Vancouver Winter Olympics - Great Memories

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Enough tennis talk - the second sporting event and my other reason for why I haven't updated this blog for some time is the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. I rushed home on the Friday that the opening ceremonies would be shown so I could watch it with my family. The ceremonies were awesome - sure, it wasn't as great a show as the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies but it was spectacular nonetheless. Of course, we were disappointed with the lighting of the torch due to the technical problem in one of the four torches, but the show went on pretty well. I am so glad to watch it with my kids. I want to keep watching Olympic opening ceremonies as a tradition in my family; hope my children will recall these special moments when they grow up.

Over the course of the past two weeks, we watched in amazement as the best winter athletes in the world competed against each other. We cheered for US and Australian athletes - they represent the two countries where we are permanent residents of. There were two competitors who we followed closely - they are Amanda Evora from the pairs figure skating and J.R. Celski of short track. Evora's parents are both US immigrants from the Philippines; while Celski is the offspring of US immigrants from Poland and the Philippines. Evora didn't win a medal but she and her partner placed tenth, while Celski won two bronze medals.

There were also some Olympians from the Chicago suburbs that we cheered for. Evan Lycasek outclassed the competition in winning the men's figure skating and he's from Napperville, IL. Shani Davis of Chicago duplicated his gold-silver haul from the previous Olympics. Then there's Katherine Reutter from Champaign, IL who won a silver in the ladies 1000 m short track, the first medal for a US woman in short track since 1994. Four teammates from the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks will be in action in the men's hockey final tomorrow - three of them will be playing for Canada and one will be playing for the United States.

My favorite events were short track, figure skating, and speed skating. My five year old's favorites were bobsleigh and luge. I found those two events to be too technical and really - does anyone enjoy watching those in TV? Apparently, my youngest son does, but I think he is looking more for those spectacular crashes more than anything else.

One thing I like about the Olympics are the incredible stories surrounding the athletes. My favorites during these games are:

- The Chinese figure skating pair who came out of retirement to fulfill their dream of an Olympic gold;
- The Canadian figure skater who competed and won a medal less than a week after her mother died;
- The Canadian men's mogul gold medalist who is continuously inspired by his older brother who has a disability;
- The young Korean figure skater who won her country's first Olympic medal in her sport and performed flawlessly under immense pressure to beat her own world record and win the gold by a huge margin;
- The Australian world champion skier who is a resident of Vancouver and unlike most athletes, have managed to keep his distance from the media;
- The young American short track athlete of Polish and Filipino ancestry who had sixty stitches on his leg due to an accident in the rink last November but still managed to recover on time for the games and win two medals in his first Olympics;
- The figure skater who is a child of Filipino immigrants who learned how to skate in a frozen pond near their house.

The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics will end tomorrow with the completion of the gold medal match between Canada and the United States in men's hockey. It has been a great experience, our first time to completely follow the staging of a Winter Olympics. While the rest of the world will remember plenty of great and inspiring memories of these Games, a family in Georgia would have buried their beloved Nodar Kumaritashvili, the luge athlete who suffered a fatal crash the morning before the start of the Olympics. It was a dream that turned into a nightmare, as the hopes of a young man who spent so many hours training and qualifying for the Olympic event was dashed during a fateful practise session. I am hopeful that this story will not end as it is, that there will be something good that will come out of this tragedy. I'm not sure what it will be, but if there's something I learned from following the Olympics in the past 22 years, it is that hope trumps any human challenge - even death. Tomorrow will be a totally new day.

Looking forward to the 2012 London Summer Olympics!