Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The thrill of victory ... the agony of defeat

The past couple of days have been about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

The day started yesterday with Marie-Michèle Gagnon dislocating her shoulder in a crash during the slalom part of the Super Combined. She had recently won a combined race, so hopes were high. I was worried that her Olympics was over, but she insists that she will race the Giant Slalom and the Slalom. This is the epitome of #GiveYourEverything.

Next up was the 1500m short track speed skating, Charles Hamelin's reportedly weakest event. The timing of this event was perfect so I could watch it with my daughter before she went to school, including the "Marianne St-Gelais cam" showing her watching Charles' race. My daughter (along with the rest of Canada) loved her (them) at the 2010 Olympics. What an amazing moment, culminated with the medal ceremony and playing of O Canada.

I had plans on watching the biathlon which was slated to be televised on Sportsnet. I was working on my laptop with Sportsnet on the background when I realized that the race should have started. Sportsnet was showing the second moguls qualification where no Canadians were competing. I check the livestream, and sure enough I missed the start of the biathlon and there is Jean-Philippe Le Guellec in the lead group! He completes the first shooting round first (3rd at the interval), and then leads out of the second shooting.

We have a Canadian leading an Olympic biathlon event possibly for the first time and no television station is showing it. Are the telecasts that rigid that we can't recognize that no Canadians are in the second moguls qualification that we can't switch to see a Canadian leading a biathlon? Luckily CBC showed the full race in the afternoon and Enfin Sotchi on Radio-Canada showed the highlights including the first half.

Biathlon is extremely popular in Europe and I have watched livestream of events on the biathlon youtube station where there was little or no screen time for our Canadians (with the huge exception of Jean-Philippe winning a World Cup last year). To see this today:

Jean-Philippe getting screen time with his name at #1 at an Olympic Game was incredible!

I understand that CBC won't switch away from a Canadian women's hockey game but introducing freestyle ski fans (where moguls was being shown) to the sport of biathlon is the choice I would have taken as producer of the Olympics. I'm sure my friend who produced the 2010 and 2012 Olympics would disagree with me, which is why he was there and I am here. My view is probably in the minority.

Unfortunately, Le Guellec ended up slipping on an ice patch going downhill around a corner while leading, fell and broke a ski. A Ukrainian technician would help him get another ski but he would fall out of contention. It's still an amazing story and achievement. His race went from the thrill of leading to the agony of the crash.

Heartbreak would be followed by elation once again with the moguls competition. We were almost guaranteed a double podium performance, but anything can happen in moguls. When I attended the 2010 Olympics, there were two runs - one qualification and one final. This time around, there were two qualifications (top 10 in first qualification went straight to the final with the top 10 in the second qualification). Those 20 would compete in the first final with the top 12 advancing.  The 12 would be cut down to 6 after the second final. The super final which included three Canadians would determine the medalists.

As a spectator, I would have loved so many runs when I was in Vancouver. I only saw the competitors race twice. I took photos of the Canadians in their qualification rounds except for Alexandre Bilodeau who I chose to video. During the final, I wanted to stay in the moment, so put my cameras away. Two runs seemed to go so fast, although we spent most of the day at the mountain.

Today's competition brought back so many memories, but also so much tension. Having to complete four runs this time to keep advancing or medal meant there was so little room for error. It came so close to a Canadian sweep of the podium with Marc-Antoine Gagnon in 4th and Philippe Marquis in second after the first final and finishing 9th. I'm sure that you all know that Alexandre Bilodeau put in the "best run" he's ever skied to win gold. Mikaël Kingsbury who had been dominating on the World Cup circuit the past couple of years son silver.

The thrill of victory and agony of defeat continued today. Kaya Turski was considered a favourite for gold in the ski slopestyle event until she was injured last August. She made a remarkable recovery from a serious knee injury to win the X Games a few weeks ago but Olympic glory was not meant to be for her this time. She didn't advance past the qualifications but she knows that "this moment doesn't define her".

Another Canadian in the final Yuko Tsubota crashed hard in her second run reportedly breaking her jaw. The strength of her first run gave her a strong 6th place finish.

Dara Howell was also a Canadian favourite for the event and she did live up to expectation. She won the gold with Kim Lamarre winning bronze in the event. Although they weren't allowed to wear Sarah Burke stickers on their helmets, her memory was present at the competition and in post race interviews #CelebrateSarah!

I'm sure everyone has seen much media attention for the medals won. To read a great article about Jean-Philippe Le Guellec's race, click here. To view his race, click here.

It's the view from the valleys that makes us truly appreciate the view from the mountain tops. Without experiencing the agony of defeat, the thrill of victory wouldn't be so sweet.

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