Sunday, 28 February 2010

On one hell of an Olympic moment

I know certain of my readers are rather against the Olympics, but I have to write about one of the few events I saw. It was one of the semi-final heats of the women's team pursuit speed skating, between the United States and Germany. For those of you who are in ignorance of the sport, (such as myself until this morning) it consists of racing as a group of three skaters rather than as an individual. Likely adapted from cycling, the team pursuit speed skating has the opposing teams starting at opposite sides of the track, likely to avoid congestion. There seems to be little chance of one team catching the other, so truly it is against the clock that they are truly going against.

In the heat I saw at my gym, the Germans were leading against the Americans by about half a second. As they were leaving the final turn, the last of the German skaters seemed to falter, almost tripping before recovering for a few seconds then falling forwards as her legs failed her. She slid along the ice trying to push up with her hands before crossing the finish line where upon she starting pounding the ice with her fists in despair, frustration and anguish at having failed so close to success. The shots of her face were heart-breaking. Then the results sunk in: they had won by .23 seconds! There was a few seconds of elation followed by what I saw as emotional and physical exhaustion at having been jerked from intense exertion, shock of falling, shock of losing followed by the joy of winning. At about that point, she more or less curled up into fetal ball on the ice. I was disappointed by the German coach, and indeed, pretty every one around that no one was seen to go give her a hug (at least on TSN's coverage) as to my mind that was what she needed. Doubtless she has been given one since, but in case she hasn't, Anna Friesinger-Postma (or possibly Anni Friesinger) I send you a hug.

I was wondering if part of her breakdown was the fear that she would have to pick herself up to compete in the final race. However, I see from the BBC's result table that the Germans spared her that trial. I gather that in pursuit, the team consists of four people allowing for a substitution to take place in such a case.

The raw and widely fluctuating emotions I saw on Ms. Friesinger's face will stay with me for quite some time. It was one hell of an Olympic moment and one which blows away all the bluster that has been running wild.

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