Top 10 Winter Olympics stories of the skiing kind

Posted By: Zeke Piestrup on February 25, 2010 9:56 pm

Prelude:  A marathon mini-series without a weekend break

The Winter Olympics have no marathon like its summer compatriot.  Viewers glued to their couches and computers for 17 days now would argue otherwise.  It all ends Sunday, remote in hand, operating on fumes after the 26th mile brings us to BC Place.  Physically and mentally worn-out, our ability to make it to the Bob-Costas’-bitter-end is rescued by the roar of the closing ceremonies crowd.

Whether or not our commitment to finishing will be rewarded with broadcast is another story entirely. 

In tape-delaying the Winter Olympics, NBC needed Olympic-sized drama as it morphed miles of daytime footage into nighttime reality shows.  Well, NBC got its wish.  It has been a Winter Olympics filled with controversy, redemption, historic firsts, and sadly death.

Here’s a rundown of the Top 10 Winter Olympics stories, from a ski perspective of course.  Because after all, we are The Ski Channel.  One nation under snow!

Next page:  Where mistakes can’t happen.

home page photo by and of Julia Mancuso at opening ceremonies


10.  Where mistakes can’t happen.

The February 12th death of Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili led to a litany of safety fixes and alterations to the luge track.  All of which were unnecessary of course, because in the words of VANOC, Kumaritashvili “did not compensate properly.” 

Perhaps if all lugers filled out a consent form prior, assuring VANOC that they would compensate perfectly on all turns, everything would have turned out OK.  And we would have 39 Jesus lugers finishing in a 39-way tie for first.  An outcome soccer moms, the number one ratings demographic, would have cheered vigorously.  See, little Bobby, everyone really is a winner.  Everyone except Kumaritashvili whose reputation was trampled on by investigators rushing to leave the liability room.

Next page: The Warhorse cometh







9.  The Warhorse cometh

World Cup racers give big respect to rookie racers who can finish in the points (top 30) on their first descent of the scariest ski race since forever, the Hanenkamm.   Bode Miller finished 30th his first time down, and crossing the line, celebrated, “because I was alive.” Andrew Weibrecht finished 22nd on his rookie run. Weibrecht has the skills.  More importantly he showed in Kitzbuhel that he also has what all great downhillers must have: the ability and willingness to risk it all.   Klammer had it, Bode has it, and Weibrecht has it.

Built like an absolute tank, the “Warhorse” had his crossover hit at these Winter Olympics, winning a bronze medal in the super G. The under ground hits came in 2007 & 2008 on Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey course.  Check the vid above for hero-level skiing and a save for the ages. 

With Weibrecht and Bode Miller, lots of articles talkin’ about lots of torches being passed. One thing that was surely passed and proselytized was Bode’s risk/reward mentality, of which Weibrecht is a disciple. Bode Miller had the right subject at these Winter Olympics.  Certainly it was as worth the two-hundredths of a second between Weibrecht and fourth place. Et tu, Mr. Costas?

next page:  Ashleigh McIvor pockets the podium for herself.


8.  Ashleigh McIvor pockets the podium for herself.

 Perhaps the creative types could have come up with a better name for their $117 million dollar master plan for Canada to Own the Podium.  Perhaps a name that could handle a plan B.  A name that would do its talking after the games.  Nah, they’ll just go with Own the Podium.  Oops.  Where does a distant fourth place and half the medals of the neighbors to the south fit in with owning the podium?  Maybe somebody in charge should have asked what happens if Canada doesn’t own the podium?  Surely, with the name Own the Podium, you’d be teeing yourself up for a big bat of jokes.

Don’t tell Ashleigh McIvor Own the Podium wasn’t the right name or a good investment.  With proper funding, McIvor was able to hire coaches, technicians, all the things necessary to compete at an Olympic level.  McIvor made good on the investment, taking the gold medal in skicross.  She’s the perfect star for a sport making its Olympic debut.  She’s an action movie star in the vein of Sigourney Weaver.  Beautiful and brave, repped by the Own the Podium agency.

Next page: More compensating incorrectly




7.  More compensating incorrectly

After all the reactionary measures enacted at the luge track, VANOC went about business as usually dangerous.  On the Dave Murray downhill course, a frightfully fast, bumpy and mean piste, the women were given just one training run.  A run in which the final jump, a jump larger than any on the women’s World Cup, was cut out of training, because the men were launching off it for the men’s downhill on the same day. 

Let’s recap.  Five days prior, someone died.  So today, you’re going to send women off a jump on which racers did not have the opportunity to train?  “A monstrous jump,” as Lindsey Vonn called it, coming at the end of the race, a full minute-thirty of leg-burning later? 

With legs jello-ed out, doing mach 50, Anja Paerson (pictured right) had a monster of a crash off that monstrous jump.  Luckily the Swedish skiing star avoided serious injury and the humiliation of being told that she did not compensate correctly.  The next day the jump was shaved off for safety reasons.  A day late, again.

Packaged on the Fast and Furious video page of NBC’s Winter Olympic website.  “Experience the thrills and spills of the Winter Games.”  Check Anja’s and the other big crashes in the women’s downhill on the NBC site here.  They are gnarly.

next page:  Delay of Games, offense, five yard penalty



6.  Delay of Games, offense, five yard penalty

I shall not chastise NBC for the choices they make in broadcasting the Winter Olympics.  NBC, like all big tv channels, is owned by a big ol’ corporation.  When you and your friends pony up $2 billion for the media rights, then you can broadcast a Winter Olympics that shows more than five downhill racers. 

Oh, you’re gonna’ go and complain about a corporation not showing events live?  I’m sure they’ll hear your crys, I mean Justice John Roberts has told me a corporation is a person.  An “it” with feelings.  Commence anger now.

What I will chastise NBC for is not offering live streaming of ski racing.  2010, the in-ter-net.  No walls on that thing.  If the tree gets chopped down, somebody’s gonna stream it if you don’t.  Eurosport has been providing the dream coverage for a ski racing fan, has been doing the pirating, and countless websites have been doing the poaching.  Holes in the copyright dam get plugged at half the rate another crack opens.  And true to the Napster parallel, watching online has made me more interested in watching it again later that night, buying the CD wrapped up in a nicely produced, NBC television package. 

next page:  Scotty Lago’s medal porn


5. Scotty Lago’s medal porn.

Wow, that was some comedy.  I mean, seriously?  He was sent home for that?  At least Hester Prynne actually got naked. 

Maybe Scotty Lago was simply a story-starter to discuss larger issues.  You know, tired stereotypes, “family” values, and not understanding it’s the age of TMZ.

But, whatever!  I mean, seriously?  For that?!?  I guess it’s just another case of not compensating correctly.


next page:  Julia Mancuso as the Iceman






4.  Julia Mancuso as the Iceman

This morning on the Jim Rome Show, truck drivers in Alabama heard news about ski racers.  That’s a victory right there.  An emailer to the show (actively participating in a ski racing discussion!), compared Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso to Maverick and Iceman.  Har har, indeed.

There are for sure many interesting angles to the Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso relationship.  Their stark personalities make it fun to pick a favorite, in a boy band sort of way.  A rivalry the only possible outcome when you put two great competitors in the same room for 10 years.  And yes, to have your main competitor unintentionally thwart the biggest run of your life, is tragically ironic.  Tape delay never felt so good.  It was an awesome story line to watch.

What is not there is real conflict.  As much as the story wants to be heard, it isn’t there.  Rome claimed (my Top Gun memory betrays me) that Maverick and Iceman patched things up over an oil-bathed volley ball game.  For Vonn and Mancuso, no volleyball game  is needed.  Bummer.

next page:  Bob Costas delivers Bode Miller from sin.

3.  Bob Costas delivers Bode Miller from sin.

It was the only script offered up to Bode Miller where he plays the leading man.  It’s a movie about redemption. 

Surely some of what Miller said in Turen did not help his own cause, but the way in which his words were used against him was not cool.  Miller may have “got to party and socialize at Olympic level,” but he has always maintained that he was prepared in Turin.  Michael Jordan workout dedication is mandated if one wants to win World Cup alpine races.  Fitness is not an option.  Bode treated Turin like any other World Cup race.  And then it became an odds game and a series of bad bets.

There was a change in Miller this time.  He admittedly let emotion enter the equation.  And then he analyzed for us what that did for his skiing.  Emotionally taxing, he revealed.  Another change, Bode controlled the odds this time around.  He was still Bode Miller, flying by the seat of his pants.  But, the 2010 Bode Miller skied cautiously in more parts than on a typical Bode Run.  Because, as Bode came to find, the Winter Olympics are not just another World Cup race. 

Bode Miller, valued teammate and leader, gold medalist, committing to celluloid the most inspiring skiing on the planet.  To do it in the super-combined was thematically perfect.  Our protagonist starts out a technical specialist.  Later, as a full adult, he finds success as a speed skier.  His first gold medal is redemption with a full circle.  Good script.

next page:  Lindsey Vonn is a bankable superstar.


2.  Lindsey Vonn is a bankable superstar.


As correctly prophesied by me six months ago, Lindsey Vonn has indeed “entered the collective consciousness of America.”  At that time, my words were a bit cheese ball, but no matter, I was right; even if Vegas was giving only even money on a Vonn gold in downhill. 

Lindsey’s performance was confirmation of her absolute greatness.  To live up to a moment piled high with the ultimate pressures is the high water mark for the all-time greats.  Still, Kobe Bryant can have a bad game three in a five game series.  For Vonn, it was not just one game, but only one shot.  One chance to show the world.  On a downhill course that separated the women from the men, Vonn triumphed.  It was not perfect, but it was all-out, tactical, bad-ass athletic, and a thrill to watch.

To the cynics:  It’s about honesty.  Those moment (of tears, of Thomas Vonn) were honest.  They were special.  Yes, they were tailor-made for TV, but that does not make them fake.  Personality legislation is straight high school.  Beautiful moments are there for all to enjoy.  Judge not.  Amen.

next page:  A band of nordic combined brothers
[page]1.  A band of nordic combined brothers.

Johnny Spillane and Billy Demong.  Both inspired by the veteran Todd Lodwick.  A team in the purest, best example of the word.  A team as family.  A team as motivator.  A team even the soloists can cheer for.  Three brothers drove each other to heights never before seen inside the walls of this big American house.  They did it humbly on the fringes of American sport.  Anyone ask you lately, or forever, what you thought of the nordic combined team?  Sport for the gift, not the glory.  Now they have both.  Because this team is a team of winners.

The United States had not won a medal in nordic combined in the 86 year history of the event.  A streak impressive to everyone but Cub fans.  These Winter Olympiians busted that oh-fer streak wide open. 

First, Steamboat’s Johnny Spillane won silver in the normal hill/10 km.  A first in nordic combined.  86 years.  Nine days later, the American team garnered its first ever medal in a team relay event.  The second first.  Finishing off the firsts, Billy Demong secured the USA’s first-ever gold medal in nordic combined on Thursday.  Right behind, covering his back was teammate Johnny Spillane, earning his third Olympic silver in Whistler Olympic Park.  Three medals for Spillane, Two for Demong.  One for Lodwick.  And all for team.

Zeke Piestrup ( More Posts)

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