Vancouver 2010: What to watch this winter Olympic season

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January 29, 2010

1:20 AM

Canada is preparing to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, and although the opening ceremony is not until Feb. 12, excitement is mounting.

Athletes have not yet descended upon Vancouver, but some students at the College of William and Mary are already eagerly following the progress of their favorite teams and events. It can be difficult to keep track of so many participants from so many nations in so many competitions, but The Flat Hat compiled a summary of people and events that promise to make these games special when they air on NBC.

Whether drawn by patriotism, a competitive spirit or admiration for athletic prowess, students at the College will soon be setting aside their books to watch the 2010 Winter Olympics.

*Women’s Figure Skating*

The women’s figure skating competition, a perennial favorite, is highly anticipated among students at the College. The American team will be composed of two skaters this year: 17-year-old Rachael Flatt and 16-year-old Mirai Nagasu, who won the gold and silver medals, respectively, at the 2010 U.S. National Championships.

Sasha Cohen, who won a silver medal in the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy, made an unexpected comeback and secured a bid for an Olympic spot at the U.S. Championships. The 25-year-old finished fourth and will serve as a team alternate.

While many students enjoy watching figure skating, few have the true appreciation for the sport that Hayley Soohoo ’12 has. An ice skater for 14 years, Soohoo was partially homeschooled to accommodate her rigorous practice schedule and competed in the ice dancing portion of the 2008 U.S. National Championships.

Soohoo skated at the same rink as Nagasu in Burbank, Ca. and is confident in her friend’s abilities. The new international judging system will be in effect this February, awarding separate scores for technical and program, or artistic, elements. Soohoo said that Nagasu is especially skilled at these program components.
“She’s a solid jumper,” Soohoo said. “In the past, she’s had a little trouble cheating her jumps, which means not fully rotating them; but she’s known for her flexibility, and she has a really good artistic presence.”

Nagasu is as personable as she is talented, according to Soohoo.

“She’s so nice, always energetic and happy,” Soohoo said. “She’s old enough to be mature and taken seriously but young enough to not be jaded and arrogant. She’s really down to Earth and willing to talk to anyone and sign autographs and take pictures.”

The U.S. team is strong, but other countries have equally talented skaters. Soohoo mentioned members of the Japanese team and Italian skater Carolina Kostner as formidable competitors.

Soohoo has faith in the American representative’s ability to pull off impressive performances.

“Between these two [Flatt and Nagasu], the U.S. could probably get a medal, if not a gold,” she said.

The ladies’ Short Program airs Feb. 23 at 4:30 p.m. and the ladies’ Free Skate airs Feb. 25 at 5 p.m.

*Snowboarding*

Shaun White, nicknamed “The Flying Tomato” because of his bright red hair, is favored to win the halfpipe event, in which he the gold during the 2006 games.

Seth Wescott, who placed first in boardercross in Torino, is predicted to win gold again in these games.

On the U.S. women’s team, Hannah Teter and Gretchen Bleiler will face off during the halfpipe event; in Torino, Teter won the gold and Bleiler took home the silver medal.

Men’s halfpipe will be on Feb. 17, with the finals airing at 7:15 p.m. Women’s halfpipe is scheduled for Feb. 18, with finals at 6 p.m.

*Stephen Colbert*

There’s something funny going on at the games this year, and it’s not a figure skating judging scandal. Television host Stephen Colbert has entered the ice arena, making it likely that this Olympics will be even more entertaining than usual.

When Deutsche Bank announced a few months ago that it would no longer sponsor the U.S. speed skating team due to financial problems, Colbert surprised a member of the team who was a guest on his show and the whole nation by agreeing on television, seemingly spontaneously, to provide the funds. Since then, he and the “Colbert Nation,” a term he applied to his fans, have raised several hundred thousand dollars for the team. To further promote the Olympics, Colbert went to Lake Placid and made promotional clips that feature him trying out for various Olympic teams.

Colbert fan Miriam Foltz ’10 is excited to see how the comedian integrates himself into the Olympics. He had been invited to serve as the speed skating team’s assistant sport psychologist, but NBC recently presented him with an official network vest, so he may be going to cover the games as a reporter.

“I feel like he could have some witty dialogue between him and Bob Costas,” Foltz said. “It would be really entertaining to hear him cover any of the sports he tried out for because he actually did some training. I think it will definitely add a more lighthearted element to the Olympics.”

*Alpine Skiing*

After suffering injuries from a crash during a practice run in the 2006 Winter Olympics, America’s Lindsey Vonn placed a disappointing eighth. Having won five World Cup downhill skiing events in the past season, she is favored to sweep her five events: the downhill, the super-G, the giant slalom, slalom and combined. Vonn’s first appearance and this year’s Olympics will be in the women’s downhill on Feb. 14 at 10 a.m.

*Curling*

No sport elicits more raised eyebrows than curling. Played with brooms and a large stone, curling originated in Scotland. It flourished upon its arrival in Canada, becoming one of the nation’s most popular sports.

The Canadian men’s and women’s teams have excelled since curling was introduced to the Olympics in 1998; but China is joining the competition for the first time this year, and its teams are predicted to make a strong showing, as are Great Britain’s teams.

Andrew Treanor ’10 said he appreciates curling for the sport’s novelty.

“It’s not like any other sport out there,” he said. “It’s got grown men sliding around on ice like you did when you were six years old. It’s the only sport where you get to use a broom.”

Until Quidditch is officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee, there’s a good chance this will remain so.

Men’s curling begins Feb. 16 at 9 a.m., with women’s beginning at 2 p.m. the same day. The men’s finals are scheduled for Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. while the women’s air on Feb. 26 at 3 p.m.

*Speed Skating*

Apolo Anton Ohno, a speed skating star who is tied for the American man with the most career medals at the Winter Olympics, is someone to watch. Having experienced the 2002 Winter Olympics first hand in Salt Lake City, Jacqueline Miles ’12 predicts great things from Ohno in this year’s races.

“The speed skating was really awesome,” she said. “I got to see Apolo Anton Ohno when he won two gold medals, and when he fell. He’s coming back after he won ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ and I’m excited for him.”

American Shani Davis won gold and silver medals in the Torino games in 2006 and is expected to perform very well in the four individual races he is entering in Vancouver. Davis holds the world records for the 1000 and 1500 meter distances. Ohno’s first event will be the men’s 500 meter on Feb. 15 at 3:30 p.m. Davis will hit the ice for the first time on Feb. 13 at 12 p.m. in the men’s 5000 meter.

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