News and Views from the world wanderings of Pj Kwong.  Finally!  A place for all of the things I write and think about!

Posted By SkatingPj

I arrived home a week ago and was into my "real" life so quickly it was almost as if I had never been away.

But I had.

It has taken me until today to be able to sit and think a bit about the Vancouver adventure that started for me at the beginning of February 2010 and ended around the same time the men's hockey game did with my arrival in Toronto.  The score was announced in flight and to the mostly Canadian passengers, the men's hockey team winning the gold in overtime, was like the icing on the cake.  What a thrill to hear the cheers and see the smiles and on an Air Canada flight no less.

As my Mom said after having been in Vancouver for a couple of days:  "I get it.  I get the Olympics."  On TV all you see are hordes of people and seemingly endless lineups and what would seem like a lot of fuss and bother.  What you don't see until you come to the Olympics is the pride and the flags and the smiles.  My favourites were the Swedish fans; they had hats that were their flag's blue and yellow with viking horns and yellow pigtails.

Here are just a few of my "Olympic" moments:

* my Mom making it to Vancouver to see the Original Dance (her favourite event) ...which had been our focus while she underwent chemo and surgery for ovarian cancer in 2009.

* being wakened from an afternoon nap (the ONLY one I got to take!)  in my 15th floor Yaletown condo from the roars of fans in nearby condos and street level bars as Canada defeated Russia in men's hockey.  So loud in fact, I renamed the area Yelltown.

* seeing the joy of being a fan no matter the country on the streets of Vancouver

* hearing the screams as people went across Robson Square overhead on that zip line

* feeling the pride of a mother for Joannie Rochette in going ahead and doing what she had come to Vancouver to do...forever one of my "I know where I was when" moments.

*giggling when Matt Galloway and  (engineer) Jeremy called me "Future Girl" for my accuracy in predicting the results

*seeing a fake kiss n cry set-up on the Colbert Report on last Monday's show with a woman announcer's voice calling for scores (the voice was not mine - wt???)

*being reunited with Amanda G (who was "the boss of me" in Salt Lake City in 2002) and getting to know Kate R, Lauren G and Josee C - a whole other blog would have to be devoted to the laughs we had!

*getting pictures of CBC's Scott Morrison from Hockey Night in Canada and Rick Hansen with Flat Stanley for a certain three schools in the GTA's west end :)

*meeting Karen Magnussen and Marnie Mcbean and yanking Donovan Bailey's chain just a little bit

*being in the Pacific Coliseum for the last night of short track and screaming along with everyone else during the race for the Canadian men's relay team who won Gold.

* Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir! PERFECTION!  And seeing brothers Charlie and Danny and that hug!

*hearing the Canadian anthem being sung by so many people in the building during  medal ceremonies for ice dance and short track and seeing the flag go up.

So many friendships - new and old - and the feeling that we were all part of something really special and uniquely Canadian and I am still smiling.


 
Posted By SkatingPj

Talk about best for last!  The women took the ice last night for the free program at figure skating in Vancouver and did not disappoint.

Korea's Yu-Na Kim is the Olympic champion.  She skated out to her position and you could just tell form her body language that this was going to be "her night".  What was absolutely mesmerizing in addition to her glorious program was her ability to reach out to the audience; frequently making eye contact and smiling in addition to performing all of those pesky triple jumps, spins and footwork sequences.  What is interesting to note is that she smashed yet another score record and with her overall total of 228.56 points, she not only won the women's event but she would have been top 10 in the men as well!

The Silver medallist from Japan; Mao Asada skated immediaely following Kim and had her work cut out for her.  She was tentative to start with but was able to execute not only one but two triple Axels to get the ball rolling.  This program skated to the Bells of Moscow was an interesting choice for her.   On first look the contrast between her youth and the starkness of the piece seemed so incongruent as to be insurmountable.  She got much closer to being able to really work this program at the 4 Continents Championships as it  (and she) had really evolved over the season.  The truth of the matter is though that there was not the same complexity that was found in Kim's masterpiece and coupled with a couple of stumbles she settled for silver.

Canada's 6 time national champion Joannie Rochette was in third place heading into the free and even with the heavy heart she had with her mother's sudden death over the weekend, you could see her resolve.  Funnily enough as emotional as it was it was somehow different than her short program on Tuesday night.  When she skated the short her emotions were so raw that it was almost too painful to watch.  As if we were intruding on a very private moment.  It seemed in seeing her composure last night that the real mountain to climb had been making it to the ice for the short.  Coming in third place then and being in striking place of the podium almost gave me the feeling that she felt honour bound to skate and "finish the story."

At the end of the skate while taking her bows, she softly blew a kiss in the air; a tender but bittersweet moment intended to acknowledge that Therese and Joannie Rochette had arrived there together.  I don't think I have ever been so moved.

I have been asked it there was a "sympathy bump" in the marks for Rochette.  I don't think so.   The program was beautifully put together by Lori Nichol and Joannie was able to draw on the fact that points were being collected all along the way giving the technical aspects of her skating a bit of a cushion that, as it happened, she didn't really need.

All that's left is the Exhibition Gala which rolls out on Saturday at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.


 
Posted By SkatingPj

Let's forget about the results for a moment. 

The fact that Canada's six-time champion and defending world silver medallist was able to skate the short program on Tuesday night after the sudden loss of her mother over the weekend  was  nothing short of a miracle.  Not only did she skate the program, but she skated it well enough to put her in third place heading into the free.

The mood in the building was subdued as if the spectators felt collectively that they didn't want to do anything to compromise Joannie's skate.  Element by element the applause was encouraging and there was a lot of it, but it came and went very quickly registering support without becoming a distraction. Even before her music ended, the audience was on its' feet and it was at that point that Joannie started to break down. Speaking is what I am supposed to do and keeping the lump in my own throat at bay in order to call the marks as others were openly weeping around me was probably the most difficult professional challenge I have ever faced.

Earlier, both Yu-Na Kim of the Republic of Korea and Mao Asada of Japan had skated clean.  

Kim took the lead in a display that was confident and mature and with a vixen-like flirtyness to her James Bond medley.  Asada's program boasted a triple Axel combination and after the results, Japanese TV friends were texting to ask why the big spread in the scores?  Easy. Canadian choreographer David Wilson's programs leave nothing to chance in their construction and Kim was easily able to capitalize on  elements like choreography, transitions and interpretation to maximize her program component scores.

The ladies take the ice this evening for the free skate.

Pj's Podium Picks still stand:

GOLD      Yu-Na Kim KOR

SILVER    Mao Asada JPN

BRONZE Joannie Rochette CAN

 


 
Posted By SkatingPj

Onw word can describe what happened last night in the ice dance free dance final.  WOW!  Canada's three time national champions and two-time world medallists, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir became Olympic champions.

They posted a personal best score for their free dance to Mahler's 5th symphony and they were perfection.  the audience were drawn in to their story of hope, joy and love and you could have heard a pin drop in the building. 

The American team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White took the silver and were also at their very best.  they skated to Phantom of The Opera with  a program as difficult as Virtue and Moir's the only thing separating them is the Canadians' "je ne sais quoi" chemistry on the ice.

They started out as the leaders after the compulsory dance and eventually had to settle for the bronze.  Oksana Domnina and maxim Shabalin of the Russian Federation also posted a season's best scrore but it wasn't enough to overtake the Americans.

 

Heading to the ice today are the women in their short program.

In a show of unbelieveable emotional strength, Canada's six time national champion and defending world silver medallist, Joannie Rochette has decided to compete.  Her mother, Therese,  passed away unexpedtedly here in Vancouver overnight on Saturday leaving some to wonder what Joannie would do.  She wants to compete.  Some might wonder why but I think that in some ways "the rink" is the easiest place to be right now;  familiar, comfortable and surrounded by friends and where everything to do with the sport is in its' rightful place maybe helping to give her a little balance in this terrible time of grief.  As a mother, it seems right that she would want to pay tribute to her own Mom in this way.

I have faith that coming into these Olympics she was already a contender. If she is able to keep her heart out of her skate and rely on her muscle memory and training to help her body do what it already know hows to do so well, she will be in good shape.

There is no doubt that this is a tough field and that it can go lots of different ways.  As always, am willing to state my opinion.

Pj's Podium Picks:

GOLD       Yu-NA Kim  KOR

SILVER     Mao Asada JPN

BRONZE  Joannie Rochette CAN


 
Posted By SkatingPj

Last night's Original Dance was an outstanding skating event pure and simple with many teams pulling out all the stops including the new leaders from Canada Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

Best for first for a change.  Virtue and Moir were the second last skaters and looked a litttle tentative as they took their opening position.  Once their music started though; all that seemed to melt away and they created what I like to call an "Olympic" moment where time stood still for the duration of their program.  Confident and strong and oozing the kind of sensuality that you would expect from a Flamenco they easily moved into the lead.

The American team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White skated to Indian folk music and were fantastic in their accurate interpretation of the music.  Their costuming, timing and youthful energy all worked in creating their "Bollywood" OD which correctly moved them into second place.

Words fail me in describing the "Aboriginal Dance" from  defending world champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin from the Russian Federation.   The cartoon-like costuming and choreography was almost painful to watch it was so embarassing and inappropriate.  Even more embarassing is the lack of understanding on the part of the skaters and seemingly their coaches of their cultural faux pas.  They slipped from 1st to third.

Other standout performances stood along the way top to bottm in the event.  Italian ice dancers Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali were superb in their Italian folk dance and, in my opinion, ouskated the Russians but stayed in fifth.

A young team from Great Britain, Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland were also terrific with an Irish Folk Dance as were the youjng Russian team of Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev who were costumed like a pair of Russian sailors. The Japanese brother and sister team Cathy and Chris Reed  skated a memorable Japanese folk dance and were just a few of the many entertaining Original Dance programs from last night.

The writing is on the wall as the free dance takes place tonight.  As much as I believe that the Italians deserve to be the Bronze medallists, I think I am going to have to change my prediction:

Pj's Prudent Podium Picks:

GOLD:       Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir CAN

SILVER:     Meryl Davis and Charlie White  USA

BRONZE:  Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin RUS

 


 


 
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