the game face, Al.

Some of the stories are not quite as moving. During the downhill, we were told that one of the skiiers had broken his thumb two weeks before the Olympics. Yes, that sucks. But I don't think it's quite the story of bravery against all odds that the commentators made it out to be. Hockey players have played through entire playoff series with a broken thumb, and they really need to use their hands at all times in moving their stick and controlling the puck. Does a downhill skiier really use his thumb all that much? Is it a shocking story when one decides to race through the pain for the few minutes the race lasts? I'm not saying the racer wasn't impressive, but the NBC coverage was hyperbolic.

Tomorrow is the premiere of hockey! USA vs. Switzerland at 3 p.m., Canada versus Norway at 8 p.m., and Russia versus Latvia at midnight. USA, Canada and Russia should win the games pretty easily, but it will be fun to start watching some hockey. The Washington Post ran a photo of the skates Ovechkin will be wearing during the Olympics.


Monday, February 15, 2010


Can Steve Nash be my Olympic boyfriend? I love him so much, and he did carry the torch in the Opening Ceremonies, so that's something.

Otherwise, maybe Johnny Spillane or Bode Miller (even though he's a jerk). Maybe I should have a new one every day.

Olympics 2010, Sunday, Feb. 14

Today I watched:
Nordic combined, men's
More men's luge
Biathalon, men's
3000m speed skate, women's
Moguls, men's
Figure skating, pairs, short program

I learned what the Nordic combined is: ski jumping and cross-country skiing. I thought it was really interesting to watch, and every time I saw the athletes take another stride with the skis, I thought about the ten minute maximum I can handle on the gym's cross country machine.

I watched the luge for a second day in a row, and although I like watching their speed going down the course, after watching a few athletes go down, the sport can get kind of boring to watch. It consists of four rounds, so there is a lot of repetition, and there isn't any way you can really tell who is faster and who is slower, except for the clock running on the bottom of the screen. I think it would be more exciting if there were head-to-head competition as they go down the course, but I realize that would be impossible.

I also enjoyed watching the biathalon; it's an interesting event because not all of the competitors start at the same time, which means that short bursts of bad weather can hurt a small number of athletes who have the misfortune to be competing at that moment. That happened today, as there was a short period of time when a pretty heavy snow was falling.

Speed skating and moguls were both a lot of fun for the second day in a row.

As I mentioned yesterday, pairs skating is one of my favorite events (I still remember Gordeeva and Grinkov winning the gold in 1994). I was confused by some of the scores during the competition: teams that flubbed a good bit were scored above teams that skated cleanly. The commentators seemed confused as well. Tomorrow is the long program, which should be interesting because there are a number of teams within a very small point range after the short program.

Tomorrow: snowboarding, speed skating, cross country skiing, pairs figure skating.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Olympics 2010, Saturday, Feb. 13

Just keeping track of what I watched today:

Ski jumping, men's normal hill final
Speedskating, men's 5000 m final
Women's biathalon qualifiers
1500m speed skating, men's 1500 qualifiers and final
Moguls, women's qualifications and finals
3000m short track speed skating relay, women's qualifiers
Luge, men's qualifiers
Ice hockey, women's round robin, Sweden v. Switzerland

I only watched a few minutes of the hockey game, and women's ice hockey is the one sport I think I might skip a bit. I'm planning on watching pretty much all of the men's hockey games (or as many as I can manage), and at two hours per game, with 2-3 games a day, that's going to be a lot of hockey. And it's not like hockey is all I have--I also have to keep up with all of the other events as well. I expect I'll still watch the medal matches for the women's hockey tournament, and maybe catch a few minutes here and there, but that's about it.

I don't have any big thoughts from today. I love watching moguls, and I love hearing about the million injuries all of the competitors have overcome. I guess when you really love a sport you don't think to say something like "Six knee surgeries is enough, I'm going to stop competing." (Oh, and Gobo thinks Michelle Roark looks like Olive Snook.)

I'm excited for tomorrow: more speed skating, luge and biathalon, the Nordic combined (I have to admit, I'm not sure what this is, but I'm eager to learn), and one of my absolute favorites: pairs figure skating. Tomorrow is the short program.

The photo is the first gold medalist for the US, Hannah Kearney, who won in moguls. The outfits the US mogul competitors wore were absolutely awful, with all of those stars. But Kearney was pretty great!


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Olympic Boyfriend

Some of the Junkettes have gotten into a tradition of naming an Olympic boyfriend at every games. Mine during the summer games was Marian Dragulescu, the Romanian gymnast who was also my Olympic boyfriend in 2004. Bailey's was Aaron Peirsol.

Gobo just asked me who my new Olympic boyfriend would be for this Olympics. The answer was obvious (so obvious, I was shocked he asked). Obviously my Olympic boyfriend is Alex Ovechkin. How could it possibly be anyone else? I wonder if Bailey and Holt have Olympic boyfriends this time around.

A Professional Olympics Watcher

I just realized that there is no better time to be unemployed than during the Olympics. I'm a huge Olympics fan and I just realized that I will be able to watch pretty much everything NBC (and its affiliated channels) has to offer.

I think I'm going to put together an Olympic-watching schedule tonight. Coverage generally seems to start at around 2-3 p.m., and ends between 3-5 a.m. I guess I might have to become a daysleeper for two weeks.

Fun fact: this blog started four years ago during the Turin Olympics. (I can still remember debating with Holt over whether it should be called Torino (my choice) or Turin (hers). I can now say I was wrong and she was right.) I know no one has posted on this blog in a long time, but I thought it would be nice to have somewhere to record my viewing, and I can't think of a better place.