Speed skating, moguls, luge and other things that give me anxiety


Paul Chinn / Houston Chronicle

This is actually just as hard as it looks. If not more hard.

We spent a long time talking about how hunky our Summer Olympic Games athletes were. It’s tougher in the Winter Games. The weather and aerodynamics call for more head-to-toe coverage. Plus they’ve mostly got those goggles and helmets. It’s hard to ogle the athletes when they look like very cautious superheroes.

Our first event in primetime tonight was the Men’s 1500m speed skating heat. Given mine (and if I recall Therese’s) aversion to the Sumer Games’ track events, I was ready to yawn my way through speed skating. Instead of RUNNING RUNNING RUNNING, it’s just SKATING SKATING SKATING in a circle round and round and round. NASCAR on ice. But to watch it (especially in glorious HD) was mesmerizing. The formation of the skaters as they glide rilly, rilly fast around the rink. The way their bodies tilt so close to the ice as they round the turn that it forces them to place one hand down to keep balance. It wasn’t just fast, it was graceful.

Denton, Texas-natice Jordan Malone was disqualified after Japanese skater Jumpei Yoshizawa hit him with his elbow, sending Malone into another skater. Bye, Malone!

Apolo Ohno and his chin-hampster also had a heat tonight in the 1500M. If he medals again, he’ll tie Bonnie Blair as the most decorated American Winter Olympian. He was incredible to watch; lingering in the back of the pack for the majority of the race and the– BOOM — shot a FULL LAP in front of everyone. Dude is serious. With serious facial hair.

In the final 1500M heat, Haralds Silovs of Latvia is the first athlete to compete in two sports in the same Olympics games (long track and short track speed skating). I mean, technically isn’t that still the same sport? Michael Phelps swam different lengths and in relay? Doesn’t that count? Anyway, Silovs’ purple spandex has a strange little gray detail in his crotch area, probably to reinforce that this guy has some cajones. Or just loves speed skating. Who knows?

Hey look! Here’s Bob Costas discussing last night’s Olympic FAIL. Apparently that last arm that was supposed to rise up and ignite the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony was stuck behind a door that wouldn’t open. (Thanks for clearing that up.) Then we get a montage of past Olympic FAILs. In Sydney, a ring of fire stalled on the way up to the cauldron. In Atlanta, Muhammad Ali stood there for four minutes waiting for his flame to shoot up. See! It’s not just Canada’s fault. Stop picking on Canada, everyone. Don’t hurt Canada’s feelings.

In addition to being very sensitive, the Canadians are also very, very excited to see if skier Jenn Heil will win Canada’s first gold at a home games for freestyle moguls. And man, does it look hard. I mean, skiing looks hard enough. Then you add the moguls. Then there are those ramps and the flipping and the spinning. And the whole thing is judged not only on speed, but form? WOW. Heil flew down the slope and secured a spot in the finals. Michelle Roark of the U.S.A. also made an impressive showing. American Hanna Kearney, who went bust in the qualifying round at Torino, got the fastest speed in the qualifying round in Vancouver. (The top 20 progress.)

Here’s a question: Do the skiers pick their own music that plays as they come down the slope? If so, props to Heather McPhie for choosing Phoenix’s “1901.” Also Ekateria Stolyarova for using Santigold’s “Shove It.”

Shannon Bahrke and her hot pink streaks in her hair think her family is the best in the world. So she shot this strange little monologue about her family in front of a white backdrop? Sure. They flash her family in the crowd and her mom has a matching pink streak. So I guess that does make them “crazy” and XTREME.

The top 10 are dominated by Americans and Canadians after the qualifying round.

But before the women’s moguls finals, we saw a montage of Apolo Ohno living it up after his performance in Torino. I was originally a little teary re-watching his Torino win (the Olympics makes me sappy and very, very patriotic), but then things took a turn for the d-bag when he talked about being so rich and famous and unfulfilled. Um, poor you? The soul patch was one thing, but there’s nothing I hate more than hearing about the emptiness of fame. Back on the rink, Ohno had a close call in the Men’s 1500m with small nudge that could have got his disqualified, but the judges let him through.

Oh look, SYNERGY! and CROSS-PROMOTION! We get a Dreamworks package that’s supposed to shows us what the games would have been like in the time of the Vikings? Brought to you by that CGI animated movie How To Train Your Dragon. LAME. I would have much preferred Mary Carillo in a Viking helmet.

Also a terribly sad package on the tragic death of Nodar Kumaritashvili was shown. They have since revised the luge course so the men are starting further down the track (where the women were supposed to start) and the women were moved down even further. A new wall has also been built to help ensure safety. In his home country of Georgia his family expressed their wishes for the video of his death not to be shown. (NBC will not be airing the video again during the games, so says Bob Costas.) His luge teammate has withdrawn. The last words he said to his parents over the phone before his last run were “You should be proud of me.” CRYING. I’M CRYING ON MY COUCH.

The luge competition began tonight on television and CRYING. I AM STILL CRYING. The only thing that stopped my wailing was HOW NERVOUS I AM WATCHING THIS. I just wanted to tell them to SLOW DOWN. BE CAREFUL! It was all very fast and, admittedly, it was nearly impossible to distinguish one run from the next, but it was still TERRIFYING. At one point someone hit a wall and I swear I needed oxygen. But when it wasn’t making me really anxious, the luge was mostly sort of boring to watch. I’m sure there is a lot of skill involved, but as a spectator, it just looks like they lay there. While I know that’s not the case, it’s just not very dynamic to watch. Plus, the shots they give you — a bunch of disjointed ZOOMs and WHOOSHes along a track — makes it hard to follow. Then again, I’d rather all the lugers continue on in an uneventful and safe manner anyway.

We went back to the rink where cutie cute cute J.R. Celski was on the ice. So was Olivier Jean and his dreadlocks, which can’t possibly be aerodynamic. It’s the final of the Men’s short track. And it’s super duper exciting and going into the final lap the Koreans have first, second and third all locked up until the second and third place Koreans both fall and slide into the wall all NASCAR-style, leaving Ohno and Celski to take silver and bronze, respectively. It. Was. Awesome. It’s official: Speed skating is now my favorite event … after figure skating. And ice dancing. And biathalon. But still! It’s super amazing.

Mistakes also plagued Japanese mogul skier Tae Satoya, who took a big ol’ tumble off her second jump. To use a cliche: That has got to hurt. No medal for you, honey, sorry. Michelle Roarke took a nasty spill too. Shannon “I’ve Got A Crazy Family” Bahrke flew done the slope and into the first place. Also, as the commentators keep reminding us, she’s marrying a guy with the last name HAPPY! She’s going to be Mrs. Happy! And boy does she look Happy with that score! She must be Happy with that performance. MRS. HAPPY.

A lot of her competitors were not so happy. Lots of tumbles. Really, really painful looking tumbles. Canadian sweetheart Jenn Heil did very well, taking the top spot from Bahrke. Still, it wasn’t good enough to keep the gold from American Hannah Kearney! Yay, Hannah Kearney! Heil took silver and Bahrke gets bronze.

And then that high note turned into some sort of weird Olympic snuff film montage of all the dangerous injuries the winter olympians need to face. SO NERVOUS. I give it up to all these athletes. JUST PLEASE BE SAFE OUT THERE, OK?


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