Sunday, February 28, 2010

Olympics: U.S. Hockey

ESPN / NYTimes:
Sunday's epic final was the most-watched hockey game since the gold-medal game in 1980, when the United States beat Finland after stunning the Soviet Union in the "Miracle on Ice." That gold-medal game drew 32.8 million.

According to NBC, the game drew an average viewership of 27.6 million, a jump of 45.5 percent from the same matchup at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

The game, carried in Canada on nine national networks and in eight languages, became the most-watched television broadcast in Canadian history. An average of 16.6 million Canadians, or about half of the nation's population, tuned in.

Looking ahead to Sunday’s gold medal game, the Canadian coach, Mike Babcock, said of the Americans: "We know them and they know us. There won’t be a lot of surprises."

Against a younger, less experienced, less celebrated team from the United States, the Canadians controlled this game early. They jumped to an early lead and — after a late United States goal forced overtime — avenged their 5-3 loss to the Americans earlier this tournament with a 3-2 victory at Canada Hockey Place.


This contest marked not only a rematch from last week but also from the gold medal game in 2002 at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Canada won that game, 5-2, and eight years later, they played again, the crowd reversed.

Brian Burke, the general manager for Team USA, noted last week that the pressure had long been placed squarely on the Canadians. It started the day Vancouver was named host city, and built with frightening intensity, with each goal, victory and advancement.

If the Canadians felt like pipes about to burst, they hid that concern well. They recorded the first goal with 7 minutes 10 seconds remaining in the first period, when forward Jonathan Toews corralled a rebound and fired from close range into the net.


His goal gave the Team Canada its first lead and the Americans their first deficit in this tournament, while snapping Miller’s shutout streak at some 124 minutes.

The second came midway through the second period, when forward Ryan Getzlaf and defenseman Duncan Keith delivered the puck to forward Corey Perry, who was surprisingly alone, in front of the Americans’ net. His score put Canada up, 2-0, as the crowd rose and roared.

The first goal Canadian goaltender Roberto Luongo allowed on Sunday came from a familiar face, his Vancouver Canucks teammate, Ryan Kesler. The American forward Patrick Kane sent a missile from outside, and Kesler deflected the puck off of Luongo and into the goal. The United States had cut the deficit in half and trailed, 2-1, entering the final period.


The Canadians’ victory had seemed all but assured at the end of regulation, but the United States got a last-minute goal that bordered on miraculous. It came when forward Patrick Kane had his shot deflected, and the puck deflected off the skate of his teammate Jamie Langenbrunner.

Forward Zach Parise grabbed the loose puck and fired low, quick, sure. With 24.4 seconds remaining in regulation, Parise had tied the score at 2-2. The stadium did not exactly go silent, but the noisy celebration certainly quieted momentarily.


Finally, in overtime Sidney Crosby sealed what the Canadians had longed for, and the gold medal was theirs to savor. Crosby broke free from his defender, took a pass and scored 7 minutes 40 seconds ino the overtime, then threw his gloves off and started jumping up and down on the ice.


Instead of caving under the enormous weight of their expectations - from hockey fans, from locals, from one end of this country to the other - the Canadians seemed buoyed by the boisterous atmosphere inside. They dominated early, and dominated often, and when it ended, all of Canada rejoiced.


TorontoSun:
Oh yeah, and U.S. President Barack Obama owes Canadian PM Stephen Harper some Molson. Harper and Obama each wagered a case of beer on the outcome of the men’s hockey final. Now that Canada has won, Obama owes Harper a case of Canadian. If the U.S. had won, Harper would have owed Obama a case of Yuengling beer.

Molson is North America’s oldest brewery, founded in 1786 by John Molson. The company merged with U.S.-owned Coors in 2005. Yuengling is the oldest brewery in the U.S. and was founded in Pennsylvania in 1829.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Olympics: Apolo Ohno & Shani Davis


NBCOlympics: / NYTimes:
Apolo Ohno began speed skating in 1995 at age 13. At the time, he was a state champion in swimming and a national champion and record-holder in indoor in-line skating and decided he "wanted to try something new."

After his losses at the 1997 World Championships in Nagano, Japan and his failure to qualify for the 1998 Olympic team, Ohno recommitted himself to the sport, winning every national title since 2001.

He won gold in the 1,500m and silver in the 1,000m at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. After winning the 1,500m race due to the disqualification of his South Korean opponent Kim Dong-Sung, he became an "enemy of the state" in South Korea and received death threats.

Ohno won the 500m in Turin, Italy in 2006 in what he has repeatedly called a "perfect race." He got a great start off the 1 start position, the inside slot, and the race was all but over. He also won bronze in the 1,000m and the 5,000m relay.

Ohno found symmetry in his latest Olympic quest. Competing in his third Games, three hours from his hometown of Seattle, in the same city where he first skated competitively as a teenager.


When Ohno arrived at these Games he immediately pronounced his physical condition as the best of his skating life. He arrived in Turin, Italy in 2006 with a bum ankle and strained hamstring and still managed three medals in the most unpredictable of skating sports.

He arrived at Vancouver with a body he described as 100 percent healthy, 20 pounds lighter than when he skated in 2002, with 2.5 percent body fat.

Ohno was disqualified in the 500m, but secured bronze in the 1,000 meters and silver in the 1,500 meters, capitalizing on a late fall by two South Korean skaters he trailed.


Ohno returned later and anchored the United States to a bronze-medal finish in the chaotic 5,000m relay, giving him his eighth career medal.

Ohno's place in American Winter Games history is singular. He passed Eric Heiden, who earned an unprecedented five gold medals at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics alone, from the sprint of the 500m to the marathon of the 10,000m. He passed Bonnie Blair, who won five gold medals and a silver over three Olympics (1988, 1992 and 1994).

Both long-track speedskaters collected more golds than Ohno, but they competed in a sport exempt from the crashes, bumps and high-speed passes that are commonplace in the short track version of the sport.

He passed every short-track skater who ever laced on skates, and is now the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete of all time.


Afterward, Ohno kept insisting he did not care about records, his place in history, or his status as the "most-decorated" American winter athlete. Reporters kept asking the same questions, different versions of what this medal and his seven medals total meant.

"These Olympics are about so much more than chasing medals," he said. "It's about finishing my circle."

The chaotic 5,000m relay on Friday night might have been the final Olympic race of Ohno's stellar career. He is contemplating retirement, although U.S. national coach Jimmy Jang is hoping to convince the 27-year-old skater from Seattle to compete in a fourth Olympics in 2014.

"I never say never," Ohno said. "I need a break from this sport that's been very good to me."


Shani Davis
At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Davis became the first black athlete (from any nation) to win a gold medal in an individual Winter Games sport (1,000 m). He also won the silver in the 1,500 m. At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, he became the first man to successfully defend his title in the 1,000 meters. He also won a silver medal at the 1,500m distance.

Davis has set a total of eight world records, three of them current: 1:06.42 in the 1,000 m, 1:41.04 in the 1,500 m, and 145.742 in the allround samalog. He also sits atop the world Adelskalender list, which ranks the all-time fastest speed skaters.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Olympics: Bode Miller & Lindsey Vonn


BostonGlobe:
WHISTLER, British Columbia - In the final Alpine skiing event, the men's slalom, the US team's only two medal threats - Bode Miller and Ted Ligety - failed to finish. Miller and Ligety both skied off course early in the first of two runs, held in rain and snow and fog. Miller said it was the flip side of the risk-taking that won him three medals earlier in the Games.

"You have to be able to live with that possible result if you want to take that risk," Miller said.

Another medal would have made Miller the first man to win four Alpine medals at the same Olympics. But already fulfilling career-long expectations and erasing past Olympic disappointment, Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H., won gold in the men’s super-combined ski race at Whistler Creekside.

Miller, the most successful skier in US history, claimed the Olympic title with a blazing-fast slalom run in the two-part event, which combines a downhill run in the morning and a slalom run in the afternoon.

Miller, whose career has been marked by unconventionality, controversy, and conflict with the US Ski team, initially looked shocked at winning his first Olympic gold. Now he owns a complete set of medals from the Vancouver Games, with silver from the men’s super-G and bronze from the men’s downhill.

"When I passed the line, I did my normal thing and stood for a second and I was like, 'That was unbelievable, I can’t ask for anything more,'" said Miller. "For my first Olympic gold, it was absolutely perfect."

With the three, Miller has equaled the record for the most medals by a male Alpine skier at a single Olympics, joining skiing legends Jean-Claude Killy of France, Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway, and Toni Sailer of Austria.

Miller, 32, made his Olympic debut at the 1998 Nagano Games. He earned a pair of silver medals at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, then failed to win anything at the 2006 Turin Games, where his late-night partying made more headlines than his skiing. The Vancouver Games have remade his image and elevated his legacy.

"I’ve never really had too many confidence issues in my skiing," said Miller. "But to execute on a day like today, I’ll be proud of this for the rest of my life. I could have skied better today, but I skied with 100 percent heart."

The US won eight Alpine medals here, surpassing the mark of five set at the 1984 Sarajevo Games. Julia Mancuso (silver in downhill and super combined) and Andrew Weibrecht (bronze in super-G) helped push the US to new levels of success.

Lindsey Vonn came through with a gold medal in the downhill and a bronze in the super-G, reaching the podium in the two events she finished. And she earned her medals and pushed through a tough five-event schedule despite a bruised shin, broken pinkie, fallout from Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit photographs, and conflict with teammate Julia Mancuso providing ample distractions.

Miller has never placed much of an emphasis on winning medals. He prefers not to measure his accomplishments in Olympic hardware or the other trophies collected over his 13-year career, which includes two overall World Cup titles, four World Championships, and a US-record 32 World Cup victories. He believes in skiing aggressively at all times, regardless of the stakes and consequences. His style on the slopes straddles the line between recklessness and genius. Yesterday, it was genius.

But over the years, it has exacted a toll on Miller’s body, leading many to wonder whether he will retire for good after these Olympics with gold in hand.

"I feel pretty old," said Miller. "I don’t know what my plan is. Having quit once, I came back for a reason, and this was the reason. I feel good, and when I race like I have here, it’s so much fun to do. I’d feel pretty stupid to give up if I could continue."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Olympics: Curling

Even though the U.S. sucks at curling, I couldn't resist posting this gem. Introducing "Hurry Hard", the official condom of the U.S. Curling team:


CNNMoney:
Like most viewers, Kodiak Technology Group CEO Daniel Field had no idea what the heck was happening the first time he saw a curling match on national television. Now, 12 years later, Field has curling fans from around the globe equally puzzled about a product his company recently helped launch: an official curling condom.

What the heck?

In a partnership with the U.S. Curling Association, Kodiak Technology Group debuted the Hurry Hard Condom in December. Named after the common chant -- "hurry hard!"-- that curlers yell at teammates to encourage faster ice sweeping, the provocative product lends a racy edge to an often-overlooked sport.

The condom is actually a fundraiser in disguise. Sold on eBay for $4.99 each, the condoms' proceeds are split between the U.S. Curling Association and Monterey County AIDS Prevention, a California organization that focuses on HIV and AIDS education.

The fundraiser/publicity stunt has already garnered international media attention, and Field expects many sports fans will buy the condom simply as a collectible or gag gift.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Olympics: Shaun White

NYTimes:
He arrived at the Olympics not only as an overwhelming favorite to win the gold medal, but as one of the most recognized athletes of them all. His famous smile and long red hair were plastered on magazines and television promotions for months in anticipation for this night.

He quickly proved the hype was deserved, charging into the finals with the top-scoring run of the afternoon's qualification round.

The winning run: a "good-sized" backside air, a front double cork 1080, a cab-double cork 1080, a frontside stalefish 540 and a backside 900 to finish.

The last trick was a hedge. White had watched the other 11 finalists go in front of him and figured he might just out-score them without his latest, greatest trick: the Double McTwist 1260, a two-flip, three-and-a-half spin gyroscopic marvel.

He was right. When no one could catch him with a better score on the second run, White knew he had won. He looked to Bud Keene, his coach and an assistant for the United States Olympic halfpipe team. If you’re going to do it, Keene said, you have to land it.
"I just felt like I didn’t come all the way to Vancouver not to pull out the big guns," White said after he won. "I put down the tricks I've worked so hard on."
White drifted down the hill and into the pipe again. The tricks were just as big and bold. The last one was the exclamation point. White has dubbed the Double McTwist 1260 "The Tomahawk," after a 30-ounce T-bone steak he devoured in an Aspen, Colorado restaurant during the Winter X Games.

Video of both runs on NBColympics.com

Finland’s Peetu Piiroinen took silver and Scotty Lago of the United States won bronze.

White won the gold medal in 2006 with a run featuring back-to-back 1080s, three spinning revolutions in the air that were considered the must-have trick of the era. That same run, essentially, won him gold at the 2009 Winter X Games. Trick progression, always the main topic in the halfpipe world, seemed stalled.

But it was part of a larger plan, Keene said.

"He knows he has the ability to push the sport forward in a fast amount of time, thereby kind of reducing the danger to himself," Keene said. "So it wasn’t necessary to hammer at it for three years. He waited, he stayed healthy, he worked on the things he already had, and when he saw it was time to really make the push, he did."

White is only 23, and he made it clear that he plans to defend his gold medal again in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Journey Through The Universe

From our Sun:

Earth = 93 million miles
Edge of solar system = 3.5 billion miles
Alpha Centauri (nearest star to our solar system) = 25 trillion miles

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

'Snowmageddon'

BBC:
The US National Weather Service has issued another winter storm warning for Washington DC as the capital remained largely paralysed after heavy snowfall.

A further 10 to 20 inches of snow were forecast to fall in Washington on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday.

Forecasters said that the combination of snow and strong winds would make travel very hazardous.

Government offices and most schools were shut on Monday and power had yet to be restored to thousands of homes. There was continued disruption to transport links in the Mid-Atlantic region after many airports had closed.

A record 32.4in snowfall was measured at Dulles International Airport over the weekend, breaking the previous two-day storm record by almost 10in. Neighboring Maryland recorded 3ft of snow. In Philadelphia, 28.5in of snow fell during the storm, just shy of the record 30.7in during the January 1996 blizzard.

The National Weather Service is predicting the city will be hit by another 12-18in from Tuesday, which could make this winter the snowiest since Philadelphia started keeping records in 1884.


Electricity was cut to at least 300,000 homes as snow felled trees, and cut power lines across the region. Another 250,000 customers were hit by blackouts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the New York Times reported.

Even President Barack Obama fell victim to "snowmageddon", as locals - including the president - have dubbed it.

The latest falls come less than two months after a storm dumped more than 16in of snow in Washington.

And for your viewing pleasure.... meteorologist Jim Kosek.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Banjo Tooie Commercial (Video)

What I once thought was the best commercial of all time...