My top 2018 Olympic moments

Feb. 17: Ester Ledecka shocks herself with a gold in women’s super G

Ester Ledecka is a Czech snowboarder, and a really good one. She was the defending gold medallist in the parallel giant slalom. But she decided two years ago she also wanted to do downhill skiing. She continued training for both disciplines despite her coaches insisting she choose, not to mention the scheduling conflicts. While she had two junior championships and two world championships on the snowboard, her best race on skis was a seventh-place finish in the downhill in Lake Louise in December. In super G, her best season was 2016-17 when she finished in 38th place. No top 10 finishes, much less any world championships.

When her coaches said she could do top 15 in the super G, she was very skeptical. But she made the final, and was the 26th skier to take the course. Lindsey Vonn was first, and medal favourites like Lara Gut and Anna Veith were already done, with Veith in the lead at 1:21.12.

The CBC commentators were busy discussing trivia about her two-sport nature and surprising performances on skis, and it was about a minute into the race before they realized that she was getting split times ahead of all the other competitors. Ledecka had even less of an idea how she was doing — she was a bit too busy to look at a TV screen.

When she crossed the line, the time stopped at 1:21:11. The number -0.01 appeared in green, showing she was ahead of Veith by 1/100 of a second.

On the Czech TV broadcast carrying the event, all you could hear was screaming from the commentators as Ledecka came to a stop and looked at the scoreboard.

What makes this moment for me is the expression on her face. She’s not excited, she’s … confused. Either the scoreboard is not functioning properly or she’s not reading it right. “There must be some mistake,” she says.

No, there was no mistake. None of the remaining skiers challenged for her time — the best one came in 14th place. Ledecka’s position stayed and she won the gold medal, the first for the Czech Republic at these Olympics.

The country finished with seven medals, including two golds. The other gold medal was in the women’s parallel giant slalom snowboard event.

The winner? Ester Ledecka. That one didn’t surprise anyone.

Feb. 17: “Can I give you a hug?”

She ended up in 12th, and the third of three Canadians in the women’s skeleton final, but Mirela Rahneva, whose parent moved to Canada from Bulgaria when she was 10, had the more emotional interview after the race, saying she was racing for her mother, who died the previous summer from cancer. She asked interviewer Karina Leblanc if she could hug her, and Leblanc obliged.

Feb. 19: Just happy to be here

Her name is Elizabeth Marian Swaney. She’s American, but because her mother’s parents are from Hungary she was able to represent that country at the Olympics. She required top 30 finishes at world cup events to qualify, so she got that mainly by going to world cup events that had fewer than 30 participants. She had no tricks, except to finish simple runs to get nominal scores.

In the women’s ski halfpipe qualifying, as her competitors made cool jumps and rotations in the air, she was content to simply ski up and back down. Her score of 31.40 on her second run was enough for 24th in the 24-person field.

She’s not the first athlete to switch countries to go to the Olympics. Ted-Jan Bloemen switched to Canada from the Netherlands. And athletes representing non-winter countries like Nigeria, Jamaica and Tonga generally live and train elsewhere. But they generally don’t enter competitions like this one, where their lack of skill is so evident.

Feb. 19: Patrick Chan tears up

CBC reached out to Olympians’ families and asked them to write letters to them, which they read on camera. Patrick Chan’s was a highlight.

Feb. 19: A tie for gold

Bobsleigh has been a struggle for Canada, historically, with the notable exception of Kaillie Humphries on the women’s side. The last time Canadian men won gold, it was Pierre Lueders
and David MacEachern in 1998, in a tie with an Italian team.

Justin Kripps and Alex Kopacz were in first place by 0.06 seconds going into the final run, ahead of Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis of Germany. That’s nothing in this sport. The team still needed a perfect run for gold.

The start was 0.07 seconds slower than their German counterparts. Their lead was already gone, and they were in the read by 0.01 seconds. At the second split, they’re behind by 0.05. At the third, 0.02. Then the time turns green. Ahead by 0.01. Then by 0.03. They’re neck and neck, and we won’t know until that finish time pops up how they rank. They’re ahead, but their speed is slightly slower than the Germans. We hold our breath. Will that time difference be red or will it be green?

Seconds later, they cross the finish line, and the time difference is in … white.

0.00.

A tie for gold. Again.

The Canadian teammates jump for joy. And so do the Germans, who rush to the track, raise their arms for their fans and go to embrace Kopacz as Kripps climbs out of the sled. At the Olympics not everyone can win. But every now and then, victory can be shared.

One thought on “My top 2018 Olympic moments

  1. dilbert

    For the me, the olympics left me cold – and not just because of the weather. It’s because the Olympics are no longer about athletes being great in and of themselves but rather in a never ending, more and more expensive process of eliminating hundredth of seconds from a performance through aerodynamic testing, improved materials, hi-tech and insanely expensive equipment, and the like.

    Bobsleds? The number bandied about for the Jamaican team was somewhere around $50,000. You can imagine the piles of money put into development skis, snowboards, uniforms, googles, whatever. It’s not best athlete with a standard kit, but often the powerhouse countries who can afford the most high end equipment that win.

    That’s sad.

    Few sports are immune to the problem, the Olympics just make it a little more obvious at times.

    I didn’t even get into doping. The amount of money, time, and effort put into doping, anti-doping, anti-anti-doping, masking agents, sneaky (and cheaty) IV drips and whatnot… it’s all pretty disheartening.

    I long since got over the Olympics, any national pride is always overwhelmed by the idea that our athletes might do better with more funding, or would be beaten soundly by better athletes if their countries would finance the whole deal. That seems to kill the idea of amateur sports.

    Reply

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