Thursday, February 18, 2010
So far so good for Canada at these Olympics, although not for the organizers. Oh well.
I think I rarely loathe the media as much as I do when it comes to the Olympic Games. And my day to day esteem of the fifth estate is pretty low, let me tell you.
But at the Olympics, well then the laziness, the incompetence, the hype, the fearmongering about Canadian results, everything just seems to be magnified. It makes me crazy.
How do you think the Canadian team is doing? Wait, first of all, let me ask you this? In Bejiing did you expect Kyle Shewfelt to win a medal? Do you expect Cindy Klaussen to win an individual medal here? Because if you answer yes to either of those then it might be best for you to move on from these here parts.
Kyle Shewfelt broke both of his legs the year before the 2008 Games. Both of his legs. Think about that. Now somehow (well because he's an elite athlete with the heart of a fucking lion) he was able to rehab, rehab, now, not train, to the point where he was able to make the Olympic team and his showing was pretty reasonable, if I recall, maybe top ten. And yet there were many on the message boards and in the letters to the paper who called him, get this, a choker.
You see here's the deal. If you are one of the best athletes in the world and you cannot train properly then you are not going to win a damn thing.
Cindy Klaussen had double knee surgery a year ago. She basically just started competing recently. She's not going to win a medal here, an individual one anyways. I'll bet when this happens that there are those who will say that her results are disappointing.
The margin of error at the Olympic level is miniscule as in there is no margin for error. One of the short trackers missed the final yesterday by one one thousandth of a second.
If you have not been able to train properly or you are injured in a way that effects your performance you are probably not going to win. (Colour me skeptical about Lindsay Vonn's injury then. She may have been hurt but either it was not that bad or it healed fairly quickly. You don't blow out the field if you're really hurt.)
What's frustrating for me is the bubble that the media live in when it comes to projections. Not all of them but many of them, you know, the ones who either never cover the sports (which is everyone outside of Randy Starkman, who is a must read for accurate material by the way) or, at the least, who do not do the research on them.
On the first Saturday of the games a reporter on the CBC talking about Canada's likelihood of winning four golds that day.
Jenn Heil - yes, definitely, she was a favourite.
Osborne-Paradis - a contender but unless you are head and shoulders above everyone, like Vonn, there are no shoo ins to medal in the downhill. Only one of the past six five or six gold medallists in the men's downhill had any real pedigree as a downhill skier with quality results. Most had one or two career victories. Mancuso, the womens' silver medallist, had not been on the podium for two years before Wednesday.
Osborne-Paradis was a contender but no shoo in. The downhill is a crapshoot.
Hamelin - Hamelin should win two medals and has a good shot at three. His event on Saturday was one that he has won two career races in. He was a longshot.
The fourth on this woman's list? Someone so far beyond that I cannot even remember who it was.
And yet there were people on Twitter and elsewhere calling Hamelin a choke artist. Who wondered why Groves only won a bronze in the 3000, despite her only winning one medal, a bronze, in four races this year at that distance. Why? Because the media proclaimed her a gold medal favourite at that distance.
Here's the deal. And don't get me wrong. When someone who is expected to do well fails, it is disappointing to me, although I don't chew the cushions with rage. I suspect that these kids hurt pretty bad when they fall short and don't give a damn about how someone sitting on their couch pouring back another beer feels. But as I preach quite a bit around here, context is everything. to survive the constant bombardment of hype we need to consider:
The athlete. A medal at a world cup or world championships does not a contender make. Maybe it was a poorly attended race in Bulgaria, maybe all the favourites were missing or hungover or trying new wax or just jacking around because it was a minor event in Bulgaria. Not to say that a guy like Robertson or a kid like St. Gelais won't come out of the pack, because it is one race, after all. But saying that Joe Schmoe is a gold medal favourite because they won one event two winters ago is nonsensical. It happens all of the time though.
The sport. Some of this shit is mental. Short track, snowboarding, downhill. Crashes happen constantly and in a lot of ways its a crapshoot. Now often the cream rises - Vonn, Ricker - but sometimes everyone crashes and you end up with Bradbury.
The athlete II - Referring to Vonn and Ricker, Shani Davis, The Flying Tomato, Jenn Heil, Begg Smith and so on.
Some of these guys are so good that they are guaranteed to win a medal and usually its going to be gold. Not always. Sometimes they get beat by someone who puts on the show of their life, like Bilodeau, who actually had only a so-so season up to this point. But these are the ones who we should have high expectations for.
Its a question of knowing your shit. Read Starkman. Don't believe the hype. Enjoy. We've had some terrific performances so far. Denny Morrison was a legitimate contender yesterday as was Roberge in short track, so their performances were a little disappointing, moreso Morrison, but other than that the team has been doing great, imo. Bilodeau and his teammates were awesome. Robertson and St. Gelais with their surprises. People like Edney and LeGuellec, who have done extremely well in sports that Canadians never do well in. Great stuff.
Which leads us to hockey. The game against the Swiss will be a great measuring stick. Four years ago our sorry ass club got shut out by the Swiss and pretty well everyone else. The worst team, by far, of any club we have ever sent to a best on best, both in results and performance. This wasn't getting beat by a hot goalie like in 1998, although that Canadian club, coming at the end of an era when we had our greatest generation of players, when future hall of famers were left off rosters all of the time, was pretty well punch and judy when it came to its offence. Lemieux and Kariya did not play and Sakic was out for the fateful game against the Czechs. That club was solid but they didn't have a lot of firepower. And in 1996 we were done in by a combination of Richter and Cujo.
But 2006. My God what a disgrace of a team. Hubris, a lack of speed, injuries, too few puckmovers on the back end, too many dinks on the roster, a coach past his due date, the list goes on and on.
The game on Tuesday was a nice start against plucky Norway and first of all count me in as a guy who wouldn't mind the Oilers signing Thoresen to a one way deal for a few years to get him back from the KHL. Tuesday we saw it - a competitor, a guy who makes all of the plays, a guy who gets things going in the right direction. He's a better player than some of the options the Oilers have now, you bet.
Tonight is a different story and then of course the Americans, who are a tough nut. Winning the group and winning it big would be huge. They have the advantage already as some of the competition have won but not with huge numbers. A big win tonight and then a win over the Yanks would get them first or second seed and yes the first seed is preferable. Germany or the Swiss in the quarters would be preferable to any number of others and avoiding the Russians and Swedes in the semi would be nice too.
And of course right there I shatter my own argument because in 1998 and in 2002 and in 2006 nothing has really gone to form. In 98 it was the Czechs winning and the Americans not even making the semis and in 2002 Belarus shocked the Swedes and then four years ago Canada collapsed and the Finns nearly went all the way. So who's to say that one of the favourites doesn't start poorly and show up in the quarters?
Scott Reynolds put it nicely, Canada is the favourite which gives them a 25% of winning the tournament. Its pretty well short track all over again except Steven Bradbury (Norway) isn't winning it.
But tick off that list of goaltenders. Hillier. Kiprusoff. Lundqvist. Nabokov. Miller. Halak. Vokuon.
Any one of them can beat you in one given game. That's all it takes.
The Canadians have the best lineup top to bottom. Nobody has our depth up front, although the Swedes, Russians and Americans are pretty damn good. Nobody has it on the back end either but nobody ever does.
But even the teams I remember as the best in recent memory - 1991 and 2004 - two clubs that were barely challenged, imo, didn't waltz through their tournaments by blowing everyone out.
The games are going to be close. A misstep against the Swiss tonight or Miller and the Americans on the weekend and suddenly they have a tough tough road.
They're the favourites. They should win a medal. But they are Maelle Ricker. In Torino she was a favourite and crashed out of the final. Here she won it all but had some nervous moments in qualifying. Nothing is guaranteed. They look good (had to like the size and speed and elan of the club on Tuesday) but they are no sure thing.
There are very few of those.
Posted by Black Dog at 3:15 PM