With the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics coming to a close, I thought this would be a good opportunity for us to take a look over the past two weeks. I know, the Olympics aren’t done yet, but I’m due for a blog post. Cut me some slack!

Let’s start with the good:

1.) Bode Miller Wins Gold
My love of all things Bode is well documented. I was so happy to see him win bronze and silver this Olympics, but seeing him take the gold really was something else. He was much calmer and less abrasive with the press this time around, but still held onto his trademark devil-may-care attitude. For all the criticism he takes for that, I think the attitude is what helps him be so fearless when he’s flying down a hill, especially with the memory of Olympic disappointment so fresh in his mind. Good for him. Characters like him are what make the Olympics so much fun, and everybody loves a comeback story! (I’m pulling for you, Lindsay.)

B- Joannie Rochette Wins Bronze after the Unexpected Death of Her Mother

There are some moments that happen during athletic competition that surpass the sport entirely. Joannie winning the Bronze in Women’s Figure Skating was one of these moments. Women’s skating is always one of my favorite winter sports to watch. The combination of graceful dancing mixed with powerhouse strength is moving enough. Then, I remind myself that for the most part, it’s not women who are competing, but rather 16 or 17 year old girls who find themselves at the height of their career before they have graduated high school.  The pressure they feel must be overwhelming. Joannie, of course, was under an entirely different level of pressure and pain that I don’t think anyone among us can understand. Watching her finish her short program on Tuesday night, I knew there was not a dry eye in the arena. The commentators were silent until finally Scott Hamilton felt the need to remark on what an incredible feat this 19 year old girl had just accomplished, his voice obviously cracking to reveal tears of his own.

Joannie’s mother had died only two days earlier, and she had found a way to go on to perform anyway. Watching her flawlessly jump, flip, and twirl to her music felt like a gift that I can’t understand how she found the strength to share. As if that wasn’t enough, the love and support that the Canadian fans gave their hometown hero really transcended the sense of competition usually so prevalent in Olympics sports. Ultimately, Kim Yu-Na took home gold for South Korea with a record-breaking long-skate routine, but I think in these games, Joannie’s ability to persevere really put her in category that’s hers alone.

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And now, everyone’s favorite part, the bad:

1- Evgeni Plushenko is Edged out of First by Evan Lysachek; Becomes Russian Guy from Rocky

We all saw Evan Lysacek take gold in Men’s Figure Skating wearing that fabulous snake inspired Vera Wang get-up, right? What a moment! But if so, it means we all caught a glimpse of the Russian silver-medalist Evgeni Plushenko looking considerably displeased with his position on the podium. I would like to go on the record as saying that I could tell this guy was bad news. I saw him repeatedly referring to his opponents as “my enemies,”and I have the distinct impression that this was not a mere translation problem. Since placing second, he has said on the record to any reporter who will listen that Evan should have not have beat him, because the American does mere “ice dancing,” not “ice skating.” Rather than taking his silver and retiring to his adoring fans in Russia, he has new information on his official website that lists his place at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics as “Platinum Medal.” As my brother said, paraphrasing the expression oft-repeated by Grandmothers everywhere, “when life hands you lemons, you pretend they are not lemons.” Now Plushenko can slink away into obscurity while Lysacek joins “Dancing With The Stars” or whatever he chooses (please, Evan, don’t). In any event, I’m glad to live in a country where, if our Olympians thought they could try to trick us about which place they achieved in a universally recognized competition, they would be mocked.

B – U.S. Snowboarder Asked to Leave Olympic Celebration after Racy Photos of him Appear

After earning his bronze medal in Vancouver, snowboarder Scotty Lago went out celebrating at a bar. What ensued was tabloid website TMZ.com posting photographs of Scotty in uncompromising positions. As a result, he was allegedly asked by the Olympics Committee to pack his bags and head home. Whether that’s the case, or he went home on his own, the fact remains that Scotty watched the rest of the games on his home TV. The Committee, I assume, was worried about tarnishing their image. What they failed to remember, I guess, is that that Scotty doesn’t play tennis, he’s a freaking snowboader. These guys do jumps with names like the Double McTwist 1260. The U.S. team wore a uniform created to look like jeans and a flannel shirt . For God’s sake, the most famous Olympic snowboarder goes by “The Flying Tomato“. I’m glad they made snowboarding an Olympic sport, and in doing so, the Olympic Committee brought in a new group of fans; I know I have a new sport I love watching! They also ushered in some pretty epic partying. I just don’t see the harm. Frankly, some of those Biathlon guys probably would have appreciated Scotty taking them out for a night on the town.

3.) Skeleton Is Still an Olympic Sport

Hear me out. I know that the competitors that compete in Olympic-level Skeleton deserve credit, and credit they get. But for the life of me, I cannot get interested in the sport. If it was designated to its own Olympic show, or even channel on NBC or one of its affiliates, I doubt I would have a problem. But alas, it is not. If I want to watch skiing, I need to watch skeleton. If Shaun White is preparing to snowboard, Bob Costas throws us to skeleton. It’s everywhere! After two full weeks of frustration, I have finally realized why this sport evokes such strong feelings from me. Basically, unlike every other sport, I don’t know beyond reasonable doubt that I wouldn’t be great at skeleton. I know I’m not good at skiing, I have the bruises to show it. You could have Tara Lipinski herself coach me at skating and I would still spend my whole long program on my rear end. But skeleton? I just don’t know. As a kid, I was really, really good at sledding. With the right coaches and full body suit, I really think I could go for the gold.

Skeleton photo courtesy of Flikr.

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So there you have it: Pintje’s Picks for best and worst Olympic Moments. As always, I look forward to some serious discussion in the comments section!

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