16 February 2006

More Winter Olympics

BerlinBear avatar Time for another Winter Olympics update. Much has happened since I last posted.

For one thing, in a development which will please regular reader Kiwi in Zurich, the Swiss have finally opened their medal account. Bruno Kernen picked up bronze in the men's downhill yesterday, while Martina Schild went one better, winning silver in the equivalent women's event. Nice job. But today it got even better for the Swiss team, this time on the ice hockey rink. The Swiss men's ice hockey team beat an out of sorts Czech side 3-2. The Czechs are the world champions, so that counts as something of a giant slaying. Hupp Schwiiz!

Norwegian athletes have been, if you will, the perpetual bridesmaids at this Olympics so far. The Norwegian team has won a lot more medals than any other, it's just that not many of them are gold. Poor things. I have a soft spot for the Norwegians. No reason, really, I just do. Their medal count is currently one gold, six silver and six bronze. Still, it could be worse, it could look like New Zealand's or Great Britain's medal counts. Those two teams, as if I even need to say it, are yet to trouble the scorers.

I suppose I also have to mention that Australia won its first medal of these games yesterday too. It was gold, and it went to Dale Begg-Smith in the men's freestyle skiing moguls. Yes, yes, well done and all that you Aussies. (Begg-Smith only recently became an Australian, having emigrated from Canada six years ago. Just thought I'd throw that out there for good measure.)

The Swedes had a good day yesterday, picking up 2 gold medals within 20 minutes of each other in the men's and women's cross-country skiing. That's another soft-spot nation for me right there. They've got the best royal family in the world, for one thing. Oh, and Abba.

Even at this early stage, I think I can be fairly confident in predicting which country is going to have the largest number of gold medals per capita of population. That would be Estonia. According to the CIA World Factbook, Estonia has a population of around 1.3 million. With two gold medals to their name already, both won by cross-country skier Kristina Smigun, I think we can be pretty much certain that no other country is going to equal that, unless of course Patrick Singleton of Bermuda were to win gold in the men's skeleton. Go Patrick, go! (Incidentally, Smigun is also the only athlete so far two win two golds at this Olympics.)

Meanwhile, Austria have had a great couple of days, picking up three gold medals in the last 24 hours. Yesterday, Austrians won gold in the women's downhill skiing (Michaela Dorfmeister) and the two-man luge (brothers Andreas and Wolgang Linger), and today the Austrian men's Nordic combined team (that's ski-jumping meets cross-country skiing for the uninitiated) snuck past the German team at the last to claim gold, after the Germans had led all the way. I'll give you one guess how well the German media are taking that. They do not begrudge the Austrians the gold medal, by any means - and by all accounts their performance in the last cross-country leg was out of this world - but the German Nordic combined team is getting torn to shreds. The talk is most certainly not of 'winning silver', but of 'losing gold'. Sometimes they need to get things in perspective, I reckon.

Also not entirely welcomed by the German media is the news today that biathlon superstars Uschi Disl and Kati Wilhelm did not win any medals in the 7.5 km biathlon event, just as they hadn't in the 15km event earlier in the week. Wilhelm finished 7th, while Disl - the most successful woman biathlete of all time - finished well down the ranks, low enough that the Germans aren't bothering to report the place (which in Germany is about 8th!). I had to go to an American sports website to find out that it was in fact 38th. It doesn't even seem to be much of a consolation that the other German biathlete, Martina Glagow is going to have her bronze medal turn silver, after the first doping scandal of this Olympics saw the Russian silver medalist from the 15km event, Olga Pyleva, ruled out of today's shorter race and suspended until further notice. Both her A and B samples have tested positive for the stimulant Carphedon, which is apparently very rare and has only ever been detected in half a dozen drugs tests. German websites are reporting that Pyleva has admitted taking the substance, given to her by her private doctor, after a foot injury.

With the men's Nordic combined and the women biathletes not living up to media standards and expectations, imagine the pressure that's on the women's speedskating team as they go into the semi-finals of the team pursuit. They are Germany's great white hope for this evening. The team is made up of the 4th, 5th and 6th place-getters in the individual 3000m, and in the quarter-finals they have already beaten the Netherlands (who had the gold and silver medallists from that event), so they're a good team with a good shot at a medal. All I can say is that if it's not at least silver, they are going to be hung out to dry. So, no pressure then.

I think that's plenty for one update. I may post another later this evening, depending on developments, even if it's just to give you an updated medal table. In the meantime, here's an amusing picture of German luge gold medallist, Sylke Otto. I wonder if we should tell her?

[Source: Yahoo! Sports]

(For the record, Germans always count like that, not having been invovled in the Battle of Agincourt and all that, so I think we can let her off.)

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