Sunday, February 28, 2010

Memorable Games

After almost 17 days, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games are almost over.
It's been filled with a lot of excitement, drama, tragedy and redemption, which is why it's the Olympics.
It started off badly with the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, which brought a sombre start to the Opening Ceremony, that was nonetheless very Canadiana with Wayne Gretzy lighting the torch.
This was followed by violent protests by anti-Olympics people, but they soon disappeared and Vancouver got into the spirit of things by the end of the first week of the Games. People flooded the downtown core wearing anything red, from hockey jerseys to scarves, and the ubiquitous red mittens that even Oprah distributed to her show audience. The burning patriotic passion was unprecedented for usually reserved Canadians.
Then came the sad news that figure skater Joannie Rochette's mother suddenly passed away two days before her short program. However, Rochette, either through shock or determination or both, gracefully performed and managed to win bronze in the end. Rochette spoke so eloquently after her win, saying how her mother was probably with her during her skate and how she didn't want to regret not competing, as it was her childhood dream to compete in the Olympics.
Excitement also started to build when Canada started winning medals on Day 2 and by the end of Day 16, has 13 gold medals, unprecedented for any host city, and the overall medal haul topped best-ever results in Turin with 25. The host country is guaranteed a medal tomorrow at the men's hockey match against the United States.
The most memorable moments were Alexandre Bilodeau winning the first gold on Canadian soil, and Maelle Ricker being the first woman to win gold in her hometown; the skating pair of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Jon Montgomery drinking a pitcher of beer in Whistler Village and the hockey team losing its preliminary match against the US.
Meanwhile, China had the same medal count of 11 in Turin, but the number of golds significantly increased. In 2006, China won two golds, four silvers and five bronze, and in Vancouver the Middle Kingdom got five golds, two silvers and four bronze.
China had many firsts in these Games, including a gold and silver in the pairs figure skating, a bronze in curling and Wang Meng winning three golds in short track speed skating. Her compatriot Zhou Yang won her first-ever gold in the 500m race, followed by another in the 1,500m and was handsomely rewarded with an apartment for her parents in Changchun.
Overall it seems Chinese Olympic Committee officials are pleased.
"We can say that at these Olympic Games we have had a major breakthrough in winter sports," said Xiao Tian, deputy chef de mission. "Of all our athletes the Chinese ladies' short track team is by far the most successful."
He also added they were pleased with the men's and women's freestyle aerials, where seven of the eight competitors made the finals. The only one who didn't make it was defending champion Han Xiaoopeng.
Nevertheless, the Chinese team credits part of its success to hiring eight foreign coaches for the athletes. For example, the freestyle aerialists are coached by Dustin Wilson, and the curlers by Dan Rafael. After his angry outbursts of the performance of the curlers, and yet helping China win a bronze may lead to a saving face for both parties involved.
While winter sports are not China's forte, its latest medal haul is a good sign that the country is rapidly improving and hopefully garner more interest and appreciation from its people.


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