Sunday, February 28, 2010

Amazing Grace, Beer Belly Advantage, Hard-Drinkin’ Cigar-Smokin’ Gals, and Russia vs. Naperville

Well, the latest four-year lollapalooza known as the Winter Olympics has come to a close with a grand finale: USA v. Canada in Olympic hockey. For our Canadian hosts, there was one bit of unfinished business in an otherwise successful Games: The men must match the women’s hockey team and beat the Yanks, as a matter of national (and gender) pride. As Bush 43 said, “Fool me once, shame on . . . We won’t get fooled again!” I mean, the women laid down a cigar-puffing, champagne-guzzling gauntlet on center ice, but the men's celebration was deservedly more exuberant.

Great game: 3-2 Canada in overtime! Well done, lads:

And how about the USA 1 four-man bobsled team! Piloted by stocky and cocky Steve Holcomb, the U.S. team tamed the world’s fastest and most dangerous track to break a 62-year Olympic gold medal drought in the sport. Holcomb’s strong but non-athletic shape, with a respectable beer belly has given every couch potato, near-sighted, beer-guzzling “athlete” hope that one day he, too, can become an Olympic champion, provided:
  • It’s a downhill sport all-the-way!
  • Gravity, manual dexterity (not unlike reaching for a beer bottle), and
  • The aerodynamics of your couch-like cockpit, determine how fast you plunge downhill, while
  • You ride sitting in a crouch (not unlike reaching with outstretched arm for a chip on the coffee table) from start to finish.
Holcomb’s deteriorating tunnel vision – the result of a degenerative eye disease – helped him learn to steer his sled downhill at breakneck speed. So much so that after Steve recovered 20-20 vision with an experimental procedure, he said he still likes to attack the 50-50 curve (named by Holcomb because 1 of 2 teams wiped out there in the World Cup) with a slightly scuffed visor that reminds him of his impaired vision.

Like a great thoroughbred, Apolo Anton Ohno proved that it’s not only speed that wins races, but class above all. And like every great thoroughbred he has a best distance.

Sean White is head and shoulders above anyone else in the art of half-pipe snowboarding. Maybe he makes the sport so mainstream that those silly baggy pants won’t be so cool.

Naperville’s own, Evan Lysacek won the Olympic men’s skating gold fair and square. The defending world champion skated a clean program that was rich in every element, not just the jumps. Russia’s great champion, Evgeny Plushenko, came up short in his comeback. His program wasn’t as good or as clean as Evan’s. Simple as that. Get over it, Putin, and don’t be such a sore loser, Evgeny. There’s no such thing as a platinum medal.

Great as the hockey game was, the lasting memory of these Games for me was Canadian Joannie Rochette skating through her grief, days after her mother’s sudden death from a heart attack, to win a bronze medal. The medal was de minimus. Joannie Rochette’s memorable performance exemplified the best of the Olympic spirit: Amazing grace.

The Games are grrrrrreat, eh!

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