Sunday, February 28, 2010

Iditarod: What You Need to Know

With five days until the Ceremonial Start to the 38th Iditarod, it's time to get a few FAQ's out of the way. These are compiled from my crazed brain, with the help of working with Alaskan tourists for the last four years. If I miss anything, feel free to comment and ask away. If I don't have the answer I'll BS my way through it, just like I do all summer long! (Only half kidding, I will do my best to answer your questions with the right answers, unlike in the summer where I make it up as I go along and you'd never know it).

First off the Iditarod Trail is longer than the race actually runs. Mile 0 of the trail is actually in Seward, AK - not Anchorage. In 2004 -the year he won- Mitch Seavey ran his team from Seward to Anchorage before the ceremonial start began. He is - as far as I know - the only musher to do so for the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

The official mileage of the race is 1,049 (a nod to Alaska's being the 49th state), but is closer to 1,100 miles.

The first race was run in 1973, and was basically a test to see if it could even be accomplished. It took over two weeks to get from Anchorage to Nome, and the mushers weren't so much racing as helping one another out.

Joe Redington is the Father of the Iditarod and gets the credit for starting the race - he went into debt so that he could afford to pay the winner - as well he should, however the first teams to ever attempt it all had a hand in the history making race, and many still continue to see her through.

There's a sort of Mushing Family Royalty in the Iditarod. The Redingtons, Mackeys, Seaveys and Busers all have multigenerational mushers within their families. All but, ironically, the Reddingtons have at least one Iditarod champion (The Mackey's win with the most - three). In 2000, the Seavey family became the first family in Iditarod history to run three generations in one race. Dan Seavey - who helped Redington coordinate the first race, and ran in that race - his son Mitch Seavey and his grandson Danny Seavey were the ones to all make it down the trail and into Nome.

Tyrell Seavey holds the record as being the first, first-year rookie to make the top 20.

Dallas Seavey - yes, another Seavey - is the youngest musher to finish. He turned 18 the day before the race started in 2005.

A musher is considered a rookie - no matter how many times they run - until their first Nome finish. If you scratch (quit the race) you will return in your next race again as a rookie. Rookies that finish receive an "Iditarod Finisher" buckle. You can only get it once, and it's highly coveted and is more prized -possibly- than a win. It's said that there have been more people to climb Mt. Everest or go into space than there are who have finished the Iditarod.

Rick Swenson is the only musher to win five Iditarods, and is the youngest musher to win at age 26. He also was part of the historic one second finish in 1978 - the year Dick Mackey won - where it was also decided that the winner would be decided by the nose of the first dog over the finish line and not the first musher. This finish was inducted to the Alaska Hall of Fame in 2010.

Libby Riddles was the first woman to win in 1985, it would be the only championship she'd win, and it was almost a fluke. A freak storm blew in in the last possible moment and Libby was caught out in it, but not wanting to lose time she continued moving forward believing she'd already lost the race. She won!

Susan Butcher would be the true 'women's champion' winning a total of four - she is the only woman to do so. Susan became the icon of the sport, and changed the face of the Iditarod for the mid 80s and most of the 90s. No other woman has won since. A phrase was coined after Susan began winning - "Alaska: where men are men and women win the Iditarod."

There are only a select few who have won four Iditarod's or more. Members of the club include Rick Swenson, Susan Butcher, Doug Swingley, Jeff King and Martin Buser. Each, in their own way, brought something special to the Iditarod - and changed the sport for the better. The race you see now has been greatly influenced by this "club."

Martin Buser holds the fastest time of any Iditarod winner, just under 9 days.

The average time for the winner these days is 9 and a half days.

Doug Swingley (Montana, USA) and Robert Sorlie (Team Norway) are the only "outsiders" to win the race. "Outsiders" is the term to describe non-Alaskans. (Interestingly enough while Doug Swingley won four impressive Iditarods, he is not well liked/respected by most Alaskans - whereas Robert Sorlie - a three time champion - is beloved by most. Go figure.)

Though he is considered by some to be the first international Iditarod champion, Martin Buser (Swiss born) became a US citizen in 2002 - taking the oath under the Burled Arch in Nome.

Lance Mackey is the third Mackey to win an Iditarod title - making their family the first to have three champions in one family. Lance is favored to win the 2010 race.

Jeff King is known as the innovator. It seems every year he comes with something new to the race. He is the inventor of the "old man's sled", which is a racing sled that has a caboose-or, rather, chair in the back. Most scoffed at the idea when he first introduced it (hence the name "old man's chair") but now it is widely used by newbies and old timers alike. He has even had heated handlebars in the past, though those had a tendency to get a little *too* warm.

While the purse is a substantial size for winning the race, it doesn't come close to covering a musher's expenses. Most mushers support their kennels by doing tours and demonstrations in the summer months inbetween training.

The unofficial song of the Iditarod is Hobo Jim's "Iditarod Trail." After Joe Redington's death in 1999, Jim wrote another song about the race entitled "Redington's Run" in honor of the "Father of the Iditarod."

The race has two courses, which are alternated every other year, around the Yukon River. In even years the Northern route is used, the southern route -of course- is run in the odd years. Of the two it's said the Southern Route is more brutal because the wind is in your face, not behind you. This gives the Southern Villages a chance to host checkpoints -and allows the race to pass through the ghosttown of its namesake: Iditarod.

Iditarod is a Native Alaskan word meaning "A Great Distance."

Closing Thoughts on the Winter Olympiad

So seventeen days have passed rather quickly. The closing ceremonies are complete, and now we wait four years until the games return - this time in Sochi, Russia - where the best in the field will compete once again for themselves, their team and their country.

It's true, for many we follow one or two sports closely and the rest we only see every four years. Still, when the games rolls around we become enthralled with every part of the games. Whether or not we're cheering on our countrymen we are all connected together by television (and now computer) as we watch the greatest dramas unfold.

The games started out on a rather tragic note with the death of the Georgian Luger, but that sadness was quickly replaced by the joy of wins in many events by many countries, only to be reminded -once again- when Canadian Figure Skater Joannie Rochette's mother passed away on her way to see her daughter practice on Olympic Ice.

It seems Vancouver was destined to have some of the greatest moments and stories of the Winter Games. Joannie Rochette rose from her grief to claim a bronze medal at a point in time where the color of the medal - or a medal at all - didn't matter. It was about skating for her mother. It was about the curling teams wonderfully ugly - yet stylish - pants. It was about favorites hitting their mark, and it was about new stars rising to the occassion. It was drama, it was passion, it was the Winter Games.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Golden Heart

Well, she did it; Joannie Rochette skated - and skated masterfully - in the ladies' short program last night, just two days after losing her mother suddenly to a heart attack.

One has to wonder just where that sort of strength comes from. Joannie was on the verge of tears as she took the ice for warm up only to have a solid pass. She was once again visibly emotional as her name was announced and the crowd's overwhelming response resonated within the arena. After a few deep breaths she took her position and for two and a half minutes she held the World captive with a magical performance.

If there was a dry eye in the place, the cameras couldn't find it. If there was a commentator or judge or official not pulling for her - you'd never know it. Joannie skated through the pain to a third place, placement and is in a great spot for tomorrow nights final.

But it's not about medals now. It wasn't about medals last night. It was about skating for her mother, the friend and parent she lost so suddenly. It was about healing, it was about getting through the grief. It was a tribute. It was for herself. It was an Olympic Moment that will be remembered forever.

Our hearts are with Joannie Rochette, and her family, as she is giving us hers.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ladies' Night!

It all comes down to the 'finale' and tradition mandates that Ladies close out figure skating competition in the games. In most years they bring the more drama - but I don't think anything comes close to the drama the men have and had the other night.

So who's in it for the gold?

All eyes are on Yuna Kim of Korea (look for the NBC commentators to call her Kim Yu-Na because they think they're that cool) to take the Gold. She has a massive amount of momentum, and if she can stand up on everything she should win, she is -after all- the reigning world champion. Look for her on the podium, and if you're not in it for the ladies, she has Brian Orser for a coach. He has two Olympic silvers to his credit, and he's one of the best North American skaters of all time - and certainly one of the best Canadians of all time.

Mao Asada was crowned best in the world by fans when she burst onto teh senior scene at age fourteen. Too young to skate in Torino this will also be her first Olympics (same for Yuna). Mao has had a difficult couple of seasons, due mainly to her struggle to master the Triple Axel in both the short and long program. It's become an obsession that will most likely cost her Gold in Vancouver. Still, if she does hit them she'll be unstoppable.

Joannie Rochette came to Vancouver with Canada's hopes riding on her shoulder. With the recent, tragic loss of her mother she has - in Sandra Besic's words - become the "Daughter of the Olympics." No longer is the color of the medal important, or a medal at all, but just two great heartfelt skates for her will be enough for fans worldwide. Still, if she lets herself just get into the programs and forgets the pressure - which in a way is completely gone - she could still be the spoiler of the event.

Japan's Miki Ando is the hit or miss spoiler girl, but she's been on fire as of late. She's a World Champion who's let the pressure get to her, but with Japan's hopes focussed on Mao Asada, Miki could swoop in for a top spot on the podium. It's all about the pressure and how she handles it. She's skating to programs that suit her style and personality, and the judges still favor coach-choreographer Morosov's style. If she skates the way she has all season the "It Girls" may be in trouble.

For the first time in a long time America's sweethearts are not favored to win any sort of medal. It's disappointing to those in the American Media - though they've found darlings in others such as Lindsey Vohn - but all events go in cycles where the big names in skating come from elsewhere. We're seeing the shift in Pairs and Ice Dance where Russia has dominated for half a century, we're seeing it in Ladies. Even in men's skating we're seeing the shift come back to the US after Former Soviet countries (mainly Russia with one Ukranian champion thrown in) dominated the title from 1992 till now.

Rachel Flatt is coming in as the newly crowned US Champion. She's a solid skater, a solid competitor. But she lacks a certain something. She doesn't get the American public as excited as a Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen or Tara Lipinski. She's reminicent of Nancy Kerrigan - she has admirable qualities on and off the ice, but the something special seems to be missing. Rachel is the best hope for a top ten placement in Vancouver, but we've seen so many shake ups in the "should bes" in the last ten days that anything is possible.

Mirai Nagasu sums up the other half of the US ladies team. She's spunky, she's got the goods, if she can just rotate her jumps fully. Many believed that it was Mirai who won, and not Rachel the night of the long program. She has the crowd eating out of the palm of her hand with the charisma she has when she performs. However, the confident Mirai we saw in Vancouver is someone new. She reemerged ready to skate and ready to compete after last season's disaster of a year. If she continues with her newly refound confidence Mirai could pull an upset over her teammate. But don't look for either on the podium.

So, tomorrow night brings out the ladies feisty and hungry for their time in the spotlight. Here's hoping the princesses become queens!

Photos (c) Getty Images, Associated Press and Reuters c/o

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Incase you're interested

My family has a blog where we try to keep friends and family updated on what's going on. This was started after my grandmother had her stroke in December as a way for those of us around her could keep everyone informed. Well, now she's keeping us informed. So, if you want to also keep up with all of us (and get away from my figure skating gushings) you can find us all here -

Rochette's Tragedy

This morning the Skating World was shocked to learn that Joannie Rochette's mother died suddenly sometime in the wee hours of the morning. When first reported it was unsure how, when, and where, but it was no less devastatings for fans of skating and the skater alike.

Therese was just 55 years old, and it's now being reported that she died of a heart attack. It was said that she was always there to critique Joannie's skating and her most staunch supporter. Joannie let it be known early on that she does plan to compete later this week in honor and tribute to her mother.

Today's news brings back memories of others in the skating community who have lost loved ones - Scott Hamilton, Katia Gordeeva, Jennifer Kirk, Angela Nikodinov to name a few - and how they've been able to continue on with their careers and use skating as a way to get through the grief. It's what they had to do.

Here's hoping Joannie is strengthend by the memory of her mother, and by the support that is pouring out of each and every skating fan world wide. She's no longer a competitor, she's a skater, and she's someone who needs our support, love, and encouragement.

My prayers are joining many in support of Joannie and her family. May God give her peace, understanding, and encouragement as she faces the days ahead.

Photo (c) Reuters c/o

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tango Romantica

Tonight was a night of no surprises. Such is life in Ice Dancing. Though, if you're one of those that watches only every four years, it could be shocking to see three North American teams within points of each other all vying for positions on the podium.

If you've been watching every season leading up to Vancouver, you aren't surprised. You're also not surprised that it seems the American "It Team" of Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto have lost the good graces of the judges - though they are still in medal contention be prepared to see the gap between third and fourth to grow. Such is life in ice dance, the other North American teams have been together longer and it shows in their competitive programs.

Original dances are Sunday, so we'll see where they all place once the folk dances begin. Look for a late coming skater spotlight on here tomorrow.

Photo (c) Getty Images c/o

The Drought Is Over

The cloud has lifted. The jinx is over. What other cliches can we throw at the surprise last night? Evan Lysacek broke all sorts of streaks last night with his win over heavy Gold medal favorite Evgeni Plushenko - and the win shocked everyone, including Lysacek.

Skating first in the final flight of men, Evan Lysacek was visibly nervous and tight - giving commentators Sandra Besic and Scott Hamilton cause to worry he wouldn't deliver. But, deliver he did. It was cautious, without the abandon that usually comes within his programs - especially during footwork - but he laid it down. And the others followed suit with only minor mistakes coming from most.

One has to wonder if Evan had resolved to "skate for silver" instead of Gold. Everyone seemed to assume that if Evgeni Plushenko stood up - and why wouldn't he? - he would just be handed the gold (this blogger believed that even though she chose Evan Lysacek for the USFSA's fantasy skating team). When the scores came up it was shock, joy, pain, frustration, a mix of emotions heard round the world. In sports history it goes down as one of the biggest upsets of all time.

Evan is the first American to win Gold in Men's Figure Skating since 1988 when Brian Boitano narrowly beat out Brian Orser of Canada to win the gold in Calgary. Evan is the first reigning World Champion since Scott Hamilton won in 1984 in Sarajevo. Evgeni got all the attention for trying to be the first since Dick Button (yes, another American) to win a second, consecutive Olympic title. It didn't happen. It was Evan's night.

It was Frank's night (finally, a gold medalist out of his camp!).

It was America's night.

But, ultimately, it was Evan's night.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Men's event delivers in a big way

Emotions were high at the end of the Men's Short Program Tuesday night. Most of the top men delivered outstanding performances, making the event the most nailbiting since the "Battle of the Brians" in 1988.

Evgeni Plushenko is, not surprisingly, the leader after the short program. As the tenth skater, to have the score stand up through an evening where each skate seemed to build off the last, is a feat in and of itself. The reigning Olympic champion seems well poised to take a second gold - an accomplishment that only one other man has ever done, American Dick Button - but he can't leave anything out Thursday...

...Because American Evan Lysacek is only .55 points behind him, and Japanese Daisuke Takahashi is only .05 points behind that. It will come down to strategy, cleanliness, and heart tomorrow night and every single man has what it takes. History will be made one way or the other, and it seems this event is one people will talk about and remember for some time.

The night was not all possitive, however. Favorites to do well, France's Brian Joubert and America's Jeremy Abbott both had disasterous shorts. Falls, popped jumps, disappointment. Their body language suggested utter devastation before the end of their programs, and most everyone in the arena and watching at home felt their grief.

What's on the skaters' agenda for tomorrow? One can only speculate, Plushenko has made it clear he feels a skater without a quad does not deserve gold - and it seems to be suggested a place on the podium - so expect to see him keep true to his word and attempt at least one quad - and one could be certain he'll go for more than that.

Evan Lysacek stated days before the event that he would not be attempting a quadruple jump in Vancouver - citing injury and his crash landing at nationals for reasons - but did Plushenko's comments rile him enough to change his mind?

Johnny Weir is going to have to pull out all the stops and go for broke to make the podium - but it is doable. So long, of course, as those ahead of him make mistakes or play it safe.

It's competitions like these that make you wish a podium could hold more than three.

Photo (c) Reuters c/o

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bring on the Men!

With the Pairs Long Program tonight, and the Men's short program tomorrow, there's no good time to do a pre game post (some of us have jobs outside of blogging for the games, unfortunately). Not that anyone but me reads these things, but at least someone is having fun.

Tomorrow night is going to showcase the world's finest the only way the Games can. No event is going to be more jam packed with drama and athletics. There's no real favorite three to podium, but there are some big names that are recognizable, and all men are hungry to win.

The only pretty much shoo-in for the Gold is Evgeni Plushenko. He's come back to competitive skating just this season for this event. He's definitely gotten the judges' blessing here in Vancouver. All he needs to do is stand up and he'll nab gold. Granted, anything can happen, but as we saw in Torino, where others have to be well-rounded athletes, all Plushenko has to do is show up and jump. Sadly it looks like that's what will happen here as well.

World Champion Evan Lysacek is the favorite as far as US media is concerned, mainly because he is ranked first in the World. Evan is a fierce competitor who knows what it takes to win. While he's not the reigning US Champion, he is the highest ranking American internationally in Vancouver. Evan was fourth in Torino, coming back from a disappointing Short Program to have an incredibly Long program and some said he should have been higher (in third) at teh end of the night. Evan has decided not to go for the quad in this competition after he failed to complete it in Spokane last month, but anything can happen and he can't be counted out.

Stephane Lambiel is another athlete who's come out of retirement, so to speak, for another chance at the Olympic Games. The "Flying Zebra" landed on the podium in second place four years ago, but injuries have plagued Stephane, and it's been a true battle for him to get back in form for Vancouver. No one spins like this guy, though, and his smile is infectious. He's definitely got the lady's vote, but he's going to have to give everything - including his promised three quads - to have a chance, especially without a triple Axel.

Ladies man, Brian Joubert, is hungry for the title. Brian has been in this game a long time -longer than any of the US men- and wants to prove himself in Vancouver. He's come close so many times, finally winning a world title in 2007, but has not delivered the way he wanted to. Brian is critisized by many to be a "copycat" type skater - for many years he was dubbed the mini-Yagudin for his style of skating - who lacks musicality or artistry. Still, the man can jump. Hopefully he'll keep his ego in check and not want it so badly he misses the mark.

Speaking of egos, Canada's Patrick Chan is their best hope for a medal in the men's event... and he knows it. Patrick has been plagued by injury and foot in mouth syndrome this season. When he's not ranting on Joubert's lack of artistry, he's comparing himself to Plushenko in age and ability. The problem for Chan is now that he's let his mouth run he's going to have to nail everything and then some to prove himself right. That hasn't happened so far this season. Still, if the pairs short programs are any indication, Patrick will most likely have help to make sure he's in medal contention. While he's good on transitions, he's going to have to watch each landing to be in contention.

Also a man of transitions - and a quad AND a triple axel - is USA's Jermey Abbott. Abbott defended his national title in January and goes into the games as the two time US National Champion. The big question is - will Jeremy ride that high to a podium placement, or will it be a repeat of last year where he peaked at nationals and it's all downhill from here on out. He's definitely the most all around skater the US has, if he can keep it together when it counts the greatest.

The US team is strong, as Johnny Weir could also find himself with a shot at the podium. Johnny's practices have been pretty fantastic judging by all of the reports, and he's a new Johnny from four years ago. He's not trying to thumb his nose at the USFSA and making a name for himself, this year he seems to be playing nice and actually wearing the team colors. His practices are his statement that he's in it to win, and who knows, he could finally shake those demons. But will he also shake the Friends of Animals and PETA crowd? After the bad press he got for his nationals costume with the fox fur on the side, Johnny scrapped that costume and went back to his original costume for the games. Still, he's reportedly continuing to get threats which have "forced" him to live in the Olympic Village instead of a hotel. Can Johnny ever just be a skater and not someone surrounded by controversy?

Tomorrow night is going to be AWESOME.

Photos (c) Getty Images and Associated Press c/o

No Clowning Around in Pairs Short Program

Last night kicked off Olympic Figure Skating in high style. What a night of pairs skating! It seems like forever since we've been treated with a non-splatfest!

It's no surprise that Shen and Zhao are leaders after the short, nor is it surprising that Savchenko and Szolkowy are closely behind them. Two incredibly different programs and both superbly skated.

The biggest controversy surrounding last night, however, was the seemingly overscoring of Canada's Dube & Davison. With Jessica's fall on their side by side jumps and an obvious stumble by Bryce in the footwork. While the judging system is supposed to be more fair, and harder to play with to get a desired outcome, it seems the judges were extremely forgiving at an event where most teams made no big mistakes.

The main argument in favor of Jessica and Bryce's score is the fact that their base score before skating -based on the elements and their proposed levels- were so high. That may be all well and good, in bizzaro world, but come on! It was serious padding for the top Canadian team at a Winter Games in their own backyard.

Skaters that get to compete at home always get a little bit of a boost in the Olympics, but Dube & Davison were not the only Canadian team competiting! Langlois & Hay were clean and should be placed higher.

Still, this is just the short program, it'll all be decided tonight during the Long Program. Will it be the German couple -poised to take it after a steady rise to teh top- or will Shen & Zhao get their storybook ending?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Opening Ceremonies - No Surprises

Watching the Opening Ceremonies last night - still not a fan of the tape delay, even if I understand why it's done - I imagined that if Alaska were to get the nod anytime soon it'd look pretty simular. Not a slight, or showing a chip on my shoulder, or anything, it's just something I've noticed about Western Canada and Alaska - we're so similar.

Which, yes, did annoy me a tad when Bob Costas and Matt Lauer -while watching/commentating the ceremonies- noted the different First Nations peoples and suggested that they were all native to only Canada. It is, no doubt, a misconception so many have - after all Eskimos are the only natives Alaska could possibly have - but apparently making such a comment is the most offensive thing one can say to a Canadian this morning. So, I digress.

If that is the only way I can find fault with the way things went last night, then I guess that's saying something - though there were other portions that I thought could have been better. Really anything is better than Torino's (though the groups of people forming different images was really cool) opening ceremonies with the disco music.

It's been said that this time the ceremonies lacked heart or energy or... joy. And it's being blamed on the actual choreography/storyline. I think it would have been much better had the death of an athlete not happened just hours before in the horrific way that it happened. This is not to blame the dead, just my reasoning for the seemingly subdued reaction it got (honestly I thought it an amazing display of technology and showmanship).

It also didn't help that the lip synching was off, Bryan Adams failed horribly with that - you'd think they'd study those vids of Britany Spears and Ashley Simpson before trying something like that on such a huge stage. And it was definitly off during the Operatic version of the Olympic Hymn (my ears are still ringing).

Over all though it was an amazing night. The whales were freaking awesome, with the "water" spouting up. WOW. And the trees were cool. Fiddling cloggers were kinda creepy. My highlights were the whales, the poetry recital (loved the cheeky "zed"), and the moment of silence. And who doesn't love watching the Parade of Nations - especially when their team comes in?

The moment that Georgia walked into the arena was truly touching. They got a huge standing ovation, but you could see they were grieving. It's being reported todday that their other luger has withdrawn from the competition, that sliding the track that took his teammates life would be too difficult. My thoughts and prayers are with all of those who knew and loved him and the luger community who lost one of their own and must continue on.

And the torch lighting - even with the glitches - was fab. But was anyone truly surprised as to who they picked (Gretzsky)? Who else BUT "The Great One" would they choose? I mean really? My only question - did Brian Orser ever run with the torch? and if no, why didn't he?

So, now, the games are underway! The next two weeks are going to be awesome.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Games overshadowed by death

As the games set to open tonight news broke that luger Nodar Kumaritashvili of Georgia passed away due to injuries sustained from a crash this morning. This is not shocking to Olympic insiders who have noticed the overwhelming dangers of the Olympic luge course. It's reported that the sleds are zooming down the track at a regular speed of 90mph, giving Vancouver boasting rights - which they have proudly taken - as having the fastest course in the world. Over a dozen athletes have crashed, some with injuries, over the week's training runs.

Kumaritashvili was ranked 44th in the world coming into Vancouver. The crash was reportedly near the bottom of the track just seconds away from the "finish line" on corner 13, designated as "Corner 50-50."

Controversy is never far at the Winter Games, and, for once, it's not in Figure Skating. It's being reported that the course was designed to be as fast and trecherous as it was to "give the audience a show." However, many conspiracy theorists are already working overtime to proove that Canada had something else in mind. Canada's 'sliders' have been practicing on the track for weeks, whereas everyone else has gotten to try it out a handful of times in the last week.

The Republic of Georgia is rumored to be withdrawing from the games.

My take on the whole thing? I think it irresponsible to have a track run THAT FAST and THAT HARD and not have better ways to cushion a fall to give a slider a chance to survive a crash like the one Kumaritashvili suffered. To top it off, Canadians and other top level sliders alike have voiced their concerns about the course.

Forget the conspiracy, I do feel it incredibly unfair that team Canada got the track time that they have, but if it's within the rules, then so be it. Haven't heard of any skaters getting that same kind of preferential treatment, but I guess the ISU/Skating Federations aren't the only ones with shady dealings.

Above it all a 21 year old man died on Olympic Ice today. For what other reason than chasing his Olympic Dream. One can only pray his death was quick, and painless, and that his friends and family will be brought some level of comfort and peace through all of this. They should be proud to have known and loved (and been loved in return) by such an amazing athlete. Rest In Peace, Nodar.

And here's hoping Georgian athletes get to compete in Vancouver, and rise to the challenge in honor of their fallen teammate.

Photo (c) Reuters Pictures c/o

Pair's Short - Numbers Drawn

Pairs, come out with your blades a-blazin'!

1 SHEN Xue / ZHAO Hongbo CHN
4 DENNEY Caydee / BARRETT Jeremy USA
5 HAUSCH Maylin / WENDE Daniel GER
6 JAMES Vanessa / BONHEUR Yannick FRA
8 EVORA Amanda / LADWIG Mark USA
9 LANGLOIS Anabelle / HAY Cody CAN
10 KOSTENKO Ekaterina / TALAN Roman UKR
11 DELLA MONICA Nicole / KOCON Yannick ITA
12 KEMP Stacey / KING David GBR
13 MORAND Anais / DORSAZ Antoine SUI
15 VOLOSOZHAR Tatiana / MOROZOV Stanislav UKR
16 KAVAGUTI Yuko / SMIRNOV Alexander RUS
17 DUBE Jessica / DAVISON Bryce CAN
18 PANG Qing / TONG Jian CHN

O.M.G. - VeggieTales!

Cannot WAIT for the new video to come out. A Veggie take on Pinnochio?? SCORE! And the silly song this time looks FANTASTIC!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's Winter Olympics Time...

Tomorrow night marks the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. With so many big names coming together in all divisions it's shaping up to be one of the games to remember (how does Canada always get so lucky? They had a great games in 88, too!)

Figure Skating events start of on Sunday with the Pairs Short Program. Right now it looks to be anyone's game between the big names.

Sentimental favorites are most definitely Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao. They were third in 2002, basically forgotten amidst the media scandal that surrounded the second and first place teams. They soon broke away from the shadows, though, comanding the attention of all a year later at the World Championships when Shen skated on a very injured ankle. It was their breakout program. After a few seasons away from competition the team is back for one last go at the Olympic Title. Unlike Plushenko's comeback, however, it's not as certain that they will just take command and bring home Gold. But we can certainly hope for that outcome.

Hard hitters Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy are the big defenders. Coming off of a World Title this team is hungry, and full of action. They're powerhouse moves could dazzle the judges to put them above the more subtle Shen and Zhao if both skate clean, but Shen and Zhao have already come out on top once this season going head to head. It's the character, and in your face innovention that makes this team stand out. Germany should be proud.

Canada's hopes for a medal rest in the hands, most likely, of Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison. They're coming off a win at home at their National Championships last month. They're touted as the next Sale & Pelletier... I wouldn't put it that far. In comparison Dube & Davison are like Sale & Pelletier -with no emotion. Their programs are pretty, they are nice to look at, but you don't get the same energy/emotion coming OUT of the skaters that you found in Sale & Pelletier. The performance aspect just isn't there.

Dube & Davison's teammates also have a bit of buzz surrounding them, but it'll be a rather steep uphill climb to make the podium for Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay. Anabelle is a veteran of the games, having participated with her former partner (Patrice Archetto) in 2002 as one of Canada's three pairs. This season Canada only has two teams on the team. It will be interesting to see where this team stacks up with the world's best (They sat out last season due to injury and illness).

China might have all their eggs in Shen & Zhao's basket, but they've the strongest team in the field. Qing Pang and Jian Tong are going into their third olympics, and while they may not be crowd favorites - many say they lack in chemestry, artistry, and performance - they're solid competitors. And it seems very few pairs teams outside of China have the explosive power. Pang and Tong WILL be top 10, if not top 5.

Also from China, Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang are back for redemption. They were the pair four years ago who went for the quad throw and had a horrible landing, only to rebound and snatch the silver medal. They've been major contenders the last four seasons, and a podium finish is not out of their reach. It wouldn't be a total surprise - to me - to see a Chinese Sweep of the podium, but everyone better bring their A-game.

Surprisingly, the spoilers of this event could be the Russian pair of Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov - yes, that's right, they aren't favored to win - and not really even favored to podium. Don't expect to see Russia off the podium, but they're going to have to skate clean to place there. Also note that the great Tamara Moskvina is their coach, and you may notice Yuko's haircut/look is similar to that of Elena Bereznaya (co-pairs Olympic Champion with partner Anton Sikharuledze & Jamie Sale and David Pelletier in 2002). Just something to notice. (no photo available from Vancouver at this time.)

Teams not expected to have podium placements but should steal the show here in America are the two American teams (naturally). Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett burst onto the scene last season, nearly upsetting the heavy favorites (and eventual winners) at the US Figure Skating National Championships. Many, in fact, believed that they should have been first. This season they successfully made it to the top of the podium skating nearly flawlessly. There's a lot of buzz surrounding these two, and one can only hope that the media and fans alike allow this team to grow and mature on their own without the added pressure of being 'our only hope.'

Second place team of Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig are the surprise out of Nationals. Most had written this team off believing the Olympic team would have Denney and Barrett and either Keauna McLaughlin & Rockne Brubaker (two time national champions) or Rena Inoue & John Baldwin (Olympic Veterans and multiple national champions). It was not to be for those pairs and Amanda and Mark came out on top (but not with some controversy where some suggested Rena and John should be named to the team instead). In the spirit of the games, and the name of tradition Amanda and Mark join Caydee and Jeremy in Vancouver. Here's hoping the magic in Spokane caries over the border and we see them dazzle us again.

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Just in time for the winter olympic kick off tomorrow! GO TEAM USA

This post brought to you by an insane amount of cold/flu medicine.