Sunday, February 28, 2010

2010 Vancouver Olympics: Day 15

I guess in a sport as risky as short track you can win as easily as you can lose; on Friday night Apolo Ohno demonstrated just that. Trying to defend his gold in the 500m, the fourth place (in a four man race) Ohno tried to make a move to the front, when he was disqualified. What for you ask? Apparently Apolo caused a crash that made Canadian skater Francois Louis Tremblay fall; Apolo says he only put his hand on Tremblay's hip to protect himself and he did not push him and he did not deserve to be disqualified. He suggested that the head Canadian referee may have had something to do with it. Charles Hamelin of Canada won the gold and not only in the 500m but later in the night in the 5000m relay. Apolo did end up winning a bronze medal in the 5000m relay along with Olympic rookies J.R. Celski, Jordan Malone, and Travis Jayner.

Men's 500m
1. Gold-- Charles Hamelin, Canada, 40.981
2. Silver-- Sung Si Bak, South Korea, 41.340
3. Bronze-- Francois Louis Tremblay, Canada, 46.366

Men's 5000m Relay
1. Gold-- Canada, Charles Hamelin/ Francois Hamelin/ Olivier Jean/ Francois Loius Tremblay, 6:44.244
2. Silver-- South Korea, Kwak Yoon Gy/ Lee Ho Suk/ Lee Jung Su/ Sung Si Bak, 6:44.446
3. Bronze-- U.S.A., J.R. Celski, Travis Jayner, Jordan Malone, Apolo Ohno, 6:44.498

Katherine Reutter's role model growing up was Bonnie Blair; one piece of advice she gave her was to remember that the girls she is competing against at the Games are the same ones she competes against all the time. Reutter must have listened because she won silver in the 1000m, the only medal by a U.S. woman in speedskating or short track for these games. She only lost to the best in the world Meng Wang of China. who already won three golds at these games and has clearly established herself as a powerhouse.

Ladies' 1000m
1. Gold-- Meng Wang, China, 1:29.213
2. Silver-- Katherine Reutter, U.S.A., 1:29.324
3. Bronze-- Park Seung Hi, South Korea, 1:30.165

Friday, February 26, 2010

Hail to the "Queen" Yu Na

She was so good that she should have been in a class all by herself, Kim Yu Na of South Korea won gold in ladies' figure skating last night. She shattered the previous high score, and beat silver medalist and rival, Japan's Mao Asada, by 23 points. She set new world records in the short program, free skate, and overall score; "I thought, is this score something that's really possible? ... This is the best performance I have ever done." Queen Yu Na, as she is known to her fans, says she hopes to defend her win at the world championships next month in Torino. She is already thinking about Sochi in 2014, and hopes that South Korea will be able to host the Games in 2018. At only 19 years of age, Kim dazzled the audience with a sophisticated performance that was as close to perfection as one can get. The commentators said that Kim has all the elements that the judges look for with the new scoring system.
Mao Asada became the first woman to land two triple axels in a free skate, quite the achievement for the woman who was not eligible to skate at the last Olympics and was the 2008 world champion.
Joannie Rochetee of Canada displayed courage that most people don't have, even if they try. Just a week after losing her mom to a heart attack, Rochette skated the free program of her life, and not only captured our hearts but the bronze medal. Her dad sat in the stands and cried when her program was over. Rochette says that watching Kim and Asada inspired her to compete and focus on the things she needed to focus on.

Ladies' Figure Skating
1. Gold-- Kim Yu Na, South Korea, 228.56
2. Silver-- Mao Asada, Japan, 205.50
3. Bronze-- Joannie Rochette, Canada, 202.64

Thursday, February 25, 2010

2010 Vancouver Olympics: Days 13 and 14

Day 13

Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic won her second gold medal of these games, this time in the 5000m event. Sablikova, dubbed the skating "queen" of these games said if she would have had to skate just 100m more, she would not have made it. Just four years ago, Cindy Glassen was Canada's golden girl winning five medals in Torino; this time around she has not won one medal. Clara Hughes, at the age of 37, and in her last Olympic games won bronze for Canada; she felt it was a great way to close out her career. Stephanie Beckert of Germany took silver.

1. Gold-- Martina Sablikova, Czech Republic, 6:50:91
2. Silver-- Stephanie Beckert, Germany, 6:51:39
3. Bronze-- Clara Hughes, Canada, 6:55:73

In the 3000m short track relay, South Korea began their gold medal celebration a bit prematurely; judges ruled that they impeded during an exchange push with just laps remaining. South Korea was disqualified. China took the gold, Canada the silver, and U.S.A. the bronze.

3000m Relay
1. Gold-- China
2. Silver-- Canada
3. Bronze-- U.S.A.

Day 14

The surprise in it all is that no American women made it on to the podium in the Ladies' Giant Slalom. It was an event that Julia Mancuso was expected to fare well in, after all, she was the defending champion. Even more surprising was who won, 20 year old Viktoria Rosenburg from Germany who competed for the first time in senior level after winning this event at the junior championships last year. "It's the highest thing I ever could achieve, crazy," she said following her run. Tina Maze of Slovenia won another silver, her other silver coming in the Super G, and Elisabeth Goergl of Austria matched her bronze from downhill with a bronze in this event as well.

Ladies' Giant Slalom
1. Gold-- Viktoria Rosenburg, Germany, 2:27:11
2. Silver-- Tina Maze, Slovenia, 2:27:15
3. Bronze-- Elisabeth Goergl, Austria, 2:27:25

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

American Idol Season 9: The Top 12 Guys

For a year that was hyped to be the year of the lady, the men sure stepped up to the plate tonight, and a lot of them knocked it out of the park. They had more personality, more presence, and they chose better songs. I was actually able to pick out six guys this week that I like and think should move on to the next round as opposed to the ladies where I found it really difficult to do that.

(I will put a number in front of each commentary, this is the order in which they performed)

Top 6 (for tonight/ for now):

11 Casey James was in great form tonight; when I heard he was singing "Heaven" by Bryan Adams, I knew he made a great song choice. Randy said loved your song choice, and love your swagger. Kara said you are eye candy, but you are also ear candy, and if you didn't look this good I would still like you because you can sing. Simon called the performance honest, sincere, and likable, and also said it was absolutely the right song choice.

02 Aaron Kelly, for a 16 year old, he really impressed me; his voice is strong and all he lacks is self confidence which I think he can work on. "Here Comes Goodbye" by Rascal Flatts was a great song for him to choose because it really showcased his vocal abilities. Simon said he needs to believe in himself and why he is there and to have self confidence because that's what it's all about. Ellen loved his humility.

07 Lee DeWyze sang "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol which I thought was a good jam for him to sing. I thought I was going insane after this performance because all the judges were bashing him-- Ellen said she thought it was forced. Randy thought it was too pop and he should have sang some Kings of Leon. Kara said there were times where he changed it up too much to find the sweet spot in his voice. And then, Simon, the voice of reason spoke and called it the best performance of the night so far and called him a natural singer with a great voice. Simon says he fought for him and he is not giving up on him because he believes in him.

05Joe Munoz tackled the stylistically difficult Jason Mraz and his song "You and I Both". The performance overall wasn't great, but his voice was. I loved how he didn't deviate too much from the melody of the song. Simon said he didn't show enough star potential, but Ellen commented that he looked very comfortable on the stage.

10 Alex Lambert really does sound like English singer James Morrison and so it is fitting that he chose to sing his song "Wonderful World". Simon said Alex looked extremely uncomfortable on stage and said he has to work on getting it together cause he has a great voice. Kara said he has a great tone to his voice and great potential. I agree with Kara he just needs to calm his nerves before he performs and believe in himself. Ellen said he has all of it, he just needs confidence.

12 Andrew Garcia tried a really weird version of "Sugar We're Going Down" by Fall Out Boy which kinda confused me. He was way too serious in the performance which was Simon's exact comment. Kara thought it was a strange risk, Randy didn't like the arrangement, and Simon said it's a shame because he has a fantastic recording voice.

The Bottom 6:

04 Tim Urban is someone I thought deserved a hug following his performance. I felt bad for him because the song by One Republic, "Apologize" was all wrong for him. He didn't have the time to prepare that all the other contestants did because he was added after Chris Golightly was disqualified. I agree that he needs to work on his vocals because they were really weak. Simon said it just wasn't good enough which is why he wasn't originally chosen. Kara said his vocals were buried under the beat, and Ellen hopes he gets another chance (so do I).

06 Tyler Grady's version of "American Woman" should have been a little more contemporary than it was, perhaps channeling Lenny Kravitz a little more than it did. Simon wants him to change things up a little more, Ellen wants him to work on his vocals, and Kara said he needs to do more than just try and live the 70's.

09 Michael Lynche sang "This Love" by Maroon 5 which I found to be an odd choice for him. I will admit that he has a great personality, and as Randy said, he did bring the energy up during his performance. Simon said he was like a support act, and he is better than that, and he told Michael that when he watches it back, he will regret it.

08 John Park may be one of the most likable contestants this year; he has a great personality. His rendition of "God Bless the Child" was all wrong, and I found it odd that he chose that because I think it suits a woman's voice better. Simon said it left him flat and he didn't get it. He said there needed to be more emotion; I agree. John said this song meant a lot to him and he needed to do a better job of communicating that. I do not agree with Kara saying it was indulgent, but I do agree with her saying it was "loungy". Ellen said that he sounded good but she wishes it was a different song because she likes him so much.

03 Jermaine Sellers pushed too much, Ellen said, following his performance of "Get Here" by Oleta Adams. Randy said that he tried to do too much with the song, and Kara commented that the runs need to be more meaningful. Simon said it was so over the top that it just didn't work.

01 Worst performance of the night goes to Todrick Hall who sang an unrecognizable version of Kelly Clarkson's "Since You Been Gone". The arrangement was atrocious and the vocals were not that great; I do think he is a good performer/ actor. Randy said you never want to obliterate a song to the point that you don't know what it is, and that is exactly what he did. Simon said he came across as a dancer who is trying to sing rather than a singer who can dance, and he proceeded to call the performance stupid.

American Idol Season 9: The Top 12 Ladies

I was looking forward to the season 9 girls because they have been so hyped up; all the judges say this is the year of the girl. After hearing everyone sing, I was not very impressed; there are not 5 or 6 that I would send on to the finals at this point. I guess I need to wait another week, see if anyone takes in the criticism of the judges and improves.

Thumbs up!

*I was most impressed with Crystal Bowersox; this woman is a natural born performer who does not care about what other people think of her. She is so genuine and Randy said he loves her honesty and originality. Simon thought she could have done better but finds her refreshing, I loved her singing Alanis Morrisette, "Hand in my Pocket" because it was her. Kara said she has the ability to take us on a journey when she sings and if that is true I am going with her.

*Michelle Delamor surprised me a lot, though I expected her to sing a song like Alicia Keys' "Fallin", it was such a professional performance that I didn't care about her song choice. Randy urged her to take risks and I agree

*Lilly Scott sang "Fixin a Hole" by the Beatles and Simon said he was happy that she picked a song that portrayed who she is as an artist but he didn't feel star power from her. Randy liked her indie artist vibe and feels it is honest.

*Katelyn Epperly's jazzy rendition of the Beatles' "Oh Darlin" was a good move for her. Kara told Katelyn that she knows her voice very well and switched up the melody of the song to suit her voice. Randy loved how, unlike other singers, she paid attention to the tone.

Middle of the Road

*Siobhan Magnus has great vocals but I cannot understand why she chose a song as dark as Chris Issac's "Wicked Game". Ellen and Kara both really liked it. Simon was split, and Randy said the song was a little too small for her at this time in the competition.

*Katie Stevens has been told various times that she could win this whole thing, but last night's performance of Michael Buble's "Feeling Good" left me wanting more. She did not display great vocal abilities; Kara said it was pitchy all over the place. Simon found it "pageanty" and borderline annoying. Ellen told her to act more like a 17 year old, to have more fun with the performance; I really hope she will do that.

*The only reason Ashley Rodriguez is in the middle of the road group is because I have heard this young woman sing and she is so talented. The problem came in her song choice, Leona Lewis' "Happy"; this song was way too big for this stage of the competition. It is far too risky to take on Leona Lewis unless you can definitely sing this song as strongly as she can. The arrangement is horrible but I am hoping she will be back.

*Janell Wheeler is in this group because I know she has it in her to be better; her rendition of "American Boy" by Estelle in the Hollywood round was one of the surprises in the competition. Her choice of "What About Love" by Heart made her lose a lot of the originality in her voice according to judge Kara and I agree. What was present in "American Boy" was not present in "What About Love".

Thumbs Down :(

*Paige Miles choice of "All Right Now" by rock group Free was a really odd choice. Simon thinks she has the best voice of all the girls but completely chose the wrong song. I think if she wants to move up in this competition she needs to think more about what song she chooses.

*Didi Benami gets the award for choosing a song I have never heard of, "The Way I Am" by Ingrid Michaelson. Simon called her performance self indulgent which I do agree with; she chose a song for herself rather than for the viewers. Randy said there was not enough star power.

*Lacey Brown's rendition of "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac was depressing; Simon wondered when it was gonna be over. Ellen said Lacey is better than the performance she gave. Kara hopes she gets another chance, but Randy said it was terrible and a bad song choice, very pitchy.

*Haeley Vaughn wins the worst performance of the night award. She is someone who was totally hyped up by the judges, they all said how great she was, including Simon. This was disappointing. I did not like the arrangement that she did of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" by the Beatles; the vocal sounded very forced. Kara loves her presence but said that she needs to practice the technical part of her performance. Simon said verging on terrible, a complete and utter mess.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2010 Vancouver Olympics: Days 11 and 12

Day 11:

The Canadian ice dancing team of Virtue and Moir entered into the history books in more way than one last night. They are the first Canadians and first North American ice dancing team to win gold at the games and they are the first team to win gold in their first Olympic appearance. The current U.S. champions, Meryl Davis and Charlie White won a silver medal, it was the first time ever that a U.S. team won a medal in back to back Olympics (Belbin and Agosto won silver in Torino). Reigning World champions Oksana Dominina and Maxim Shabalin took bronze after a tough original and free dance, just edging out Belbin and Agosto. Had the Russian team not won bronze, it would have been the first time since ice dancing became an Olympic sport in 1976 that a Russian team was not on the podium; so history continues.

As for Belbin and Agosto, last night was most likely their last dance; they have hinted at other projects or turning professional. The duo is credited with bringing popularity to the sport in North America, they were truly mentors for teams like Virtue & Moir and Davis & White.

Ice Dancing
1. Gold-- Tessa Virtue/ Scott Moir, Canada, 221.57
2. Silver-- Meryl Davis/ Charlie White, U.S.A., 215.74
3. Bronze-- Oksana Dominina/ Maxin Shabalin, Russian Federation, 207.64

Day 12:

Bode Miller was hoping to add to his medal collection from this games (one in each color thus far) today in the giant slalom, but it was not to be; Miller missed a gate in his first run and was disqualified. It was the first time in this Olympics in an alpine event (seven events) that an American has not won a medal, then again, there was no Austrian on the podium either. The man who did win gold was one nicknamed the "Iceman", Carlo Janka of Switzerland, add in a couple of Norwegians, including Svindal who has already won a gold and silver at these games, and you have your medalists.

Men's Giant Slalom
1. Gold-- Carlo Janka, Switzerland, 2:37:83
2. Silver-- Kjetil Jansrud, Norway, 2:38:22
3. Bronze-- Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway, 2:38:44

An error in lane switching cost young Dutchman Sven Kramer the gold. He skated for eight laps without knowing it and he sees when he looked up and saw his girlfriends head buried in her hands, he knew something was wrong. Apparently his coach made him make a move that cost him a gold medal and quite possibly an Olympic record as well. Kramer came into the competition as the favorite and left with no medal at all. Lee Seung Hoon expected to win silver as he had in the 5000m but instead he ended up winning gold.

Men's 10000m
1. Gold-- Lee Seung Hoon, South Korea, 12:58:55 Olympic Record
2. Silver-- Ivan Skobrev, Russian Federation, 13:02:07
3. Bronze-- Bob de Jong, The Netherlands, 13:06:73

In South Korea Kim Yu Na is like a celebrity, she is everywhere and selling everything, taking in $8-9 million a year; in Vancouver she is the favorite to win the gold medal in the ladies' figure skating. Her closest competitor and biggest rival Japan's Mao Asada is more than five points out of first place following the short program. Kim's program was a sexy but technically packed number to James Bond music complete with a glittery skating outfit. She earned a 78.5, the highest score under the new judging system thus far. Mao sits in second place with two triple axels planned in her long program to catch up with "Queen Yu Na". In third is Canada's Joannie Rochette who gave an inspired heartfelt performance following the sudden death of her mother just two days ago. Her father sat in the audience and father and daughter both cried following her performance. Japan's Miki Ando, the World champion from 2007 is in fourth and the two young Americans Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu will also skate in the last group on the long program because they are in fifth and sixth respectively.

Ladies' Figure Skating standings following the Short Program
1. Kim Yu Na, South Korea, 78.5
2. Mao Asada, Japan, 73.78
3. Joannie Rochette, Canada, 71.36
4. Miki Ando, Japan, 64.76
5. Rachael Flatt, U.S.A., 64.64
6. Mirai Nagasu, U.S.A., 63.76

Sunday, February 21, 2010

2010 Vancouver Olympics: Day 10

Now he can say he has one in every color; Bode Miller won gold today in the men's super combined. Miller has already won a bronze and a silver in two events at these games and today, in this third event, he finally won the gold that everyone knew he could win.
Following his run, Miller said, "The way I executed, the way I skied, is something I'll be proud of the rest of my life. I skied with 100 percent heart, I didn't hold anything back-- it's just awesome, there's nothing else to say."
Miller even admits that he has no idea how he made it through the final 15 gates in slalom because his legs were completely gone; he says it must have been sheer willpower. Favorite Anksel Lund Svindal from Norway did not complete his slalom run solidifying Miller's gold. Defending champion and American teammate Ted Ligety ended up fifth despite running the fastest slalom because he had too much ground to make up after placing 15th in the downhill. Ligety is happy though that Miller is the new champion if it cannot be him.
Ivica Kostelic of Croatia matched his success in Turin winning the silver medal. Silvan Zurbriggen from Switzerland who has suffered numerous injuries in the past three years won the bronze medal.

Men's Super Combined
1. Gold-- Bode Miller, U.S.A., 2:44:92
2. Silver-- Ivica Kostelic, Croatia, 2:45:25
3. Bronze-- Silvan Zurbriggen, Switzerland, 2:45:32

In the Netherlands, speedskating is the premier sport, and in Torino 19 year old Ireen Wust was deemed their next great skater. The past two years were tough for Wust forcing the Dutch to wonder, was she the real deal? They don't have to wonder anymore because Wust won gold today in the 1500m defending her gold from '06. "I have faced many disappointments," Wust admitted; evidence of that was that she broke down crying on the podium deep in thought.
The Canadians continued their quest for gold on the track, but settled for a silver won by Kristina Groves. Martina Sablikova, of the Czech Republic, a long distance specialist took the bronze. The U.S. skaters were a non factor finishing in 16th, 18th, 24th, and 31st.

Ladies' 1500m
1. Gold-- Ireen Wust, The Netherlands, 1:56:89
2. Silver-- Kristina Groves, Canada, 1:57:14
3. Bronze-- Martina Sablikova, Czech Republic, 1:57:96

The top ice dance teams took to the rink tonight to perform their original dance; this year's requirements were that the dance be a country or folk dance. The surprising leaders tonight going into the free dance were Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, training partners with Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. Virtue and Moir were in third place following the compulsory dance and danced a flamenco tonight that just about melted the ice under their feet. It was well put together and had all the qualities the a strong original dance should have, sharp lines and curvy turns, closeness, expression, balance and lifts. Davis and White took second and took on Bollywood for their dance, and their interesting movements and great fluidity paired with their strength of staying in character earned them their highest marks of the season. Current World Champions, Russia's Oksana Domnina and Maxsim Shabalin went into the competition with the most talked about dance. The two garnered some controversy for performing a dance to Aborignal music that some said was offensive and inartistic along with some gaudy costumes, nevertheless they finished in third. Torino silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto performed a Moldavian folk dance with more speed than probably any other team that skated before them. Their costumes were beautiful and they had precise moves partnered with great artistry and expression, but the silver medalists find themselves sitting in fourth, seven points back from the leaders.

Ice Dance Standings After Original Dance
1. Tessa Virtue/ Scott Moir, Canada, 111.15
2. Meryl Davis/ Charlie White, U.S.A., 108.55
3. Oksana Domnina/ Maxsim Shabalin, Russia, 106.60
4. Tanith Belbin/ Ben Agosto, U.S.A., 103.33

Saturday, February 20, 2010

2010 Vancouver Olympics: Day 9

The person most surprised by Andrea Fischbacher winning the gold was probably Fischbacher herself; "It was really crazy. It was a really straight course and you had to push from start to finish," she said following her run in the Super G. She looked up at the scoreboard and couldn't believe that she had finished in front of Lindsey Vonn.
Vonn settled for bronze and said her mistake was that she cruised through the first part of her run and then she said, "I kind of backed off the gas pedal. I felt like I just didn't ski as aggressively as I could have, and I think that's where I lost the race."
The other surprise in this was the second place finish by Tina Maze of Slovenia; her silver medal was the best finish for Slovenia in the history of the Winter Olympics. She told reporters that sometimes it can be hard to represent a country as small as Slovenia, but she also spoke of the greatness of its athletes.
Vonn will decide in the next couple of days whether or not she plans to compete in her remaining events.

Ladies Super G
1. Gold-- Andrea Fischbacher, Austria, 1:20:14
2. Silver-- Tina Maze, Slovenia, 1:20:63
3. Bronze-- Lindsey Vonn, U.S.A., 1:20:88

The men's 1500m was full of stories from the athletes competing. For Chad Hedrick, it was his last individual race, presumably ever, before retirement. He was hoping to improve his bronze in the 1000m, after all, the 1500m is his speciality; however, it was not to be, he finished sixth. The disappointing finish brought back memories of Torino in '06 and Hedrick finishing in third after Enrico Fabris of Italy had the skate of his life and won gold. "It's the second time in a row that Shani and I have gotten this race stolen from us. We go in as heavy favorites each time, and it is some special skater every time that comes in." Hedrick said of the winner, The Netherlands Mark Tuitert, "it couldn't happen to a better guy."
Shani Davis repeated exactly, his performance in Torino, gold in the 1000m and silver in the 1500m. "I just couldn't man up and do it," Davis told reporters, "I wasn't strong enough for the victory." Davis struggled to hang on for the final lap and you could tell that he really worked for that silver medal.
In the Netherlands where speedskating is like a religion, Mark Tuitert became a hero tonight, winning the gold medal and beating out the two favorites from the United States, Hedrick and Davis. "I can't believe it... everything went right-- this is the race of my life," Tuitert exclaimed after his race; he is the first Dutchman to win in this event since 1972.
Havard Bokko of Norway, who will be a threat in the distance races, took the bronze.

Men's 1500m
1. Gold-- Mark Tuitert, The Netherlands, 1:45:57
2. Silver-- Shani Davis, U.S.A., 1:46:10
3. Bronze-- Havard Bokko, Norway, 1:46:13

Apollo made history tonight, and he did it using skill, guts, and experience. He won his seventh medal, a bronze, in the 1000m; it was a come from behind victory because for most of the race Apollo was in fifth place. His competitors were two Canadian brothers, and two longtime rivals from South Korea who won the gold and silver respectively. Apollo congratulated his rivals, and although he won a bronze, the night was about him because he became the most decorated Winter Olympian in history.

Men's 1000m short track
1. Gold-- Lee Jung Su, South Korea, 1:23:747
2. Silver-- Lee Ho Suk, South Korea, 1:23:801
3. Bronze-- Apollo Anton Ohno, U.S.A., 1:24:128

Zhou Yang of China is 18 years old, and this is her first Olympic Games, and now she has a gold medal, and a new Olympic record. Yang competed with seven other women in a finals that was anything but typical; the heats and semifinals featured falls and disqualifications including Wang Meng who won the 500m. Zhou, the atypical, shy skater from China, crossed the line far ahead of the pack with two teenage phenoms from South Korea taking silver and bronze. American Katherine Reutter finished in fourth place.

Ladies' 1500m short track
1. Gold-- Zhou Yang, China, 1:16:993 (Olympic Record)
2. Silver-- Lee Eun Byul, South Korea, 1:17:849
3. Bronze-- Park Seung Hi, South Korea, 1:17:927

I, also in this post, wanted to mention that Simon Ammann of Switzerland won his fourth gold medal in ski jumping today, the second of these games (he won two in Salt Lake City in 2002, and had a disappointing Torino). He is the first ski jumper in history to win that many gold medals, quite the feat. Following his winning jump, Ammann spoke of the magic of North America and why he has had so much success here. I just want to say, I don't care what anyone says either, at the age of 28, he still looks like Harry Potter to me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

2010 Vancouver Olympics: Day 8

Aksel Lund Svindal has quite the story for an Olympic gold medalist; in 2007 during a training run for the downhill in Beaver Creek, Svindal crashed so badly that he suffered face fractures, an eight inch laceration in the abdomen, and injuries to his ribs and back. He spent two weeks recovering in a hospital with a view of the mountains; he thought about how he was going to make his way back to the sport that he loved. Five months after his accident, he got back on skis.
This past year has been tough for Svindal who is trying to live up to his World Cup title; he injured his knee this past October and then had the flu after that. Somehow, Svindal found his footing at the right time, and took gold in the Super G today while Bode Miller looked on from the stands clapping. With his silver medal, Miller becomes the most decorated American alpine skier in history.
Miller's teammate, Andrew Weibrecht took the bronze.

Men's Super G
1. Gold-- Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway, 1:30:34
2. Silver-- Bode Miller, U.S.A., 1:30:62
3. Bronze-- Andrew Weibrecht, U.S.A., 1:30:65

Thursday, February 18, 2010

2010 Vancouver Olympics: Day 7

The three women who took medals in the Ladies' Super Combined were all unlikely winners but all performed unbelievably well. Maria Reisch of Germany (and Lindsey Vonn's best pal) took gold after a lackluster performance in yesterday's downhill. She attacked after faultering on a course that was dangerous; Reisch says she forgot all about yesterday and focused on the present.
Julia Mancuso, who some counted down and out before the Olympics even began, captured her second silver in two days. Mancuso battled back from hip surgery that gave her back problems. Mancuso's medal is the first for the United States in this event since 1948, and she looks to win another medal in her speciality on Wednesday, the Super G. She says she reason she came to this Olympics was to "put the past behind her and rip it up;" well I think she has done just that.
"That was a fall that would have taken 98 percent of the field out," said U.S. ladies' coach Jim Tracy of Sweden's Anja Parson. Parson took a horrible fall in the downhill yesterday; Vonn looked on with a frightened expression on her face. She was strong enough to rebound and win the bronze today.
As for Vonn, she did not finish the event tending to her injured leg.

Ladies' Super Combined
1. Gold-- Maria Reisch, Germany, 2:09:14
2. Silver-- Julia Mancuso, U.S.A., 2:10:08
3. Bronze-- Anja Parson, Sweden, 2:10:19

Christine Nesbitt of Canada could have given up in the 1000m, instead she decided to take her country on her shoulders and skate her last lap making up a deficit of more than half a second to win gold. It was definitely a close race, two hundredths of a second separated first and second place. Nesbitt definitely has mixed emotions about winning the race because although she won gold and was happy about it; she knows it wasn't her best performance. "I can't believe I won; I can't believe it was so close," she said following the race.
Two Dutch skaters grabbed the silver and bronze.

Ladies' 1000m
1. Gold-- Christina Nesbitt, Canada, 1:16:56
2. Silver-- Annette Gerritsen, The Netherlands, 1:16:58
3. Bronze-- Laurine Van Riessen, The Netherlands, 1:16:72

Let's just say it was a tough night on the halfpipe; ladies were falling and crashing everywhere. Torah Bright of Australia won the gold, but only after falling on her first run. Her second run was five high quality moves all landed clean, and her score, 45 out of a possible 50, is what won her the gold. The Americans were hoping to sweep the podium in some combination of Gretchen Bleiler, Kelly Clark (2002 Gold medalist), and Hannah Teter (2006 Gold medalist), but that dream was brought to a screeching halt. Bleiler fell on both of her runs, Clark fell on her first run, and Teter looked to best Bright on her second run but landed awkwardly making it impossible for her to catch enough air on her final trick. So instead of sweeping, the Americans took the silver and bronze with Teter and Clark winning them respectively.
Critics say when you really think about it, Bright's win is no surprise, she is daring and innovative, the problem has been the 23 year staying healthy enough. She has been through a lot of injuries in the past four years. Bright's teammate Holly Crawford said that her win means, "every girl in Australia is going to want to buy a snowboard."

Ladies' Halfpipe
1. Gold-- Torah Bright, Australia, 45.0
2. Silver-- Hannah Teter, U.S.A., 42.4
3. Bronze-- Kelly Clark, U.S.A., 42.2

The men's free program is the stuff that dreams are made of; it has been one of the most hyped events of these games and it lived up to it. There was drama, determination, tears, and joy; some athletes crumbled under pressure (i.e. Jeremy Abbott) and others skated the better than ever before (i.e. Johnny Weir, 6th place).
At the end of the night, it was Evan Lysacek who had the whole package, artistry, jumps, transitions, and maturity. Lysacek is the first reigning world champion to become Olympic champion since Scott Hamilton did it in Sarajevo in 1984. Evgeny Plushenko settled for a silver after a performance where the grade of execution just wasn't as good as Lysacek's. Lysacek beat Plushenko for being technically more sound in his performance by a margin of 1.31 points. Daisuke Takahashi of Japan won the bronze becoming the first Japanese man to win a figure skating medal.
At the age of 71, coach Frank Carroll coached his first Olympic gold medalist, Evan Lysacek. Following his win, he was surrounded by his coach, choreographer Lori Nichols, and gold medal pair Shen and Zhao.

Men's Figure Skating Finals
1. Gold-- Evan Lysacek, U.S.A., total: 257.67
2. Silver-- Evgeny Plushenko, Russian Federation, total: 256.36
3. Bronze-- Daisuke Takahashi, Japan, 247.23

American Idol Season 9: The Top 24

The excitement is building for Season 9, especially after the top 24 were chosen last night. There has been a development, Christopher Golightly, who you'll remember as the sweet curly haired 25 year old who was bounced around in foster care has been disqualified for some sort of previous record contract.
I would also like to extend heartfelt sadness that Angela Martin and Thaddeus Johnson, both of whom I found amazing throughout this process, did not make the top 24. I sincerely wish them both the best and hope they come back to audition for Season 10. The judges were correct in saying that there was a lot of great talent this year, and I certainly found that to be true as a loyal viewer.

The Top 24

*Aaron Kelly, 16 years old from Sonestown, PA, fave quote: "don't let the fear of falling hold you down" (Orlando auditions)
*Alex Lambert, 19 years old from North Richland Hills, TX, fave quote: "every man dies, but not every man truly lives"-- from Braveheart (Dallas auditions)
*Andrew Garcia, 24 years old from Moreno Valley, CA, fave quote: "live for today" (Los Angeles auditions)
*Ashley Rodriguez, 22 year old from Chelsea, MA, fave quote: "everything happens for a reason" (Boston auditions)
*Casey James, 27 years old from Fort Worth, TX, fave quote: "be happy in your situation, it could always be worse" (Denver auditions)
*Kristen Bowersox, 24 years old from Elliston, OH, fave quote: "success ain't about the money, it's about doing what you love" (Chicago auditions)
*Didi Benami, 23 years old from Hollywood, CA, fave quote: "nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm"-- Ralph Waldo Emerson (Los Angeles auditions)
*Haeley Vaughan, 16 years old from Fort Collins, CO, fave quote: "i do what i have to do so that i can do what i want to do"-- from The Great Debaters (Denver auditions)
*Janell Wheeer, 24 years old from Tampa, FL, fave quote: it's better to be hopeful than to be hopeless" (Orlando auditons)
*Jermaine Sellers, 26 years old from Joliet, IL, fave quote: "sometimes you lose just to win again" (Atlanta auditons)
*Joe Munoz, 20 years old from Huntington Park, CA, fave quote: "be yourself" (Los Angeles audition)
*John Park, 21 years old from Northbrook, IL, fave quote: "smile, though your heart is aching, smile even though it's breaking. when there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by, if you smile through your fears and sorrows, smile and maybe tomorrow, you'll find that life is still worthwhile, if you just smile" (Chicago auditions)
*Katelyn Epperly, 19 years old from West Des Moines, IA, fave quote: "hearts can never be practical until they are made unbreakable" from the Wizard of Oz (Chicago auditions)
*Katie Stevens, 17 years old from Middlebury, CT, fave quote: "it's an opportunity, take it and run" (Boston auditions)
*Lacey Brown, 24 years old from Amarillo, TX, fave quote: "do what you love to do and you'll never work another day in your life" (Orlando auditions)
*Lee Dewyze, 23 years old from Mount Prospect, IL, fave quote: "try to live in the moment" (Chicago auditions)
*Lilly Scott, 20 years old from Denver, CO, fave quote: "a dream is just a wish without a plan" (Denver auditions)
*Michael Lynche, 26 years old from Astoria, NY, fave quote: "facts don't count when you have a dream" (Orlando auditions)
*Michelle Delamor, 22 years old from Miami, FL, fave quote: "don't tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon"-- Kevin Ross (Orlando auditions)
*Paige Miles, 22 years old from Naples, FL, fave quote: "sing as if no one was listening" (Dallas auditions)
*Siobhan Magnus, 19 years old from Barnstable, MA, fave quote: "nhi ne themba" Swahili for "i find hope" (Boston auditions)
*Tim Urban, 20 years old from Duncanville, TX, fave quote: "expect the worst but work for the best" (Dallas auditions)
*Todrick Hall, 24 years old from Arlington, TX, fave quote: "don't make someone your priority when to them you are only an option" (Dallas auditions)
*Tyler Grady, 20 years old from Nazareth, PA, fave quote: "yer blues john, yer blues john"-- Mick Jagger to John Lennon (Boston auditions)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2010 Vancouver Olympics: Day 6

She came to the games with an injury, a bruised shin to be exact, but that did not stop Lindsey Vonn by any means. She came to Vancouver as the favorite in the downhill, not at all easy to deal with; it's a lot of pressure, especially on top of an injury. Vonn made it look easy though and won the gold medal, "this is everything I've wanted and hoped for. I gave up everything for this," she said.

Julia Mancuso, Vonn's rival since childhood and teammate, finished with a silver medal after coming off a back injury from last year. Mancuso remarked following after her run, "It's really been a tough, long road. I'm happy to be in a position where I feel healthy."

The downhill was marked with falls, luckily no one was seriously injured, including Anja Parson of Sweden. Some believe her fall affected the run of German and best friend of Vonn Maria Reisch who ended up finishing eighth.

Ladies' Downhill
1. Gold-- Lindsey Vonn, U.S.A., 1:44:19
2. Silver-- Julia Mancuso, U.S.A., 1:44:75
3. Bronze-- Elisabeth Goergl, Austria, 1:45:65

Four years ago in Torino, Shani Davis was the first African American athlete to win an individual gold medal at a Winter Olympic games. This time around he made history for a different reason, as the first athlete to repeat as champion in the 1000m. Well liked by his peers and speedskating coaches around the world, Shani Davis was counted out after he missed in the 5000m and dropped out of the 500m, but he insists it was all to focus his attention on this race.

"When you're a world champion or an Olympic champion, you get this little thing on your back called a target. To go out there and win the 1000 meters twice is truly amazing," said Davis.

Davis stopped South Korean Mo Tea-Bum from winning another speedskating medal; he realized he needed to go faster in the final lap to beat him, and he did.

Chad Hedrick, of Texas, captured the bronze after struggling to regain his success and love for skating after three medals in Torino. The 32 year old, who like Davis, comes from an inline skating background said following the race, "I had to dig down deep to find my passion for skating again."

Davis says this games is much different for him than Torino because his mindset is different; "I've learned not to pay attention to things that are negative and focus on the things that matter," he said.

Men's 1000m
1. Gold-- Shani Davis, U.S.A., 1:08:94
2. Silver-- Mo Tae-Bum, South Korea, 1:09:12
3. Bronze-- Chad Hedrick, U.S.A., 1:09:32

Shaun White capped off an amazing day 6 for the U.S. team; he repeated as gold medalist in the Men's Halfpipe. His teammate Scotty Lago took bronze and, in a surprise, Peetu Piiroinen of Finland took the silver with an action packed second run. Shaun White came in as the favorite in this event; he owns it, he does tricks that no one else can do. The Americans were hoping to go one, two, three in this event, and they could have as Louie Vito was impressive in his first Olympics finishing in fifth place. Vito needed to have more height on his tricks to score points, and it just wasn't to be but he had a great second run overall.

The flying tomato, as he was once called, White did a double mctwist 1260, a move that he invented and perfected which will go down in history; his score: 48.4 out of a possible 50! He hesitated on whether or not he should do the "move" which consists of three and a half twists with two head over heels flips.

The U.S. team made history tonight because this is the third straight Olympics that they have won multiple medals on the halfpipe; the sport was introduced to the Olympics at the 1998 games in Nagano.

Men's Halfpipe
1. Gold-- Shaun White, U.S.A., 46.8 (run 1), 48.4 (run 2)
2. Silver-- Peetu Piiroinen, Finland, 40.8 (run 1), 45.0 (run 2)
3. Bronze-- Scotty Lago, U.S.A., 42.8 (run 1), 17.5 (run 2)

Chinese speedskater Wang Meng defines domination, her record in the ladies' 500m: 100-1. In a sport that is sometimes left up to probability, Wang relies on her skill defending her gold medal from Torino. She easily crossed the finish line far ahead of her competitors; the fight in this race was for who was going to win silver and bronze.

Marianne St. Gelais of Canada celebrated her 20th birthday with a silver medal; Arianna Fontana of Italy won the bronze.

Ladies' 500m
1. Gold-- Wang Meng, China, 43.048
2. Silver-- Marianne St. Gelais, Canada, 43.707
3. Bronze-- Arianna Fontana, Italy, 43.804

Ice Wars: The Men's Short Program

Plushenko proved last night after he skated first in the short program that this gold medal is his to lose; he is the reigning Olympic champion and he is not going down without a fight. He posted the highest score of the night and looked villain-like as he landed his quad toe loop, triple toe combination. Plushenko had said in interviews that a male skater who didn't attempt the quad "wasn't a man," a clear dig to his biggest opponent Evan Lysacek who did not include a quad in his short program.

In a post skate interview Plushenko said, "Easy? That's competition and it is never going to be easy. If someone says today, 'I am not nervous,' 'I skate easy,' or 'I am not tired,' I don't believe him."

Lysacek, arguably with the most pressure on him of any U.S. skater, rose to the occasion having the best short program of his career. Lysacek dropped to the ice at the end of his packed program and put his head in his hands. Lysacek is just .55 points behind Plushenko in second place, but we cannot count out Daisuke Takahashi of Japan who is just .05 points behind current World Champion Lysacek. All three athletes are in contention for the gold.

Unfortunately, things did not fare well for current U.S. Champion Jeremy Abbott, it was obvious that nerves got to the talented 24 year old who is coached by former skating star Yuka Sato of Japan. Abbott fell on two jumps, and he is currently in 15th place.

The third U.S. skater, Johnny Weir is in medal contention in 6th place; Weir did not fail to draw attention in a black skating costume that was laced with pink ribbon. He also drew attention for his beautiful program with elegant lines, "I actually had fun tonight and that's something I haven't been able to say for a long time," Weir siad after his short program.

Short Program
1. Evgeni Plushenko, Russian Federation, 90.85
2. Evan Lysacek, U.S.A., 90.30
3. Daisuke Takahashi, Japan, 90.25
4. Nobunari Oda, Japan, 84.85
5. Stephane Lambiel, Switzerland, 84.63
6. Johnny Weir, U.S.A., 82.10
7. Patrick Chan, Canada, 81.12
8. Takahiko Kozuka, Japan, 79.59

15. Jeremy Abbott, U.S.A., 69.40

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2010 Vancouver Olympics: Day 5

She waited four years for redemption, and unfortunately she will have to wait another four; Lindsey Jacobellis didn't even win a medal at all this time. Four years ago, Jacobellis lost gold and settled for silver on a showboating move when she should have been crossing the finish line. This time around, she lost her balance on a jump and clipped the outside of a gate, going out of bounds, and she was disqualified just like that.

The winner in all of this was Maelle Ricker from Canada and rightly so, she was the top rider in the world this past year. You can be sure no one in the stands was complaining.

Womens' Snowboard Cross
1. Gold-- Maelle Ricker, Canada
2. Silver-- Deborah Anthonioz, France
3. Bronze-- Olivia Nobs, Switzerland

South Korean athlete Lee Sang-Hwa said what made her most nervous about her race in the 500m was that, "all my friends won medals so I had a little bit of pressure. I was a bit worried." What Lee didn't say was that she beat out two favorites in this event to win a gold that she wasn't favored to win. The 2o year who will turn 21 at the end of the month beat out world record holder Jenny Wolf of Germany and Wang Beixing of China. Wolf and Wang won all eight 500m events through World Cup season so Lee's victory came unexpectedly.

Following the race, Lee said, "The feeling has not sunk in yet. I cannot believe I have won the medal. I am very emotional right now and I feel like I am going to cry." Wolf said, "Right now, I'm a little bit confused. I wanted to win gold."

Ladies' 500m
1. Gold-- Lee Sang-Hwa, South Korea, total time: 76.09
2. Silver-- Jenny Wolf, Germany, total time: 76.14
3. Bronze-- Wang Beixing, China, total time: 76.63

Germany proved today that its athletes are the best sliders in the world for a sixth time sweeping the men's and ladies singles events in luge. Gold medal winner Tatjana Huefner said she was so nervous before her final run that she took a half hour nap. Huefner who won the bronze medalist in Torino was just about tackled by her teammate Geinsenberger after she found out that she won the gold medal. The all time scoreboard for Olympic luge medals (for ladies) is Germany: 26, the rest of the world: 13.

Ladies' Singles Luge
1. Gold-- Tatjana Huefner, Germany, total time: 2:46:524
2. Silver-- Nina Reithmayer, Austria, total time: 2:47:014
3. Bronze-- Natalie Geinsenberger, Germany, total time: 2:47:101

Monday, February 15, 2010

2010 Vancouver Olympics: Day 4

Bode Miller finally found the Olympic medal that alluded him in Torino; he took the high road this time. He didn't talk a lot before practice runs and competition; he hasn't spoken of "partying it up" in Vancouver. Maybe this is a new and more mature Bode Miller. Marco Buchel of Liechtenstein who has known Bode for years said he has never known Bode to be nervous before any race, but nevertheless he told Buchel that he was. Bode critics believe that a lot has changed since Torino, Bode has a kid, he pondered retirement, and he doesn't have as much sponsorship. Bode suggests that he had more emotion this time around and that's why he fared significantly better.

If Bode had won, he would have been the oldest Men's downhill Olympic champion, instead, the honor went to another 32 year old; Didier Defago of Switzerland blazed down the course in one minute, 54.31 seconds winning Switzerland's first alpine skiing medal since 1988.

Men's Downhill
1. Gold-- Didier Defago, Switzerland, 1:54:31
2. Silver-- Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway, 1:54:38
3. Bronze-- Bode Miller, U.S.A., 1:54:40

In a sport that is known for youth, Seth Wescott gives true meaning to the phrase, "you're only as old as you feel,". At the age of 33, the Maine native came to Vancouver with one thing on his mind, defending his Olympic gold in snowboard cross. There were many obstacles along the way to another Olympic gold, Wescott injured himself in December during training, barely made the finals yesterday qualifying in 17th place, and had to come behind to win in the finals.

Wescott's teammate, Nate Holland spun out during the final. It looked like Mike Robertson of Canada was going to win the second gold ever rewarded in snowboard cross and onlookers deemed it to be true. Wescott kept fighting though and in the final straightway passed Robertson; experience may have won him the gold.

Men's Snowboard Cross
1. Gold-- Seth Wescott, U.S.A.
2. Silver-- Mike Robertson, Canada
3. Bronze-- Tony Ramoin, France

Mo Tae Bum of South Korea won arguably the best birthday gift any 21 year old could win, a gold medal. Mo won South Korea's first Winter Olympic gold in a sport other than short track, and he was not even favored to win in this event. Mo's specialties are the 1000m and the 1500m which he will face in later this week. Japan took silver and bronze, and American Shani Davis opted to drop out following some controversy. The coaches were arguing with officials that the track was much too slick for the racers.

Men's 500m
1. Gold-- Mo Tea Bum, South Korea, total time: 69.82
2. Silver-- Keiichiro Nagashima, Japan, total time: 69.98
3. Bronze-- Joji Kato, Japan, total time: 70.01

Shen and Zhao finally won the prize that has alluded them for three Olympics; a gold medal. Their hard work paid off, putting their married life on hold was right, their experience pulled through, and now there will be no regrets. The dynamic Chinese duo stopped one of the longest steaks in sports history; the Russians did not win a gold for the first time in 46 years! Had Shen and Zhao not won another Chinese pair would have as teammates Pang and Tong captured the silver medal for China as well. The Russians, in fact, walked away empty handed from these Olympics in the pairs competition finishing just out of medal contention in 4th place; Kavaguti and Smirnov had a few too many falls to constitute a medal. Current world champions, Savchenko and Szolkowy of Germany came away with the bronze.

The most beautiful part of the night for me was seeing the smile of Shen that emitted so much joy as her husband looked on contently; I was truly happy for them.

Pairs Figure Skating
1. Gold-- Shen Xue/ Zhao Hongbo, China, short program: 76.66 (1st place), free program: 139.91 (2nd place), total: 216.57
2. Silver-- Qing Pang/ Jian Tong, China, short program: 71.50 (4th place), free prgoram: 141.81 (1st place), total: 213.31
3. Bronze-- Aliona Savchenko/ Robin Szolkowy, Germany, short program: 75.96 (2nd place), free program: 134.64 (3rd place), total: 210.60

Sunday, February 14, 2010

2010 Vancouver Olympics: Day 3

The Czech Republic won its first Olympic medal in speed skating today, and it was a gold won by 22 year old powerhouse Martina Sablikova. The performance was impressive with her consistency in lap times solidifying her place on the podium; she looked as ready to go on the last lap as she did on the first. All of her lap times were under 32 seconds with the exception of her last lap. Sablikova's trademark is her turns and she was the favorite going into this event. Second place was won by Stephanie Beckert of Germany who closed the gap on bronze medal winner Kristina Groves of the host country; Beckert finished a whole two seconds later than Sablikova. The defending gold medalist, Ireen Wust of the Netherlands finished in a disappointing 7th place.

Ladies' 3000m
1. Gold-- Martina Sablikova, Czech Republic 4:02:53
2. Silver-- Stephanie Beckert, Germany 4:04:62
3. Bronze-- Kristina Groves, Canada 4:04:84

The Americans managed to win their first medal in the Nordic combined, an event dominated since its inception by Europeans. The silver medal was captured by Johnny Spillane who held onto the lead until the final straightaway when Jason Lamy Chappuis, who was born in Montana but has always raced for France, pulled ahead and finished strong. Spillane seemed quite satisfied with silver and said, "I was really tired." Italy's Alessandro Pittin took the bronze; Americans occupied three of the top six spots in this event (a first in history).

Men's Nordic Combined
1. Gold-- Jason Lamy Chappuis, France, time: 25:01:1
2. Silver-- Johnny Spillane, U.S.A., time: 25:03:5
3. Bronze-- Alessandro Pittin, Italy, time: 24:59:9

It took a few days but the Canadians finally have their first Olympic gold won by a Canadian on home soil. Alexandre Bilodeau took gold in the men's moguls; he says he won it for his brother Frederic who suffers from cerebral palsy and sat in his wheelchair cheering from the stands. Bilodeau tore through the course with the fastest time, 23.17, besting the defending Olympic champion Dale Begg Smith, Vancouver born, but competing for Australia. Bilodeau said he couldn't believe that he won, and said, "it's too good to be true." Bryon Wilson of the United States finished in third, the 21 year old from Utah impressed judges with his level of difficulty on jumps. He and gold medalist Bilodeau were the only two men who attempted a back flip with two twists on the top jump (both of them executed the move cleanly).

Men's Moguls
1. Gold-- Alexandre Bilodeau, Canada, 26.75
2. Silver-- Dale Begg Smith, Australia, 26.58
3. Bronze-- Bryon Wilson, U.S.A., 26.08

Pairs Figure Skating: Standings following short program
1. Xue Shen/ Hongbo Zhao, China, 76.66
2. Aliona Savchenko/ Robin Szolkowy, Germany, 75.96
3. Yuko Kavaguti/ Alexander Smirnov, Russian Federation, 74.16
4. Qing Pang/ Jian Tong, China, 71.50
5. Dan Zhang/ Hao Zhang, China, 71.28

The story of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao is appropriate on Valentine's Days, because their story is a love story essentially. The two have been skating together for 18 years; Xue was 13 and Hongbo was 18 when they began the journey that is their skating career; they were handpicked by Chinese skating coach Yao Bin. The two competed in the Salt Lake Games as well as the Torino Games and won a bronze medal at both, but their dream was gold. The duo had struggled at the Torino Games because Hongbo had just returned from injury; he has ruptured his Achilles tendon months earlier. Shen and Zhao thought that they wouldn't even be able to compete, but miraculously won bronze. In 2007, they returned to greatness capturing the World Championship title, married, and announced their retirement from the sport they so loved. Hongbo says he grew closer to Xue during his injury; she supported him, and that's when their relationship began to change. A year ago, they decided as a couple to return to amateur competition with the hopes of competing in the 2010 Olympics. Hongbo says if they don't win the gold this time around, they will have no regrets even though they had to put their marriage on hold living in training facilities in China. The two say they are truly a couple on the ice and they have experience and maturity to help their performance. Hongbo is currently the oldest member of the Chinese Olympic team at 36 (Xue is 31); he says his desire to win the gold brought him back.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

2010 Vancouver Olympics: Day 2

Yesterday (Day 1 of the Games) was marked with great sorrow; a luger from the Republic of Georgia died on the sliding track at Whistler. Nodar Kumaritashvili, 21 years of age, died during practice runs on Friday when he flew off the tracks hitting a metal column, leaving him bleeding from the face and unconscious. He was unable to be revived when medics came to the scene. Kumaritashvili had just spoken to his parents (his father was a luger for the former Soviet Union) before he took to the track and told them that they should be proud of him.

The Whistler track is one of the fastest and most dangerous tracks in the world for lugers, some suggest that only the most elite in the world shouls use this track. Several other accidents took place during practice runs; Armin Zoeggler of Italy, the reigning gold medalist in more than one event crashed on the track which he descibed as fast and having character. A female Romanian luger, Violeta Stramaturaru, crashed during practice runs and was knocked unconscious and taken to the hospital.

The injuries raise the question, who is responsible and who should be held accountable? On a side note, the other Georgian luger who was competing in the same event as Kumaritashvili, has withdrawn himself from the competition.

Day 2 overall has been full of surprises! The men's 5000m was one after the other, defending gold medalist, Chad Hedrick was shut out of the medals as was his teammate and speed skating star Shani Davis; they finished in 11th and 12th place respectively. The winner was Sven Kramer, the 23 year old pre race fave from the Netherlands; he won the gold medal that had alluded him four years ago and he finished with a new Olympic record. Silver was also surprising, it went to South Korean Lee Seung-hoon who only skated the event because he failed to make the short track team. "This is a dream and a surprise," Lee told reporters following the race.

Men's 5000m Finals

1. Gold-- Sven Kramer, The Netherlands 6:14:60 (Olympic Record)
2. Silver-- Lee Seung-hoon, South Korea 6:16:95
3. Bronze-- Ivan Skobrev, Russian Federation 6:18:05

Men's NH Individual Ski Jumping

1. Gold-- Simon Ammann, Switzerland, total points: 276.5
2. Silver-- Adam Malysz, Poland, total points: 269.5
3. Bronze-- Gregor Schlierenzauer, Austria, total points: 268.0

Well he did it, we all knew he would, our golden boy of the winter Olympics, Apolo Ohno became the most winning short track athlete ever. He is now tied with speed skater Bonnie Blair for most medals won by a winter Olympic athlete with six.He was lucky to make it out with the silver but he skated a smart race. The finals consisted of three Koreans, two Americans, one Canadian, and one Chinese; two of the Koreans knocked themselves out when one of them made a bad pass. The race seemed to have a lot of contact and Ohno said in an interview following the race that he felt he had been interfered with but nevertheless that is the sport. The bad pass was made by Lee Ho Suk who most believed was Ohno's biggest competition in this race. Another Korean, Lee Jung Su captured the gold and was in the lead for most of the race.'
The bronze went to 19 year old J.R. Celski, Ohno's teammate. Celski skated in his first competition since U.S. trials where he had a crash that almost left him dead. Celski's right foot went into his left thigh when he fell and he said it missed his femoral artery by one inch. Had it hit that artery, he would have bled out in a matter of about ten minutes. Celski says, "my life was almost taken away from me, so I'm kind of realizing that life is different than I thought it was." Celski is definitely living the dream right now.

Men's 1500m short track

1. Gold-- Lee Jung Su, Korea 2:17:611
2. Silver-- Apolo Ohno, U.S.A. 2:17: 976
3. Bronze-- J.R. Celski, U.S.A. 2:18:053

Vermont native and Red Sox fan Hannah Kearney won the Ladies moguls and the Canadians will have to wait another day to capture their first gold at these games. Kearney, 23, failed to even makes the finals in this same event four year's ago in Torino even thoough she came in as the favorite to win. Jennifer Heil of the host country came in as the defending gold medalist and finished in silver medal position. American, Shannon Bahrke, who will marry on 10.10.10 this year won another Olympic medal finishing with the bronze; she won a silver in Salt Lake City in 2002.

Ladies Moguls

1. Gold-- Hannah Kearney, U.S.A., 26.63
2. Silver-- Jennifer Heil, Canada, 25.69
3. Bronze-- Shannon Bahrke, U.S.A., 25.43

Thursday, February 11, 2010

American Idol Update

Kelly Clarkson recently lashed out at Scott Borchetta, the head of Big Machine Records after some not so nice remarks he made about American Idol contestants. The lashing came following comments Borchetta made to the media following Taylor Swift's (signed to Big Machine Records) off key performance with Stevie Nicks at the Grammy's. He said, "This is not American Idol. This is not a competition of getting up and seeing who can sing the highest note. This is about a true artist and writer and communicator." Let's all remember that after what Kanye West did at the MTV awards, Kelly Clarkson was one of the artists to come to Swift's defense. Clarkson responded in true fashion with a letter on her blog, I definitely think it's worth checking out the letter--

Josh Gracin posted on his twitter page that he is hoping to collaborate with Kimberly Caldwell on a ballad called "Only When It Rains". Caldwell will release her debut album, "Without Regret" on April 6th; she describes the disc as modern day Melissa Etheridge.

Idol alums Diana Degarmo and Ace Young will appear on Broadway in the musical Hair beginning March 9th. Degarmo will play the role of Sheila; she recently appeared in the Broadway musical Hairspray. Young will play the role of Berger; he previously played a role in the Broadway musical Grease as well as the national tour.

Jasmine Trias and Hawaii's famous showband the Society of Seven are performing at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

According to Jennifer Hudson has lost 56 pounds so far for her role as Winnie Mandela (wife of Nelson Mandela) for the upcoming movie, Winnie. She credits her weight loss to exercising and staying consistent with it.

The lovely Miss Carrie Underwood is engaged to NHL hockey player Mike Fisher of the Ottawa Senators. She is also a Grammy winner for best country collaboration for "I Told You So" with Randy Travis. Underwood also recently released "Temporary Home" as her new single as well as the heart wrenching video to go along with it. You can watch it on ! She recently landed a supporting movie role in the movie "Soul Surfer" as Sarah Hill; filming begins this month. On top of that, she is currently touring the country for the next few months with her "Play On" tour.

Bo Bice and his wife Caroline welcomed their third child Ean Jacob into the world on January 22, 2010

Jessica Sierra has something going out but we don't know what it is yet, check out her website for details I have hope that this talented singer is finally clean.

Elliott Yamin will travel to Angola with Idol judge Kara DioGuardi for Idol Gives Back which will air on April 21st.

Syesha Mercado is playing Deena Jones in the revival of Dreamgirls which is currently touring the country.

Matt Giraud, last season fave, is still looking for a label to pick him up, meanwhile you can listen to his new single with Nashville jazz singer Anna Wilson, "You Don't Know Me" online or on itunes.

Anoop Desai is putting finishing touches on a debut album, "All Is Fair" which is due out in May.

Kris Allen and Adam Lambert are both enjoying considerable increased airplay for their songs on the radio.