17 February 2006

Winter Olympics update - Estonia again

BerlinBear avatarFor a country as small as it is, Estonia's performance at these Winter Olympics in Turin has been quite phenomenal. After the two gold medals won in the last few days by Kristina Smigun - which I blogged about in hushed tones of awe yesterday, another Estonian athlete has won gold today. This time it was the men's turn, with Andrus Veerpalu, the defending champion, taking out first place in the men's 15km classical cross-country skiing. That's one gold medal for every 400,000 inhabitants now. That would be the equivalent of New Zealand winning 10 gold medals, or Germany winning 200 (which is not even possible). Quite amazing! Well done Estonia.

Germany has picked up another medal today too. Bronze in the men's 15km cross-country - the event that Veerpalu won - courtesy of Tobias Angerer.

[Source: Sport1.de]

Angerer was not even considered a medal hopeful, so unlike yesterday's silver for the Nordic combiners, this bronze is being feted as if it were gold. Sport1.de quotes Angerer as saying:
This time, bronze is just like gold for the whole team. It's like a whole lot of millstones have been removed from around my neck.
As I was lying in the snow, I suddenly thought I had misread the scoreboard. I did a double-take and saw that there really was a 3rd next to my name. (My translation)
A bit surprised at the result, then, I take it. How nice to see a bronze so celebrated instead of mourned. Refreshing.

Those Swiss have bagged another gold today. (Whatever was Kiwi in Zurich bleating about?) Snowboader Tanja Frieden took home the gold medal in the women's snowboardcross in what have to be considered lucky circumstances. American Jacobellis was leading by a long way and then fell just before the finish, allowing Frieden to sneak through. I've seen the coverage and it looks an awful lot like Jacobellis, thinking she had gold in the bag, was showboating unnecessarily and stuffed up. Poor thing. I suspect a few tears will be shed into her beer tonight.

There's a bit of a scandal brewing in the German men's skijump team this evening. After Alexander Herr was left out of the final selection for the men's large hill, he went spare and complained loudly and acerbicly to the media, saying that the coach's decision was "laughable". There's speculation that he might be kicked off the team and sent home, but the coach is taking it in his stride and things are still developing. I'll be very interested to see what happens there. In New Zealand, an outburst like that would be written off by the public as sour grapes, the athlete would be pegged as a sore loser and it would be career suicide. I wonder if the same will happen here in Germany. We'll see.

For those who have no idea what any of these sports I'm talking about are or how they work, here are the links for you, courtesy of the Beeb:

Cross-country skiing: event guide
Snowboard cross: event guide
Ski jumping: event guide

And finally, I'm going to round this post off with a demonstration of why I love the Olympics. It's not just about winning golds. It's about being there, taking part, and competing to the very best of your ability against the top athletes in the world in your chosen sport. It's about giving it your all, even when you do don't have a snowball's chance in hell of coming home with precious metal.

The picture below is of one Rory Morrish. He is Ireland's first competitor at the Winter Olympics in Turin. Here he is captured crossing the line in the men's 15km classical cross-country earlier today. Every muscle fibre in his body must be screaming at him. He is finishing 88th out of 97 competitors, or in German media language, 9th to last. But look at the smile on his face. It's enough to give you goose pimples.
That is the Olympic spirit. That's why I love watching the Olympic games. More of the same please, and well done Rory!

[Source: BBC Sport]

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