Its here! Its here! Amidst international tensions and frustrations and with all the drama required for the heralded sporting event that occurs every 4 years, South Korea will be welcoming the world this week for the twenty-third Olympic Winter Games!
While I’m particularly glued to the figure skating events, I absolutely love watching all of it. I love seeing the skiers fly down the slippery mountains at break-neck speeds; I get a huge kick out the high-flying snowboarders whose first gold medal hero was Ross Rebagliati from Canada; I shake my head at the sheer insanity of laying on a board on your back as the lugers do their thing in that tiny tube; and curling and hockey both have a poutine-fed grip on my heart.
But it is the figure skating that will have me with tears streaming down my face as I watch. They’re tears of joy and happiness and they come from an athletic and artistic part of me.
The Games officially start on Friday, the 9th with the opening ceremony that night. NBC once again has broadcasting dibs and they tend to do a great job. Tara Lipinski and Johnny Wier are former top-tier American skaters who handle a lot of the commentary and I find them to be hilarious (I can’t wait to see Johnny’s outfits!) and also pretty accurate in the things they talk about.
Predictions? I have a few thoughts, but remember, ice is slippery. Irina Slutskaya coined that phrase years ago and she’s absolutely right.
In the ladies event, while everyone assumed Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva would win because that’s all she does, her country-mate might have something to say about that. Skating her long program to one of this year’s several Swan Lakes, 15 year-old Alina Zagitova has the arsenal and the grit to win it all.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of her style yet because she’s only 15. Evgenia is a bit of an artist and skates with more maturity at all of 18. They both have the ability to stand on the top step of the podium when the last event of the figure skating competition ends Feb.22nd.
Speaking of skating with maturity, the one pure artist in the field also has a chance to once again win an Olympic medal. Italy’s Carolina Kostner (Caro to her fans) skates with joy, passion, style and finesse. Oh, and she can jump, too. She can also rock a sparkly green unitard with flesh-tone cutouts like pretty much nobody I know. She will turn 31 on Feb.8th, and she was an innocent young Italian flag-bearer back in Torino.
Who do I want on the podium? Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond and not because she’s from the Great White North. It has more to do with her coach, Ravi, who was one of my great skating friends growing up. Kaetlyn lost her Canadian crown last month and I’m hoping its put some fire underneath her. She usually has a solid short program but she needs to bring 2 clean routines to the rink in order to beat clean Russians. She won silver at World’s last year behind Medvedeva so she’s no stranger to success.
I’m not ruling out our new US national champ, Bradie Tennell because she has the goods, too, but isn’t well-known on the international scene and that counts somewhat in figure skating although the Olympics is known for once-in-a-lifetime performances from American skaters. (Sarah Hughes, Paul Wylie, Tara Lipinski…)
The men’s game was supposed to be a contest between Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno but Hanyu has been sidelined with an injury for a lot of the season. He didn’t even compete at Japanese nationals or the recent Four Continents and there is a bit of a buzz he won’t be 100%. Uno is coming off a 2nd-place finish at Four Continents and he can be a bit of a poopy-pants when he doesn’t win.
His skating is sublime, though, and the little guy can jump. China’s Boyang Jin is the guy who beat him at Four Continents and he’s a quad-machine himself. He doesn’t have the style or maturity of many other competitors but if it comes down to a jump-off he could be up there.
If we’re talking less jumps and more quality skating then Javi Fernandez, shown here after winning his 5th European title last year (he won his 6th last month), has to be part of the discussion. He trains with Hanyu at Brian Orser’s barn up in Canada and his Charlie Chaplin routine is a lot of fun when he nails the jumps.
The Russians have a couple of guys who could contend and Adam Rippon will hopefully be entertaining despite not having a reliable quad (he’ll have plenty of media time, I’m sure, given the fact he’s the first openly gay US skater to compete at the Olympics) and Canada’s Patrick Chan is a master of gliding and fancy footwork. (P Chiddy is also training in Edmonton with my friend, Ravi now, too!)
But the one everyone will be gunning for is the young American, Nathan Chen. I’ve talked about him here and how he is the quad master. He is insane with his amazing technique and he’s artistic, too! The sky is the limit for the US Champion and while I’m not sure we need to see 5 quads in one routine or that young men’s backs and knees are going to hold up to that kind of stress, Chen is going to make this one interesting competition (especially now that he’s ditched his terrible duds and has suited up in some snazzy Vera Wang!)
The pairs event has some drama and we aren’t even in PyeongChang yet. The IOC has banned Russia from sending a contingent of athletes, which sucks big time because Russians are usually dominant in many winter sports and they make it exciting. In Sochi they pulled off an elaborate doping scandal (they switched out the vials of pee) and the IOC is holding them accountable to it (glad some governing parties have the balls to do that.)
Medvedeva gets to go, though, as do other petitioned athletes but they will not have the Russian anthem played if they medal and they won’t do the ceremonies under the Russian Flag. For whatever reason, Russian pair skater, Ksenia Stolbova, who won silver in Sochi with partner, Fedor Klimov, is banned. She wasn’t named in the doping scandal but she’s still not allowed to go. They’ve had a rough couple of seasons and they weren’t on my hot list but it still stinks to have that taken away from her.
I think if France’s James & Cipres skate clean they could medal. The judges want to give them medals and we all want to watch them skate (seen their Sounds of Silence routine? **shudders**) but they have to be solid. China’s pairs teams are always top notch and with Cong and Han being reigning World champs it would be cool if they won. (Mostly because they are both super short and it would make for a cute podium picture if they were on top and the guys on either side would be way taller.)
Canada’s Duhamel & Radford will be heartstring favorites and I think the American hubby-wife Knierems could be media darlings but the event belongs to Russians Tarasova and Morozov who, with their La La Land routine, have won everything they’ve entered this year. While I can’t fathom that hideous polka-dotted outfit on the top step, they are lovely, talented skaters who are fun to watch.
I’m not emotionally ready to talk Ice Dance just yet. I know Alistair will be shaking his head at me when we’re watching Tessa & Scott and I’m crying away. Their ethereal training-mates, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron have the World record in points as of Europeans last month and I fear that they could win the title. Tessa & Scott have 2 fabulous routines and there is this thing about them when they skate- you can’t take your eyes off of them and they are so sexy and cool you want to be just like them. There are the twizzling Shib Sibs, too, and their Coldplay long program is outstanding and you can’t rule out Russians Bobrova & Soloviev.
(Tessa & Scott are carrying the Canadian flag in the opening ceremonies, too… more tears!)
The short dance is the Rhumba, remember, so everyone has to do a section of that set pattern dance while mixing in Latin dance moves and low cut tops for the men. Ice Dancers are generally the Beautiful People anyhow and this short dance and several top couples have the ability to make you blush while watching (while grinning madly at the same time.)
So I’ll save the Ice Dance for the Olympics.
Team events start with the men’s short, then pairs, ice dancers and the ladies all happening next weekend. Its a fun, slightly more relaxed event where everyone cheers each other on in the Kiss & Cry area. The solo events start on the 13th with the pairs short and their long the next day. They are followed by the men, the ice dancers and, finally, wrapping up yet another Olympic experience will be the ladies.
I cheer for all the countries and all the athletes. I want to see them all bring it and have their special Olympic moments. I love talking skating so feel free to share your thoughts and comments or hook up with me on Facebook because I’ll certainly be posting there during the Games.
5 days to go! Bring on the XXIII Winter Olympic Games!