Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vancouver Day 4: Love on the Ice

It's a fairy tale ending for Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China, who came out of retirement for a shot at gold in pairs skating and they pulled it off, ending a half-century of Russian/Soviet dominance in the event. Shen and Zhao are one of many skating pairs who are also husband and wife. I suppose it shouldn't be terribly surprising, considering the amount of time they must spend together and the trust that must be built over a period of many years. It stands to reason that people who are compatible athletically and artistically are likely to be compatible on other levels as well.

What's more extraordinary to me is that we don't hear more about the more contentious relationships in the sport. There must be pairs who grow to hate each other - it's only human nature. I found myself thinking last night how lucky these skaters are to find someone with whom they can work so intimately for so long. But I realized I was probably looking at it the wrong way. The skaters who can't find a suitable partner probably never make it this far, or perhaps they stick to singles.

Bear in mind, my thoughts on the matter are colored by the fact that we've been watching Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage TV series. Relationships can certainly be complicated even without having to work together all day.

Men's hockey begins today, as does curling. Let the bonspiel begin!

Follow Up: Alexandre Bilodeau

A nice story on the gold medalist, including the excellent family back story which Mock mentioned:

Even with Drought Over, Canada Still Sets Gold Standard in Class by SI.com's Michael Farber

Follow Up: Legitimate Safety Concerns

For obvious reasons, there's also been quite a lot of interesting discussion of safety at the Winter Games. My own position is pretty straightforward. Obviously, the IOC has to draw an audience to make money and some of the more exciting sports are also the most dangerous. But death and serious injury are not acceptable prices to pay. It is most definitely not in the Olympic spirit to compromise athlete safety for television ratings.

I am also willing to admit that it's a nuanced discussion and that it's oversimplifying the issue to say that a sport like luge is too dangerous to be in the Olympics. Some of the more interesting articles and columns I've seen:

For Everyone's Sake, Reckless IOC Must Sacrifice Thrills for Safety by SI.com's Selena Roberts, written the day of the horrible accident

Post-Tragedy Course Changes Bring More Controversy to Luge Events by SI.com's David Epstein

Luge Is Safe? One Study Says It Is an alternate view, also offered by Epstein

PBS's NewsHour also had an excellent piece on safety at the Olympics.

I do think that while they may ultimately prove important in the investigation of the incident, I feel that all of the stories regarding Nodar Kumaritashvili's cryptic conversations with his father before the crash are in extremely poor taste. This particular story does not require any extra sensationalism on the part of the media.

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