Down and Out in Denver

Obligatory Olympics Post

Posted in food, tv by Blake on February 26, 2010

Last night I headed over to Alastair’s place with the intention of watching our regular Thursday night program: Models of the Project Runway.  We thought we’d top it off with a little Olympic figure skating. In the end PR and MotR were reruns so we watched the Olympics exclusively. But not before Alastair cooked up a little feast.  Dear reader, we do cook every once in a while!  We began with a lovely manchego cheese on Carr’s water biscuits (the kind with a little bit of pepper sprinkled on them) and a tart Spanish verdejo.  Very nice.  The main course was fresh pasta with pesto and sockeye salmon.  Alastair was outdoing himself.  We finished with mixed greens and a mustard vinaigrette and I have to say that Alastair does love his mustard; I only choked the one time.

After dinner we settled in to watch the ice skating, interrupted periodically by aerial ski jumping or some such mind-boggling sport.  A few thoughts:

Joannie Rochette

Longtime readers of DOD will know of my affinity for our neighbors to the North and so it will come as no surprise that I was rooting for Joannie Rochette, even though I knew she probably didn’t stand much of a chance against the teenage powerhouses Kim Yu-Na and Mao Asada.  Add to this the tragedy of Rochette losing her mother just a few days ago and her perseverance despite the loss, and I was hooked.  Rochette took the bronze with Kim and Asada nabbing the gold and silver, respectively, as expected.  What struck me most in watching them skate (aside from the fact that they were all ridiculously good) was how different they looked.  Kim and Asada look like the late teenagers that they are (both are 19): they’re slim and tiny.  Rochette, 24, looks like a woman.  And Rochette is actually the shorter of the three.  I tried to find a picture of all three on the podium but they don’t seem to be available, and the official Olympics site is guarding their photos.

This brings me to my next oh-so-deep observation: Kim, Asada, and Rochette were competing in “Ladies” figure skating.  According to the official Olympics website, the other Ladies’ sports also seem to involve skating (figure or speed), skiing of any variety, and snowboarding.  When female people play hockey or curl or hurl themselves down tracks in various sorts of sleds they are called women.  As they should be.  “Lady” is an outdated term with all kinds of class implications. Can you imagine if men competed in “Gentlemen’s Speed Skating?”  I think not.  Why the discrepancy, Olympics?  Is this how the sports are called in their non-Olympic incarnations?

Finally, I offer grudging congratulations to Apolo Ohno, who, NBC never fails to remind us at every other commercial break, is the most decorated US winter Olympian in history (note the use of US there; Norwegian cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie has him beat for the real title of most winter Olympic medals ever, period).  Just as we were told constantly that Michael Phelps is now the most decorated Olympian of all time.  Bear with me; this is not just my irritation with the United States’ obsessive need for self-promotion.  It has much more to do with the fact that those athletes (and this is not to say that Ohno and Phelps are not both phenomenal athletes) who can be the most decorated athletes are those who compete in sports that have multiple events.  If you play hockey, for instance, you’re out of luck: one medal tops per games.  You’d have to win at four or five consecutive Olympic games to compete with Ohno or Phelps in only one year.  And it’s not just the team sports.  Look at Kim Yu-Na’s performance last night.  In order to qualify for one medal she had to perform both a short program and a longer free program (the ice dancers — and yes, they are silly — have to do three).  Both performances were phenomenal, but she’s only entitled to the one medal for both of them.  And those of us who watched last night know that she — and Asada and Rochette and Mirai Nagasu and the other top competitors — are no less skilled and athletic than “the most decorated” of their fellow Olympians, but they will never join their ranks.  So enough with this “most decorated” business, I say!  In that spirit, let me congratulate the Canadian women’s (not ladies’) ice hockey team, which yesterday won their third consecutive gold medal!


9 Responses

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  1. Alastair said, on February 26, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Blake, my sincerest apologies for the coughing fit. I’ll lay off the mustard a little next time. I can’t help but notice you made no mention of the rather large cupcake with non-dairy icing we shared after dinner…

    • Blake said, on February 26, 2010 at 7:11 pm

      Alastair, I forgot. You manage to make baked goods sound so dirty! (I was not a fan of the non-dairy icing; maybe that’s why I blocked it out of my memory.)

  2. Stephanie Eng said, on February 27, 2010 at 1:48 am

    Well, got to have to say that i watched at some of great encounters the last days. But i have to comment that it is not said those guys with the leafs shall win easy from the USA. Once again Canada won with some luck tonight from Slovakia. America will win sunday with 6-2! Another thing: Hey Crosby! Put a laugh on your face !

  3. ej said, on February 27, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Hey-I spent a lot time picking out that cupcake!

    And what I can’t understand about the “ladies” figure skaters is why they wear those “flesh” covered tights that go over their skates, so it looks like the blades are coming right out of the bottom of their feet. What’s up with that?

    • Blake said, on February 28, 2010 at 9:09 am

      I agree; those “nude” tights are awful. I much prefer when they just wear white skates as well, like Rochette above.

  4. bsgirl said, on February 28, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Amen on the “most decorated” discourse! Those “lady” skaters (and I’m also down on that terminology — along with “guys and girls” on American Idol) work so incredibly hard — they should get multiple medals, but the system works against them. Enough about Apollo Ono, already!

    • Blake said, on February 28, 2010 at 8:31 pm

      The most decorated business really does just seem to overlook a whole lot of athletes — men and women — who are ineligible before they’ve even started competing!

  5. thefrogprincess said, on March 2, 2010 at 12:41 am

    Yeah, people were angry about this “most decorated” business back when Michael Phelps won so many in Beijing. To which I say this: first of all, he did virtually the same thing in two separate Olympic Games, which has to count for something. Second, while swimming does provide more opportunities to medal, if it were easy to sweep the table, more people would be doing it. In fact, it is incredibly rare to be that dominant in that many events that require different skills and different tactics. So while number of medals isn’t the only measure that matters, it is a measure that absolutely cannot be downplayed. I’m not a huge fan of Phelps but I know swimming very well; what he’s done is virtually unthinkable.

    On the flip side, I also give serious weight to longevity. So somebody like Steve Redgrave, who won gold in five consecutive olympics in a brutal sport like rowing, is up there with Phelps in my opinion. Similarly, although track athletes cannot win as many medals, Usain Bolt’s accomplishments rank up there as well, for his dominance and his record smashing. I think there are ways to evaluate accomplishments that take into account more than a medal count but everybody who wins a gold medal is not Phelps, Redgrave, Bolt, or Bonnie Blair.

    • Blake said, on March 2, 2010 at 8:02 am

      Clearly Michael Phelps is a great athlete. (It is also clear that you know lots more about sports than I do!) My real point is that there will always only be certain athletes who can “sweep” any Olympics because only certain athletes have more than one event, which is largely a function of the way that their sports are organized. And to dwell on the “most decorated” business is to reinforce the notion that that’s what constitutes being a great (or greater) athlete. Add to this that US broadcasters are pretty selective about when they invoke the “most decorated” discourse: usually when it’s someone from the United States and not so frequently otherwise.

      I agree with you in your second point: longevity should clearly count for something, should count for more than medal count, it seems to me.

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