Category Archives: Sochi 2014

SOCHI REFLECTIONS

There was far too much sports action going on to keep track of all that was happening. However ten days after the games finished in Sochi, some results and events have obviously made more of an impact on me than others. Here are some of my recollections:-

OLYMPIC RECORD for GB WOMEN’S CURLING TEAM (Bronze Winners)

Eve Muirhead’s team made Olympic history in their 2nd round robin match against the USA. They won this game 12-3 in 6 ends after securing an amazing 7 points in one end. Previously the best score in a single end was six.

MULTIPLE WORLD RECORD’S IN FIGURE SKATING

Pairs Short: Volosohar & Trankov (RUS) 84.17                Men’s Short: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) 101.45

Ice-Dance Short: Davis & White (USA) 78.89                   Ice-Dance Total: Davis & White (USA) 195.52

Ice-Dance Free: Davis & White (USA 116.63

MOST SUCCESSFUL WINTER OLYMPIAN

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen going into the Sochi Games had 11 Winter Olympic medals (inc. 6 Golds) from 5 previous games. Participating in the gruelling sport of BIATHLON he hoped to equal or better the record of fellow Norwegian Bjorn Daehlie (total 12/8 of them Gold). BJOERNDALEN in his sixth consecutive games succeeded in bettering his countryman’s record by winning Gold in 10km Sprint Biathlon and Gold in the Biathlon Mixed Relay. His tally now reads 13 winter medals/8 of them Gold.

IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR

Justine Dufour-Lapointe secured Gold (youngest freestyle ski gold) for Canada in the Women’s Moguls ahead of her older sister Chloe who took Silver. Another sister Maxime also took part in the event finishing 12th.

A husband and wife team won Gold and Bronze respectively for Russia in races that took place within minutes of each other. American born Vic Wild won Gold for his adopted country in the Men’s Snowboard Parallel Giant Slalom, while his Russian wife Alena Zavarzina took Bronze in the Women’s event.

In the Men’s 500m Speed Skate the Netherlands Michel Mulder took Gold while his twin brother Ronald Mulder secured the Bronze. Another Dutchman took Silver making it 1-2-3 for the Netherlands.

WOMEN FINALLY GET TO SKI JUMP

At long last Women were allowed to participate in a Ski Jump event and competed on the Normal Hill. An analysis of the men’s and women’s results for the same hill made interesting reading. In the final round from a field of 31 men only 7 jumped 100m or more whilst 4 women out of 30 achieved the same result. But the longest actual distance jumped was 104.5m by Women’s Silver medallist Daniela Iraschko-Stolz of Austria, whilst Kamil Stoch of Poland cleared 103.5m to earn the Men’s Gold for Poland. Of course points from earlier rounds are carried forward and style marks make an impact on the final result as well. But it’s intriguing to compare the two together for fun. Women didn’t take part in the Large Hill or Team events.

HOW A MATTER OF SECONDS/CENTIMETRES CAN CHANGE A RESULT BRINGING ECSTASY OR HEARTACHE

In the Women’s Ice-Hockey final between the USA and Canada, the American’s were 2-1 up with just over a minute to go in regular time. The USA had an open goal at their mercy but the puck hit off the right goalpost. The Canadians scooped up the loose puck, thumped it up field and promptly scored, equalising the game with only 54 Seconds on the clock. The game went into overtime and a golden goal situation. Canada won 3-2 with the player who had scored the equaliser taking the winning shot.

Lizzy Yarnold won Gold for GB in the Women’s Skeleton event by 0.97s. Third and Fourth place were separated by only 0.04s, the difference between a medal and nothing.

GB Short Track Speed Skater Elise Christie had to endure heartbreak in 3 events in Sochi. Looking in fine form she reached the 500m Short Track final but took a tumble with two other skaters. Only the Chinese girl was left unhindered and went on to take an easy Gold. Christie and the others picked themselves up and finished the race with Elise looking to have won Silver. However, she was disqualified for having caused the early race fall. In a second event the 1500m a wary Elise apparently eased into a final spot, crossing the line in a virtual photo-finish. But her skate passed 1cm outside the 1.5m finishing line and she was deemed not to have finished! With a few days to get over her obvious disappointments, Elise Christie harnessing all that untapped potential took part in her favoured event the 1000m. In the semi-finals Elise skated conservatively until almost the end when she moved deftly into a second place spot, only to crash out after a Chinese girl fell and took Elise out. To the commentators surprise Elise was not advanced to the final but penalised along with the Chinese athlete, thus being prevented from even taking part in the B Final.

Japan ski jumper Noriaki Kasai (age 41) won an amazing individual Silver medal in the Large Hill event, and a Bronze team medal on the same hill. Kasai appearing in his 7th consecutive winter games just missed securing gold by 1.3 points (about 75/80cm), which isn’t much when you consider the hill jump category, was 140 metres. Interestingly a ski-jumper is only allowed a minimal amount of bagginess in their clothing (up to 6cm), anymore and they are disqualified for having an unfair “lift” advantage.

INCREDIBLE PHOTO-FINISHES

I was riveted by the Men’s 15km Mass Start Biathlon Final which literally went to the line. Norway’s Emil Helge Svendsen with the line in sight threw up his hands in delight at winning Gold. He was completely unaware that Frenchman Martin Fourcade (looking for a hat-trick of Gold medals in Sochi) was coming up the home straight like an express train. He lunged a ski out as he crossed the line alongside Svendsen. A photo-finish showed that both men posted a time of 42m 29.1s but the ankle of Svendson had crossed the line first with the toe of Fourcade behind.

GB’s snowboarder Zoe Gillings missed out on a place in the main final by the narrowest of margins. In her Women’s Snowboard Cross Semi-final all four racers were involved in photo finishes. Canada’s Maltais was judged 1st alongside Bulgaria’s Jekova whilst Moili took 3rd to Gillings 4th. None of the four athletes were upright when they finished, instead all of them flung their outstretched bodies over the line. Only the first three went into the proper final.

In the first quarter-final of the Men’s Ski Cross only one of the four participants crossed the line standing on their skis. Literally feet away from the finishing line, the two leaders crashed followed by the fourth placed guy as well. The Swiss skier Armin Nieder; (third placed during the falls); negotiated around everyone to cross the line first, whilst the others all skidded toward the finish. Russian Egor Korotkov (travelling head first) stretched his arms out full length to break the line in second place, ensuring qualification for the semis.

1-2-3 for ONE NATION

In the Speed Skating events the NETHERLANDS dominated the results and had a clean sweep of the podium in the Women’s 1500m & Men’s 5000m and 500m finals. In fact in the Women’s 1500m it was the first time in Winter Olympic history the top four positions were taken by one country.

In the Olympic debut event of Men’s Ski Slopestyle Team USA swept the podium. Joss Christensen took Gold ahead of his team mates Gus Kenworthy and Nicholas Goepper. Only twice before (56-Men’s figure skating & 2002 Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe) have the USA dominated in this way.

FRANCE (for only the second time ever in their Winter Olympic history) filled the podium in the Men’s Ski Cross event. Jean Frederic Chapuis won Gold, Arnaud Bovolenta took Silver and Jonathan Midol slid over the line on his bottom to secure Bronze. After the event a protest was lodged by Canada & Slovenia against the results, as they felt Team France had violated the dress code using “baggier” clothing. This would have given them potentially more aero-dynamic runs, but the results stand.

In the Women’s 30 km Mass Start Cross Country (Free) event NORWAY filled the podium when Marit Bjoergen won Gold equalling the all time record for a Female Winter Olympian. It was her tenth medal in total with 6 being Gold, and Sochi brought 3 of them.

In the Men’s 50km Mass Start Cross Country (Free) event RUSSIA filled the podium with Alexander Legkov securing Gold and his fellow team-mates Maxim Vylegzhanin winning Silver and Ilia Chernousov Bronze.

SOCHI A GLOBAL PHENOMENA

The Sochi games have by far been the most extensively covered Winter Olympics of all time. Around 240 TV channels worldwide covered the last games from Vancouver, this time it was believed to be 464. Together with online footage being available, websites, apps and other digital platforms such as social media offering opinions on all the action, it was a global sensation.

The Ladies Figure Skating Individual Gold medal was won by Russia with the much fancied South Korean taking Silver. Consternation at this outcome went worldwide, and within 24 hours of the final result being announced 1.74 million signatories were on a petition demanding an inquiry.

Unfortunately not all social media interactions are supportive of the athletes. Elise Christie closed her Twitter account having suffered online bullying after her first event.

A spoof video of a “wolf roaming through the athlete’s accommodation” went viral after being posted on the web. The footage was supposedly shot by a Team USA luger Kate Hansen in Sochi. However the video was filmed in the ABC studios and was the brain-child of American comedian Jimmy Kimmel.

OUT OF THIS WORLD

I read a report on the BBC that medal winners on the 15th of February would have a medal with a difference. On this date last year news reports around the world showed the Chelyabinsk meteorite streaking across Russian skies. It ended its journey in the Russian lake known as Chebarkul, and the meteorite was recovered from there in October 2013. The ten Gold medallists from the anniversary date will receive an additional medal embedded with small fragments of the “out of this world space rock”.

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SOCHI FIGURE SKATING: INDIVIDUAL MEDAL RESULTS

PAIRS: Russian Strength Dominates

In Sochi the outstanding masquerade waltz short program from the Russian Pair Volosozhar & Trankov (1st) was sheer classic perfection. But I preferred the more fun/modern short routine of the German couple Savchenko & Szolkowy who performed to music from the Pink Panther, dressed as the Panther and a policeman respectively. I also enjoyed the brightly clad Canadian Pair Moore-Towers & Moscovich, who performed superbly in their free program scoring 202.18 for overall 6th place. My preference in the free program gravitated more toward the lower end of the spectrum. I loved the Italian Pair Berton & Hotarek performance to the Philip Glass soundtrack Dracula (overall 11th). The complete package just fitted them so well I thought. The American Pair Castelli & Shnapir (overall 9th) almost made history by pulling off a throw quadruple Salchow during their Skyfall routine. Castelli landed two-footed although credit was given in the technical marks. But all eyes were on the top four from the short program for medal contenders. All of them were first time viewing for me as I had missed them during the team event, and I was in for a treat. The German Pair Savchenko & Szolkowy in second place after the short program had falls at the start and end of their free routine, won Bronze with 215.78. Mother Russia took Silver with 218.68 through Stolbova & Klimov performing to The Adams Family music, and Gold with 236.86 from Volosozhar & Trankov performing to Jesus Christ Superstar. The Chinese Pair Qing & Jian put in a solid performance to score 209.98 placing 4th in their last skating season.

MEN: World Record Helps Secure Japan Gold

Drama unfolded in the Men’s individual event when Russian Evgeni Pluschenko pulled up injured in his warm-up and retired from the competition. This resulted in Russia’s only chance of a medal in this event being dashed. Japan’s 19 year old Yuzuru Hanyu made history by scoring the first ever plus 100 marks in the short program (101.45). Having only recently burst onto the international scene Hanyu proved to be the main threat to Canada’s Patrick Chan. In the short program Chan took second with 97.52 whilst Spain’s Javier Hernandez placed third with 86.98. This left the interesting prospect of an Asian, Canadian or Spaniard being within touching distance of the Individual Men’s Gold medal, a feat never seen before. However, anything can happen in the free program, and further drama played out before the Gold medal was awarded. Team USA’s Jeremy Abbott performed a lovely flawless routine to Exogenesis by Muse, scoring a season’s best of 160.12 which earned him 8th in the free program ranking. But having suffered a horrendous fall in the short program (15th), could only manage 12th overall with a score of 232.70. Germany’s Peter Liebers 5th after the short program failed to land his first quadruple jump, thwarting his chance of making the podium, ended up 8th overall (239.87). Other skaters produced errors in their routines including Yuzuru Hanyu, who fell in his first quad and faltered in a triple move as well. His free program scored 178.64 well below his plus 193 season’s best, but his overall tally was 280.09 enough for Japan Gold. A nervous looking Patrick Chan didn’t manage a flawless performance either and secured Silver for Canada with a score of 275.62. But the surprise Bronze medallist was Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten who put in a solid, well executed, flawless routine to move from 9th to 3rd overall with a score of 255.10. This happy ending for Ten was made all the more sweet, having endured an injury blighted season with skin, back and ankle problems. Going into the free program less than nine points separated Ten in 9th from Javier Hernandez in third, but the Spaniard ended 4th overall (253.92) in the competition. A special mention should also go to Michael Christian Martinez the only Filipino at the Games, and the first to compete in the Men’s Individual who placed 19th overall (184.25). He looks to have a promising future ahead of him judging by his assured performance.

 

ICE-DANCE: The Only Question-Who Will Get Bronze?

Before the competition started it seemed everyone had already crowned the American couple Meryl Davis & Charlie White as champions, with the Canadian couple Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir coming a close second. With each couple performing true to form and expectation, the true battle rested with the fight for third place.

Having missed seeing the Ice-Dance short program in the team event, I was interested to find out how the more compulsory elements would be interpreted, and delighted in hearing lots of vocals in the music. Great Britain’s Penny Coombes & Nick Buckland received a very disappointing score of 59.33 leaving them 11th going into the free program.  After the team event they subtly changed their short routine in an attempt to better their scores, but still found no favour with the judges. Their free program dancing to a Michael Jackson medley (91.78) was well received by the audience, but a final score of 151.11 left them 10th overall. Coombes & Buckland’s experience in Sochi highlighted perfectly, how subjective figure skating is as a sport. No two competitions can expect the same kind of judging, and the British couple with the same routines won Bronze last month in the Europeans. Other lower ranking couples who impressed with their free programs included Guignard & Fabri of Italy (86.64) and Hurtado & Diaz of Spain (88.39). Both performed to music associated with their nationality, the Italians moving beautifully to Romeo & Juliet and the Spaniards inhabiting the Surviving Picasso Soundtrack.

Meryl Davis & Charlie White never put a foot wrong to win Gold for Team USA, having come first in both the short and free programs. They scored a season’s best with 116.63 in the free to obtain an unassailable 195.52 lead score. Routines showed a combination of quick, dynamic, strong, faster movements and more fluid lines, whereas the Canadian couple Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir who took Silver with 190.99 emulated more elegance, class and style in very precise routines. They also scored a free program season’s best with 114.66, which is all you can ask of an athlete.

The real competition however was between the two Russian couples for third place. Bobrova & Stoloviev (5th overall 172.92) also received a season’s best score of 102.95 for their intriguing “vice-versa” free routine, which saw the personas of the couple switch mid routine. It was fascinating to watch and utterly compelling. Ilinykh and Katsalapov performed a very dramatic Black Swan free program that had both modern panache and old school Russian classic lines within. With an overall score of 183.48 they took Bronze for Russia.

WOMEN: RUSSIA SECURES A FIRST GOLD MEDAL IN WOMEN’S FIGURE SKATING

The “darling” of the Russian team skate Julia Lipnitskaya fell in both her short and free programs putting her out of medal contention. However, her compatriot Adelina Sotnikova who had yet to compete in the Sochi Games shone. Her short program was technically accomplished and scored 74.64 just fractionally behind the Olympic champion of 2010 Kim Yuna (74.92). Going into the free program Italian Carolina Kostner was third (74.12), and barring a fall in the free skate it was expected that these positions would remain unchanged. Kostner performed a lovely free routine to Ravel’s Bolero scoring 142.61 to secure Bronze for Italy (216.73). Adelina Sotnikova put in an electrifying free program gathering 149.95 points with 7 jump sequences/4 in combination. Last skater South Korean Kim Yuna put in a flawless graceful routine, which TV commentators stated was an obvious Gold medal winning performance. How wrong they were, because Yuna scored 144.19 for her free program; (losing 6 technical points to Sotnikova who performed more jump combinations); and only had enough (219.11) to secure Silver for South Korea. To the obvious delight of the home crowd the ecstatic 17 year old Adelina Sotnikova took Gold for Russia with 224.59 points. She became the first ever Russian Olympic female individual figure skating Gold medallist, and having been overlooked in favour of Julia in the team event, Adelina’s success must have tasted sweet.

TEAM SKATING TAKES A BOW IN SOCHI

Before the official opening ceremony took place in Sochi on February 7th the inaugural team figure skating program had already began. This was a much anticipated event for me, as it was a chance to see all four skating disciplines together as one entity. With both short and free programs for the men’s and ladies singles, pairs and ice-dance all included, the countries with a strength of depth would always do very well. Each country had the opportunity to switch a maximum of two performers over all four disciplines. This meant that the perceived “strongest” contenders for the short/free programs could be used by each nation (within reason). However nations with a weaker skating heritage (GB) had to rely on their sole representatives in each discipline covering both the short and free sections.

Results would be given a points allocation, with the highest score receiving 10 points down to the lowest receiving 1 point. Medals would be awarded to the nations with the highest amount of points accumulated.

OVERALL TEAM FIGURE SKATING RESULTS

Gold RUSSIA (75pts): Silver CANADA (65pts): Bronze USA (60pts)

Team Figure Skating Individual Section Winners

PAIRS: Short Program: TATIANA VOLOSOZHAR & MAXIM TRANKOV (Russia)

PAIRS: Free Program: KSENIA STOLBOVA & FEDOR KLIMOV (Russia)

LADIES: Short Program: JULIA LIPNITSKAIA (Russia)

LADIES: Free Program: JULIA LIPNITSKAIA (Russia)

MENS: Short Program: YUZURU HANYU (Japan)

MENS: Free Program: EVGENI PLUSHENKO (Russia)

ICE DANCE: Short Program: MERYL DAVIS & CHARLIE WHITE (USA)

ICE DANCE: Free Program: MERYL DAVIS & CHARLIE WHITE (USA)

From a personal point of view it was a joy to see Evgeni Plushenko skate in his home Olympics. Being an elder statesman on the rink at the age of 31, I remember him bursting onto the scene as a precocious teenager full of talent. This could be said about his young compatriot Julia Lipnitskaia aged 15 who was electrifying performing to music from the film Schindler’s List. It was not lost on me young Julia wearing a vivid red dress, replicating the red coat emblem in the movie. A youngster standing out from the crowd with all that vulnerability. Brilliant though Julia is, I can’t help but wonder, if her childhood has been somewhat sacrificed for the sake of skating glory. Perhaps the same could be said about Evgeni too, because his injury ravaged body today, may well be the result of over work when a youngster.

MY WINTER SPORT “ARTISTIC” PREFERENCES

The BBC TV program “Ski Sunday” introduced me (as a child) to the thrills and spills of downhill skiing, and ski-jumping. Later on I would discover freestyle skiing and snowboarding. And ever since I witnessed John Curry take the Men’s Individual Gold in 1976, I have adored watching figure skating. With the exception of skiing with its “fastest” winner takes all approach, all of the disciplines I enjoy watching have an element of artistry involved in deciding a winner. Ski-jumping not only involves distance jumped but has a style component built in as well. Ice-skating is a subjective sport as a whole, as are the newer ski sports of snowboarding (half-pipe, slopestyle) and freestyle skiing (moguls, slopestyle). But snowboard cross manages to replicate the thrills of downhill skiing, with as much drama occurring before the first past the post winner is crowned.

Not for me the long arduous endurance events, or the frantic pace of ice-hockey on the rink. I’ve grown to very much enjoy the sedate but cut-throat world of “Chess on Ice” otherwise known as Curling. Who can forget Rhona’s last stone going “centre of the house” to secure Gold in 2002? I’m also quite fond of the luge and skeleton events which although based on a cumulative time score, does in my opinion, have an artistic quality to it. The luge gloves with their sewn in mini spikes to help give purchase on the ice, are a work of art in themselves. From a paddle start in luge, an athlete lies flat on their back travelling feet first down a meandering bank of ice. In skeleton a running start has the athlete hurtling head-first down the same course. Effectively both are performing on something akin to an over large tea-tray with skate blades. To do this convincingly has to be an artistic endeavour at least-and a very brave one too. Lizzie Yarnold took Gold in the Women’s Skeleton to win GB’s second medal of the games.

So during the first few days of competition in Sochi I’ve enjoyed the spectacle of my artistic sporting events. The Figure Skating Team competition began on Day minus one and ended on Day Two, with Russia victorious. It was nice to see some camaraderie in the figure skating for a change, as it’s normally such an insular sport. I’ve also delighted in witnessing the sheer exuberance, freedom of expression and friendly relaxed nature of the newer Olympic sports as well. Snowboarders seem to combine the balance of a skateboarder with the dexterity of a gymnast. Jenny Jones a pioneer of her sport here in Great Britain won our first ever medal on snow/in Sochi.  She took Bronze in the Snowboarding Woman’s Slopestyle Final, a new Olympic event. Women’s Ski-jumping (normal hill) also made its debut and Carina Vogt of Germany with a score of 247.4 took Gold.

Intriguingly knitting made an unexpected debut in the Olympics, making a striking appearance in the starting gates of both Snowboarding Slopestyle finals. A volunteer could clearly be seen holding a pair of knitting needles with the beginnings of a potential scarf on them. How on earth did they get through security I wonder? Another unexpected viewing has been the pre-opening ceremony entertainment, when The Ministry of Internal Affairs Choir performed Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. In formal military style uniforms these guys “let loose” with gusto, (Russian style), and it was a sight to behold. Seems their rendition has proved very popular on the internet, though it remains to be seen if this new found popularity, will be enough to land them a berth in the official closing ceremony.