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Five Ring Fever- Vancouver Strain


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Hi! Welcome to my Olympic blog!!

I got into Vancouver Tuesday, which was a day earlier than planned. I had to beat a major blizzard that was bearing down on the Baltimore/Washington area. I felt like a contestant on the Amazing Race there for a while, trying to move my flights around. Anyway, here I am. So, what can you expect from this blog? First and foremost, event coverage. I have a boatload of events that I'm planning to attend, so I'll try to capture some of the observations that may not be apparent to those watching the events on television. I'll also talk about the logistics of getting to events-- transportation, security, and the venues themselves. Hopefully, I can drop some tips for those of you who will be attending events later on.

So, today I ventured downtown via the Expo line of the Sky Train. It was pretty easy to get to the Scott Road station, and there are a ton of parking spaces there. My first stop was to find Robson Square to pick up a few tickets that I bought in the fan-to-fan exchange. The wait was about 45 minutes, but there was a guy nearby who performed a strait jacket escape and followed it up by crawling into a big-ass inflated balloon. Well, it was cheesy, but at least it was free and helped pass the time in line.

So, next on the list was to replace the binoculars that I left on my couch back home in my haste to pack and get to the airport when I moved my flight by a day. There is a Sears right off of Robson Square, so I checked it out, and it was here that I had my defining Canada moment to this point. There were only a couple pairs of fairly expensive binoculars in the store. The saleswoman pointed out that there was another store across the street that would probably have some more choices. I can tell you right now that there's no way that would ever happen in Baltimore or D.C. I still don't quite know what to make of an honest salesperson. Shocking.

All of this was punctuated by a great meal at a Thai restaurant called Khai.

Tomorrow I will head back downtown and try to see what this SeaBus is all about. I'll probably also take a jaunt on the Canada line and see if I can find some good Chinese food. Then, it's time to get serious. My first events are on Friday-- ski jumping qualifying and the opening ceremony. That's all for now!

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Well, it was a long day. I went to the ski jumping qualification at Olympic Park this morning. Got up at 4:30AM to catch my 6:00 bus from BCIT. They didn't bother to check for my parking pass and just took my bus pass without scanning the bar code. Departure time didn't seem to matter either. There was no wait to get on the bus, so off we went. There was a handicapped woman on our bus and they assured her at BCIT that the bus would drop her off close to the entrance. Of course, the folks at Olympic Park wouldn't let the bus get close, so she got dropped off with the rest of us. They need to get that crap straightened out soon.

I whizzed through security and hoofed it to the ski jump (about 15 minute slushy walk, slightly uphill). I got to the venue at 8:30, which was about 2.5 hours from when the bus left. Not bad. I had standing seats, which actually get you much closer to the hill than the catergory A seats. The event itself, to be honest, was kind of dull. They whittled the field fron 61 to 50 for tomorrow's final. Not much tension in the air there. The top 10 in the world were pre-qualified already, so they didn't even get style points awarded for their jumps. The weather turned out to be quite nice. My money tomorrow is on the top 3 going in based upon what I saw today.

I'll go with:

Amman

Morgenstern

Schlierenzauer

Getting out after the event was a little chaotic. The buses back were kind of tardy and conflicting direction was flowing freely. It's pretty typical, though, for any Olympics. The whole system is a learning experience, but I think they'll have things running smooth shortly. I got back to BCIT about 2 hours, 45 minutes after the event ended, so that's still pretty good time.

Then, I had the big enchilada == the opening ceremonies. Our kits were a cardboard drum with a bunch of stuff in it. The best part was the drum. I'm listening to NBC's delayed broadcast of the ceremonies as I type this. I have to say, we sounded pretty good on TV with those drums. I know I beat the crap out of mine. The audience participation was a mixed bag. The stuff we practiced, we did well. The stuff that they only gave us verbal instructions for, well, that didn't exactly go off as planned. Not that it really mattered.

The two big moments for me- Georgia coming in during the parade of nations. By far the most emotional moment of the night. Second, seeing the Great One waiting for the flame. One of my favorite all time athletes. Overall, I think they did a really good job of staying true to Canada's roots. So, well done, Vancouver.

Tomorrow it's back to the ski jump for the finals. Then I have tickets for biathlon and short track. I do have a bit of a dileema becuase there's about 3 hours from the end of biathlon to the start of short track. That's cutting it pretty tight, so I might miss some of the early short track prelims. Oh well, a good kind of dilemma.

Off to bed now because that alarm is going off way too early tomorrow.

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The five ring fever is raging right now. What a blast I'm having. The first full day of competttion was epic, baby! I got up again at 430. That hurt a lot. My first event was at Olympic Park for the ski jumping, so it was back to BCIT to catch the bus. They did check my parking pass this time. The volunteers were passing out free hot chocolatte, snacks, and newspapers so that was a nice touch. I would say that they were a lot more organized than the day before. It went quite smoothly. From bus to drop off was 2 hours (and a chance for me to snooze), and another 30 minutes to pass through security and do the 1 km hike to the stadium. I will say that the security checks have been extremely quick so far at the events I've attended.

So, I wrote in my blog last time that the ski jump qualification event was pretty dull. The finals, however, are a totally different story. The first round has 51 jumpers and the second round was pared to the top 30. There is plenty of time for the suspense to build by the time the big guns take their jumps. When someone puts a big one out past the HS marker the crowd goes nuts. When Simon Ammann put one out there in the first round, the crowd was roaring. The build-up during final jump was pretty electric starting with about 10 jumpers to go. Schlierenzauer got it started off. He had a pretty disappointing first round jump. His second jump hit the stratosphere, however. That got the crowd going. The last three jumpers came up. The Polish fans were a section over from me and they were pretty crazy. Malasz was in third after the first jump, and he launched big time in the second round. Not as far as Schlierenzauer, but enough to climb ahead. The Poles went totally bonkers. That's one of the reasons that experiencing the games live is different from watching it on the tube. You find yourself soaked up in the atmosphere of the collective crowd. Back to the event, the German in second place after the first round (Uhrmann) had a pretty mediocre second jump. So, it was up to Ammann and he delivered an absolutely off the charts monster jump. The crowd totally erupted. What a performance. He was hands down the best jumper out there. So, in my predictitions in my last blog entry were pretty good. I picked the gold and bronze medals right. I just didn't get Malasz, but I was really happy for him. I don't want my blog entries to be too long, so I'll pick up the rest of my day in the next entry.

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After the ski jump, I had a ticket for the women's 7.5k biathlon. I also had a short track ticket, so I was concerned about the connection time. I was considering blowing off the biathlon, but once I was up there, it was an easy decsion to make. So up to the biathlon course it was. My plan was to make tracks after the event to get one of the first buses back to Lonsdale Quay. The category A tickets are a big deal for this event. The standing room is inferior if you really want to follow the race. When I got there I noticed that all of the big names were in the top 60, so I decided that I would leave when they all finished to catch the bus. The sprint event is the least spectator friendly becuase they go off at 30 second intervals. The announcer did a fantastic job becuase you have to keep track of multiple time interval check points as well as the shooting range. It's like watching a 3-ring circus out there. Honestly, to really keep track of the race they would need about 5 different scoreboards. It must be pretty tough being the scoreboard video director. Overall, it was a pretty good event. The shooting range is so key in the sprint. In the end there were a lot of surprises. Unbelieveably, the gold and silver medalists each missed a target. That's usually a death sentence, so they must have skiied their brains out. At the point it was pretty much decided, I left a little early to get the bus, which turned out to be a little premature, because the buses have to fill before they leave.

So, I'll have to review the short track tonight becuase it's time to head to Cypress for the men's moguls. Until then enjoy today's action. GO USA!!!!!!!!!! Go Canada go!

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Well, I'm currently watching the downhill on the tube rather than being at Cypress for the men's snowboard cross. I had standing room tickets, so I was one of the unlucky. :angry:

On the bright side, I am well rested and have my blogging game face on! My last entry was for the women's biathlon on Saturday. Picking up from there, I had to make tracks for Vancouver to see the short track that evening. I got to the bus for Lonsdale Quay and there were about 5 people on the bus. Unfortunately, the buses need to fill up before they go. Another guy and his young son were in the same boat. He told the volunteers about our situation, so we waited about 20 minutes until the bus was half full and then we left. That was pretty cool of them. Also, the bus driver knew the circumstances, so he drove pretty fast to get us back. we arrived about 45 minutes before the event start, so we shared a cab, and I made it through the walk from the drop off to the stadium, through the security checkpoint, and to my seat about 10 minutes before the event start. Pretty good timing!!

The event itself was so much fun. This is my 7th Olympics (3rd winter) and I have to say that short track is one of the best sports to watch, winter or summer. I had pretty good seats at the end on the lower level near what was to be known later as Korean Crash Corner. The event had a lot of qualification heats, so I'll review those first and then talk about the 1500 semis and finals. The women's 500 heats and the relay heats were definitely Chinese highlight reels. Wang Meng looks unbeatable in the 500m. Their relay team does as well. I know that there's no such thing as a lock in short track, but those two events for China are probably as close as it gets. The one big upset was that Zhao of China didn't advance in the last heat after she almost face planted. In the women's relay heats, the USA had a nail biter as they fell way behind the Dutch but had enough laps left to catch them to qualify for the finals.

Every race, the crowd was really into it. The races with the Canadians were extra loud. Also Apolo pretty much confirmed that he is the USA's rock star at these games. I sat pretty close to a huge "soul patch" contingent of Americans. Women with beards.... Needless to say the "patchies" made it on the video board during one of the ice resurfacing breaks. The seeding for the 1500m semis were pretty uneven. the first heat had Ohno, Hamelin, and Lee Jung-Su, numbers 5, 2, and 1 in the world. Needless to say, a serious medal threat was going home after this race. Unfortunately for Canada, it was Hamelin. The second semi had Olivier Jean going down. It was obvious he had been taken down, but the results on the scoreboard showed that he had not been advanced, so I thought he had been robbed big time. It turns out he did get advanced, so they got it right in the end. In heat 3, I think Celski had the best draw, and he didn't have much problem advancing behind Sung of Korea.

The final was unbelievable. Unlike most races. Ohno stayed near the front, which he pretty much had to becuase of three Koreans in the race. He was in good position with two laps to go, sitting in second. He tried to make one of his signature passes in the curve coming toward me and he made contact and lost his momentum. I remember thinking at that point he was toast and sure enough, the other two Koreans passed him in the final home stretch with one laps to go. It was a totally done deal with the 3 Koreans coming around the last turn on the final lap. Then, Lee Ho-Suk made his ridiculous pass attempt and took out himself and Sung. I would hate to be him going into the next team meeting. Better get out the teflon underwear. Well, we all know how it finshed with Ohno getting silver and Celski bronze. I honestly didn't pay much attention to Celski during the last 3 laps, so that was a fortuitous result for him.

I have to say that having a 7-man 1500m final with the top skaters in the world is too crowded, but that's my opinion. I was understandably pumped to see 2 American medals come from that race. Apolo is one of my favorite Olympians, and I think he's going to get that 7th medal later. As far as the general observations, the crowd was electric. The venue is in pretty good shape. (Really nice compared to the metal bleachers in the mountains). I have a ticket for that last night of short track, so I'm really looking forward to that night.

Next blog entry will be about the men's moguls. I'm sure that event will be totally unmemorable. Heh heh.

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My lone event on Valentine's Day was the men's moguls, but what an event it was. First of all, let me say this about Cypress. Did they not realize that a 6 hour event where you have 12,000 spectators, you might want to have more than 2 food tents? The wait time was 1.5 hours. Ridiculous. Easily my least favorite venue so far.

The prelims started at 2:30 and the finals at 5:30. In between the sun was going down and it got kind of chilly so I spent the down time in the warming tent. The finals were unbelieveable. Having four Canadians and four Americans represented a lot of rooting interest for me. The crowd was so loud before each Canadian run that the PA system was drowned out by the noise. There was a lot of drama in the top ten. When Begg-Smith went, I thought he might be a double gold winner. Bryon Wilson put down a good runs with some good air tricks. The Bilodeau went. Total bedlam. He had such a good run, easily better than Begg-Smiths. So, it was Bilodeau, Begg-Smith, and Wilson. Sititng in podium position with Colas to go. He put in a really great run and I thought he was going to get the gold. He ended up 6th, so I had no idea what happened until I saw a replay of the event later on. When his score went up and Bilodeau had won, it was the best moment of the games for me so far. I was high-fiving the Canadians around me. I really can't put in adequate words the electricity in the stands. Great medal for Wilson, too. That's 3 freestyle USA medals. Wahoo!

Every Olympics I've attended has been great, but there's always 2 or 3 really special moments at each one. This was definitely one of them. So far this has been a great time. The cancellation of my snowboard cross ticket was a bmmer, but at least I'm about to watch the final on TV. Two Americans and one Canadianin the final. Let's sweep the podium boys!

Next entry will be for the pairs finals tonight.

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So, I'm back from the pairs final. It was good but not great. I did have killer seats, though. It was one of the ones freed up by JetSet/CoSport because there were a bunch of JetSet clients in front of me. Hope they're getting their money's worth (I doubt it). As far as the skating went, there were a fair amount of mistakes from most teams. Thank God for the Chinese. Three performances got standing ovations. The first, surprisingly was the French pair who ended up down the placement list but made a really good connection with the crowd. The second ovation and easily the best performance of the night was by Tong and Pang. Finally, Shen and Zhao received a standing O but more so as a lifetime achievement award rather than for a flawless skate. In fact, the one failed lift of theirs was pretty harrowing. In the end, I was really happy to see Shen and Zhao win it. What has happened to the Russains? Totally off the podium. This was my second event at Pacific Coliseum. I really like this venue. Great job. Go teach Cypress Mountain how to run their venue.

Well, I need to hit the sack. Going to snowboard cross in the morning.

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It's been a while since I posted. Late night hockey games the culprit. I've done a pretty good job at picking out the Canada and USA gold medal events. So far, I've seen each country win 3. I went to women's snowboard cross the other day. Let's say that it didn't live up to my expectations. For those who have never been, there are 2 qualification runs that narrow the field of 24 to 16 for the head-to-head racing later. The event was held up 1.5 hours because Cypress was fogged in. Then, we got all of two runs in (the second a wipeout before the fog rolled in again). It was then on and off with the runs because the fog would clear and then come in again. Let me also say this-- the qualifications are soooo boring. You take the best time of the two runs and then toss your worst run. Top 16 advance to the quarters. Some of the boarders were in over their heads on that course. Tons of DNFs. Tons of yawning. I looked around me and people weren't paying much attention to the runs. I can't say I blame them.

By the time the quarterfinals blissfully arrived, there has been another cumulative hour of delays or so. It was pretty crappy with all the waiting. Plus, I knew that I would miss some of the men's figure skating becuase of the delays. The quarterfinals were pretty good. You don't get to see much of the event live other than the finish. The top 4 in qualifying all advanced out of the quarterfinals. Then, the first semi saw the top qualifier from Switzerland bomb out. The second semi tossed Jacobellis from the USA. That was serious bummer for me. She was one athlete I was really hoping to see do well when I was choosing which events to attend. By the time of the final, I knew that I would have to make a med dash to the buses, so that plus the loss of Jacobellis really made the event kind of a downer. Ricker won the second gold for Canada, so there were plenty of people to cheer her on. Good win for Canada but I had to go.

Nothing like a power walk in snow boots to make your feet feel like they're on fire. I powered down to the bus and made in back to Lonsdale Quay. I grabbed a cab (and practically had to direct the driver to the drop off point for Pacific Coliseum). I ended up missing the first 5 skaters, so it wasn't too bad since the best skaters generally go last in the short program. The one exception was Plushenko (skating 10th), and I arrived in plenty of time to see him skate. My spirits were defineintely a lot better watching the skating. There were some truly great perfromances (Plushenko, Lysacek, Takahashi), some uneven but not bad (Lambiel, Chan, Oda) and a few disappointing, most notably Abbott and Joubert. Then there's Johnny Weir. I like watching him skate, but he just doesn't have the difficulty. 6th place after the short program was apretty good results for him, though. Overall, I think the men's figure skating event is the marquis event for Vancouver after hockey. That was a very entertaining short program. Having a ticket to the free skate also helped make the short program even more compelling.

Then, it was out to watch the Russia-Latvia men's hockey game. It was already 2-0 by the time I got there. It was totally one-sided, so I couldn't tell if Russia was that good or Latvia was that bad. 8-2 final. Ovechkin had a couple goals. That guy is so good. The GM place arena (or whatever they renamed it for the Olympics since GM isn't a sponsor) is really nice. Definitely the biggest hockey arena for any Olympics that I've attended. It's also fun to experience a hockey game in Canada. It's a total party atmosphere in there. I can't wait for the knockout rounds to start. It was quite the long day. Parts of it sucky, more parts of it great. The next day was one that I really was looking forward to, but that's for my next entry.

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Wednesday was one of my most anticipated days as I would get to see Lindsay Vonn in the downhill and Shani Davis in the men's 1000. I slogged my butt out of bed super early to catch the Whistler bus from Langara. I packed some earplugs for the ride with the plan to grab some sleep. The buses really make good time and we arrived in about two hours. I got my first view of Creekside. Really spectacular. The option of getting to the venue was to take the chair or walk uphill. The security lines seemed pretty long for the chair. so I decided on the morning constitutional and made my way up the hill. It was pretty steep in spots but the weather was great, so I got some good views along the way. The volunteers give everyone encouragement as they make their way uphill. The volunteers here are fantastic. They really are friendly and very knowledgable. It was about a 15 to 20 minute hike, and you could sign your name on a wall they had at the top to mark your achievement. This is the difference between Whistler and Cypress. There's a great atmosphere of fun at Whistler. Cypress is so ordinary. When I got to the top, I thought I would be rewarded with a short security line. Wasn't happening. It didn't really matter becuase I had 45 minutes before the race start. After grabbing some food and some merchandise, I went to the standing area to check out the course. It was really packed, so I grabbed a spot close to the entrance. I was behind quite a few people, so I know that I wouldn't be taking too many pictures. One of the unfortunate things was that the sun was right in line with the video board, so it was a little inconvenient to watch the race progress. Julia Mancuso was one of the early racers, and she took the lead. Then raccer after racer came down, and all were well back of her time. It was apparent that she had a good run. She was still in the lead when Vonn stepped in. This was the moment I had been waiting for. She started and each of her intermediate splits were way ahead. What a great run. No apparent mistakes. After she crossed the line, the Americans in the crowd were going crazy. There were still some big names coming. It pretty much came down to Paerson and Riesch to see if Vonn would have the gold. Paerson had a decent run going. She wasn't going to touch Vonn and probably not Mancuso, but she seemed to be in line for the bronze because Goergl was about 1.5 seconds back in the bronze position. Toward the bottom of the run, Paerson must have been going for it and she crashed big time. The video operator actually killed the feed during the crash because it was so nasty. There was a long course hold and Riesch was next. Riesch was out of it early. She just didn't seem to have it that day. Maybe seeing the crash made her tentative. Anyway, after she was done the race was pretty much over. Vonn gold, Mancuso silver, Georgl silver. A great start to my day.

I left before the back (low-seeded) racers went becuase it was time to head to the Richmond Oval. I hiked back down the path and hopped on the bus, which sat for a bit waiting to fill up. The ride back to the city took a lot longer than the ride up, so I didn't have time to get to my car to change out of my snow boots. I took the Canada line train, which was pretty crowded to the Aberdeen stop. It was a long walk to the oval, about 15 minutes along a river. I have to say that I was unimpressed with the location. It's right in the middle of industrial parks. Why did they pick this location? It's quite an ugly area. Even the river views are terrible. Oh well. I got there a little before the scheduled start, but the security lines were really long. I ended up missing the first 5 pairs, which doesn't really matter much because the lower seeds go first. I got to my seat and found the seating to be really, really tight. The guy next to me was huge, so he was almost in my lap. Speed skating is always a great event, largley in part because of the Dutch fans. They have their own brass band, Kleintle Pils, that plays during the ice resurfacing break. The atmosphere is always terrific. The race, as you would expect, gets more exciting the closer it gets to the final parings. Chad Hedrick went up against Mo Tae-Bum, the 500 gold medlist, in the fourth to last pair. Mo scorched the track early, as you might expect. He had the #1 time in all of the splits going into the last lap. Down the final straight, Hedrick tried to reel him in. He came close, but Mo held him off. Hedrick's wife was sitting in the row in front of me with their young daughter. She had a monster rock on her finger, so Chad must be doing OK! The next pair didn't threaten. The second to last pair included Morrison from Canada. The crowd got really pumped, but each split time showed that he was out of the medal chase. You could sense the collective bumming out in the Canadian crowd. Finally, it was Shani time. His splits were a little behind Mo, but I knew he would have a better final lap. Sure enough, he crossed the line for gold. Hedrick held up for bronze. A banner day for this American spectator.

My last event was the Czech Republic vs. Slovakia in men's hockey. Unlike Russia-Latvia, this was a quality game. The Czechs pulled it out 3-1, and Jagr was the man. I though he was all washed up. My bad. The crowd was again great. So far this is the best hockey atmosphere I've ever expeerienced. Can't wait for the quarters and semis. Unfortunately, all the walking that day tore up my feet. I had a couple of nasty, nasty blisters on the balls of my feet after I got back to the hotel around 1245 AM. Not good. The next day was all city events, so that was good. And it will be summarized in my next blog entry.

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So, day 7 found me starting at curling. The previous night, I had made it back to my hotel at around 1230AM following the late hockey game. My feet were pretty raw from blisters, and I was really concerned. I knew that I would have to do a fair amount of walking from the Canada Line to curling and then later to speed skating. Curling was at 9:00, which meant setting the alarm for 6:00. I spent quite a bit of time trying to deal with my feet, so I got a later start than planned. I got to the venue about 10 minutes until 9:00, but the securtiy lines were pretty monsterous by then. I arrived at the start of the second end. The seats at curling are uncomfortably tight and the sections are huge. If you get in the middle, you could have 15 seats in either direction. I was in the very back row, so at least I could stand a bit. This was my only curling event. The matchups were USA/Denmark, Germany/Norway, Canada/Sweden, and Great Britain/Switzerland. The Canadians smoked the Swedes. The ends in that match always had multiple rocks in the house and some complicated shots. The Germany-Norway match was also pretty entertaning. It was tight for a while, but eventually the Norwegians proved to be the better team. The Swiss/UK match was a lot simpler in terms of the approach. The Brits were in control with last rock at the end of the match, and they just had to knock out one Swiss stone with the last rock. The last shot totally missed. These guys are the defending world champions? That was pretty bad shot for a team that was supposed to challenge Canada. So, the last match was the USA/Denmark. USA had a point lead, but Denmark had last rock. The US actually was in good position to win the point in the last end, but their last shot wasn't so great. So, Denmark won the point and it was headed for extras and I was headed for a decision. If I stuck around, I would probably be a little late for the speed skating. Do I support the USA team, even if they're winless and already out of the tournament? I decided to stick around. The US had last shot, so they were in a good position to win. Like the UK match, it came down to the last shot. Denmark had one unguarded stone. It seemed like a pretty easy shot. The US skip gagged the shot. No wonder they were winless coming in. Why exactly did I stay? As you might imagine, it took a while to clear out of the arena. The Candian match was conceded early, so I figured the Canadian fans would leave en massse after that match concluded. That's generally how it works with the home nation. Instead, nearly everyone stayed until the USA/Denmark match was over. Keep in mind that both teams were winless.

My thoughts on my one and only curling experience. Great fans, mediocre venue. Having 4 matches going at once keeps it pretty interesting because most matches get staggered and one is usually approaching the last few stones of the end. The Canadians are really formidable. Of course, I didn't see every team in the tournament, but I would predict that they will win the gold medal. Not exectly going out on a limb.

Off to speed skating. This was the women's 1000m and Canada was favored for a couple of medals. As it turned out, the Dutch were the strongest overall team. Every Olympics they seem to have athletes that peak at the right time. Also, their incredible depth allows them to medal even when one of the skaters has an off day. So, the Dutch were sitting 1-2 with two pairs left. Then, Nesbitt from Canada skated second to last. She really looked gassed going into her last lap and her splits weren't all that great. Somehow she hung on by 2 1/100ths to take the lead. Groves was in the last pair and finished short of the podium. As always, the crowd was a lot of fun thanks to the Dutch fans and having Canadian medalists. So far I had seen all 3 Canadian gold medalists.

Then, it was off to the men's figure skating finals on my aching feet--- next blog entry.

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