Feb. 14: Korea scores!
And the crowd goes wild! Korea scores their first goal ever in Olympic hockey history!
Randi Heesoo Griffin is now in the history books!
Watch: https://t.co/LzsJTMFyWr pic.twitter.com/Pr0Z4HksOP
— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) February 14, 2018
It was more symbolic than it was competitive: North and South Korea uniting for a joint women’s hockey team (the latter provided most of the players). They lost 8-0 to Switzerland and 8-0 again to Sweden in the preliminary round, and it looked like they would end the competition without even a goal to their name.
But then, on Valentine’s Day, in the second period against Japan, Randi Heesoo Griffin sent a weak shot through traffic, that bounced off Japanese goaltender Akane Konshi’s leg and into the net. The players, and the crowd, celebrated as if they’d won gold.
In the end, it didn’t matter. Japan won the game 4-1. But as the first goal by a united Korean team at the Olympics, it made history.
Feb. 15: Meagan and Eric
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were third going into the free skate of the pairs figure skating competition, but just barely ahead of Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany, who then put on a near-perfect skate for a score of 235.90 to rocket into first place.
It looked like it was all over for the Canadian pair right off the top. On their second jump, a synchronized triple lutz, Duhamel put both hands down, though she stayed on her feet.
It was the culmination of a disappointing few years for the couple. They finished seventh in Sochi. They switched music for their long program. They had organizational problems, physical problems, mental problems, and though it looked like they had gotten it together with a program set to Adele’s Hometown Glory, this last competitive skate of their careers looked like it might be headed for disaster.
But it didn’t. Their next jump, a throw quad salchow, in which Radford launches Duhamel in the air, she spins around four times and then lands on one foot, landed. And so did the rest of their routine.
After they finished, Duhamel collapsed to the ice and began convulsing. They didn’t know how they would finish, or even if they’d make the podium, but they did what they came here to do, they landed the last quad they’ll ever have to do, and they left the ice happy.
The next skaters, a pair from China, pushed them down to third. The last pair, from Russia, couldn’t put on the skate they needed, and their five-point lead on the Canadians evaporated. Radford and Duhamel won the bronze medal, and the knowledge that their careers ended on the right foot.
Feb. 15: Luge redemption
They were supposed to win in Sochi. Instead, the team of Alex Gough, Sam Edney, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith missed the podium by 0.1 seconds, coming so heartbreakingly close to Canada’s first Olympic medal in luge.
In December, the history books were rewritten as the Russian team’s silver medal was taken away from them. Canada was upgraded to bronze. But that decision was overturned on appeal just before these Olympics.
In Pyeongchang, the same foursome didn’t let it happen again. They posted a time of 2:24.872, about a tenth of a second ahead of Austria and three tenths behind Germany, to win the silver medal.
Feb. 15: Ted-Jan Bloemen can’t watch
Ted-Jan Bloemen has an interesting story. Before 2014, he was on the Dutch speed-skating team. But competing against the best team in the world he felt was holding him back. He didn’t make it to the team for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. So he switched allegiances, and took advantage of his father’s Canadian citizenship to move to Canada and join its team instead.
It worked out pretty well for him, and Canada. Bloemen won silver in the men’s 5000m, and then was going for gold in the 10000m, where he was No. 1 on the world cup circuit this season and held the world record set in 2015.
Bloemen was in the second-last of six pairs in the final. His splits were good — from 400m to 8400m, his laps were all between 30 and 31 seconds. Then as he approached the finish, he got a little faster. Three of his final four laps were under 30 seconds, and his fastest was his last: 29.81 seconds, to set a new Olympic record of 12:39.77 in the race.
But it wasn’t over. There was one pair to go. And in that pair is the best male speed skater of all time, Sven Kramer of the Netherlands. Kramer beat Bloemen in the 5000m for gold. Kramer won the world championship in the 10000m, and had won it at the worlds four other times. He was the silver medallist in Sochi. If anyone could beat Bloemen, it was Kramer.
Onmacht #Sven en ongeloof bij #TedJan in één beeld gevangen. Wat een topschaatsers, wat een groots respect voor hun prestaties.#OlympischeWinterspelen #OlympicStars #OlympicGames2018 pic.twitter.com/W26xO5HZs1
— paul vreeke (@paulvreeke) February 15, 2018
The stress was so much that Bloemen couldn’t bear to watch Kramer’s skate. His face was red, his head in his hands. But there was no need. Kramer wasn’t even halfway done his final lap when Bloemen’s time went by. He had beaten the Dutch superstar by more than 20 seconds.
And thanks to Canada, Bloemen went from Dutch reject to Olympic champion in only four years.
Bloemen’s medals are the only ones at these Olympics for Canada in speed skating. It’s a disappointment for the country overall, but Bloemen provided a silver lining.
And a gold one.
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.
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.