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The Winter Olympics hangover is finally over!

March 4, 2010
If it weren’t for the 10-hour time difference, my sleep schedule wouldn’t have been so disrupted… But hey, here we are again and with the Vancouver Olympics successfully concluded now is my chance to give you those "Atta Girl, Atta Boy" moments from the Olympics and some other thoughts…
 
There is no way I can write an entry about the Winter Games without mentioning the horrific death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. RIP young man… I suppose speculation will always reign as to why the accident happened in the first place. It was quite emotional when members of the Georgian delegation emerged at the Opening Ceremonies with black scarves, black armbands and a black sash attached to the flag. Even more emotional was the crowd’s reaction – a standing ovation. Hats off to the Georgian team for taking part at such a terrible time…
 
The Opening Ceremonies were incredible – despite lots of criticism from thousands of people, I thought they were really great. I actually dragged myself out of bed at 3.45 a.m. Finnish time to watch them – I was determined!
 
The weather was a headliner. A colleague at work was in Whistler last year around this time and experienced none of the warm weather that is currently dominating Vancouver. People have been questioning the location – well DUH – normally Vancouver DOES have snow and cold at this time of the year.
 
I feel I must doll out some criticism for the over-hyped, overly-critical media machine covering the Olympics. It was seriously worse than reality TV! Accusations of "choking" by Canadian (and Finnish) athletes dominated the headlines in the first few days, with nasty comments from "fans" who insisted that overpaid NHL stars representing Canada (and Finland) should pull up their socks and do their job… The media pressure was intense for the first half of the games and I can understand why that may have affected some of the athletes… But Geez – lighten up… And somewhere along the way the media did – and Canada and Finland pulled off some gusty performances.
 
Kristina Groves – She’s finally at the pinnacle of her career and was poised to medal more than once in these games. I actually skated a few age groups above her when I used to don the blades. She’s had a very long haul with the national team and I am so pleased for her that she is finally at this level. So I will give my first "Atta Girl." GO KRISTINA! She won two medals in Vancouver.
 
Peetu Piiroinen broke the ice by winning Finland’s first medal (silver) in the men’s halfpipe on February 17. Hyvä Peetu!
 
Mika Poutala (FIN) – You have to feel for this guy… He missed out on a medal in the men’s 500m (long track speedskating) by 0.03 seconds. For Poutala it’s a light year, and something he’ll never be able to take back.
 
As much as I am not a fan of Petra Majdic (SLO), I do have to salute her never-say-die effort in winning a bronze medal in the women’s individual sprint – with four broken ribs nonetheless.
 
Curling and hockey started with a bang and the wild pants of the Norwegian men’s team had a huge following on Facebook. The tournaments were a hit for the duration (there were no curling tickets to be found anywhere. Fans were criticized for being too loud during matches). Curling and hockey are two sports (except maybe women’s hockey) where parity has been achieved by a number of countries. In curling is not necessarily Canada at the top of the pile anymore – as we have seen in women’s curling especially, the Swedes, the Swiss and the Chinese are teams to be reckoned with. Men’s hockey regularly features 7-8 teams that are capable of challenging for the gold medal. (The men’s WHC in Germany start in just 64 days!)
 
Shani Davis (USA) handily defended his 1000m title in men’s long track. He’s not pretty to watch (in my opinion he’s kind of a messy-looking skater), but he’s fast!
 
Teemu Selänne now holds the all-time scoring title in men’s Olympic hockey with 37 points (20+17), he was in his fifth Olympics. Hyvä Teemu!
 
Japan’s Noriaki Kasai (men’s ski jumping) competed in his sixth Olympics – the guy is a dinosaur at 37, but still jumping – a huge hats off to him!
 
Canada’s male cross-country skiers blazed trails into the history books in the 15+15km pursuit with all four men placing in the top 16. Way to go Ivan, George, Alex and Devon. Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw then proceeded to ski into the history books with a fourth place in the men’s pair-sprint. The men’s 4×10 relay was VERY interesting to watch!…
 
IMHO One of the gutsiest efforts put forth at the Olympics was by cross-country skier Devon Kershaw – from my hometown in Canada! He finished 1.6 seconds behind Petter Northug (NOR) to finish fifth in the men’s 50km – an historical moment for Canada. I can’t wait until Sochi to see what the Canadian men will do there!
 
Marit Björgen (NOR) has always made me doubt her abilities with several withdrawals in past major competitions, but she has delivered – three times now – in Vancouver. She’s been in the top tiers of skiing for a long time, but she’s finally earned her weight – in gold.
 
Hats off to the Finnish men’s (5th) and women’s (bronze) cross-country ski relay teams. The men’s fifth place finish was the best in 12 years! The women battled back from 12th place after the first exchange to get a medal – way to go Aino-Kaisa!
 
Atta girl Aino-Kaisa Saarinen for a bronze medal in the 30km too! The men’s team is lacking the depth that make them real and true threats for the podium. Let’s hope this will change for Sochi…
 
"IGGY!" will be forever etched into the memory of Canadian hockey player Jerome Iginla, who slid the puck to teammate Sidney Crosby and with a flick of the wrist gave Canada the coveted gold medal on home turf. I never knew the battle for national pride could be so bloody stressful. I was physically ill when the US scored in the dying seconds of regulation time… But with Crosby’s goal, all is as it should be in the world of hockey!
 
Don’t forget – just because the Olympics are over – the Paralympics are not far behind! http://www.cbc.ca/sports/amateur/story/2010/03/02/sp-paralympics-prep.html
 
Until then… Party
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