We watch the Olympics all day so that you don't have to.
There was an amazing finish to the Men's Biathlon, one of those odd sports that I happen to love. It's a grueling competition, coming rifle shooting and a 15,000 meter cross-country "Mass Start" race, about 10 miles. And it came down to a photo finish! That's how close it was in the race for the Gold Medal between Martin Fourcade of France and Simon Schempp of Germany. But even more than that, the winner, Fourcade, had lost in a photo finish by 3 centimeters in the same race at the last Olympics! In fact, he thought he had lost this year, as well, and slammed his ski poles, but then moments later found out he had one. "Four years ago in Sochi I lost by only three centimeters, so I thought the story was repeating again," he said later. "Tonight it’s incredible." But the race is even better than that -- because only 11 seconds later, two competitors came in neck-and-neck battling for the Bronze Medal. The Norwegian won by just .4 of a second, and it would have been even closer if his opponent hadn't pulled up when it was clear he'd lost.
I like short-track skating. It's been a great addition to the Winter Games, and is great fun for its off-beat wild excitement of the races. That said, while I know that the potential for crashes is one of the things that keeps you on edge, I find it problematic when you have an event like last night's finals where three out of five competitors could go out in one spill, leaving only two skaters to continue around the track. This is the Olympics, after all, not Demolition Derby. At least in the early rounds if there's a crash, those who were unfairly knocked out can be reinstated to the next round by the judges. But in the finals, there's no such recourse. I know that being crashed into is a risk in any group race -- though it doesn't happen often, and usually only affects one or two participants and not nearly the entire field. I don't know what the answer is, or if there should be an answer. I'm just saying that the reality of it detracts from the Medal Race.
There's an odd conflict between similar races in several sports, the kind where only one person races and the athletes compete against time, usually Alpine skiing and the sliding sports. It's that in some of these events, it's the best time of any individual run during the various rounds which is declared the winner -- while in other sports they combine the total time of all yours runs. Honestly, I don't know which is best. I'm inclined to prefer the latter, but I can easily defend The Best Single Time being the best way to go. What I don't quite understand, though, is how a sport determines which to use.
Saturday night should be one of those great Olympic nights when you can hunker down and revel in the the coverage for the full evening. Unfortunately, it was filled with "Slopestyle skiing." One of those ersatz "freestyle" sports that requires great skill and numbs my mind. When the description of an event includes the phrase, "Man was not made to...", then you know you're dealing with something that might be great fun to watch from afar, but has no business being an Olympic Sport. And doing somersaults and double-twists on skis is one of those. 'Tis not for me. I can watch for a few minutes, but that's my limit.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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