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Published:February 22nd, 2006 15:07 EST
Winter Olympic Profile 2006

Winter Olympic Profile 2006

By Gretchen Ross

The 2006 Olympics started off with a bang on Feb. 10 featuring eye-popping spectacles and performances from none other than Italian opera super star Luciano Pavarotti during the opening ceremonies in Torino, Italy.

After a night of celebration, a schedule of grueling competition lay ahead for the athletes.  Mogul skiing was one of the first events that took place for the women.
           
Hannah Kearney the 19-year-old world champion was looking to clinch gold for the United States. However, a minor error cost her the gold and kept her from moving on to the final round. Kearney’s next chance for first place will come in four years at the next winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

Impressive runs by Jennifer Heil from Canada and Kari Traa from Norway bumped Kearney from the leader board and earned them first and second place respectively. Although the women came up short in the moguls, Toby Dawson did take home a bronze medal in the men’s event for the United States.

The first gold medal awarded to America went to Chad Hedrick on day one of the competition. He won the 5,000 meters speed skating. First Lady Laura Bush attended the event to watch the native Texan. However, not all was golden for the US on the first day. Skelton rider Zach Lund was banned from competition due to a product he had been taking for premature balding.

History was made that day as American pairs skaters Rena Inoue and John Baldwin became the first in figure skating history to land a triple axle throw in their short competition. Inoue and Baldwin could not land the jump during their long program thus handing the gold over to the Russians.

Over the years, figure skating has proven to be a sport full of controversy and drama; examples of this being the Nancy Kerrigan accident involving Tonya Harding and the scandal concerning the French and Russian judges in the 2002 Olympics.

Day two of the Olympics proved no different. Michelle Kwan announced, with tears streaking her face that she would no longer be competing due to a strained groin muscle. After becoming one of the figure skating icons, Kwan gave her spot on the team to Emily Hughes, younger sister of Sarah Hughes who beat Kwan for the gold in Salt Lake City.
 
Although snowboarding is still considered one of the newer sports in the winter Olympics, the Unites States proved that they would dominate. Hannah Teter and Gretchen Bleiler picked up both the gold and silver medals while the men matched the women with Shaun White and Danny Kass placing first and second in the half-pipe.

On Valentine’s Day, Ted Ligety captured the gold medal for Team USA in combined alpine skiing with a time of 3:09:35.  At age 21, the native of Park City, Utah broke the bad luck that the Americans have run into in alpine skiing.

But, in every Olympic competition there is an underdog story. Alpine skier Lindsey Kildow is this Olympics’ underdog.  A terrifying accident during a training session sent Kildow to the hospital, yet she was still able to compete in the event 48 hours later. Although she only came in eighth place, tying with Austrian Alexandra Meissnitzer, her story has had an affect on Team USA and television viewers.

Seth Wescott took home the gold for the United States and set the precedent as the first Olympic victor in the crazy sport of snowboard cross. Similar to NASCAR on ice, the sport includes four athletes competing at the same time for 90 minutes on a 3,100 foot-long course.

Lindsey Jacobellis should have sailed into victory in snowboard cross for the US women but instead only landed second place after grabbing her board on the second-to-last jump, causing her to fall.

Day seven in Torino marked the end of the American women’s hockey team. After getting beat out by Sweden, the men are left with a chance at a medal. The men’s team has lost two games in a row to Slovakia and Sweden. The Americans can now be considered for fourth place and awarded a berth in the quarterfinals.

Last Saturday, the United States made Olympic history once again when Shani Davis became the first African-American to win an individual gold medal in winter Olympic history for the 1,000-meter speed skating event. Teammate Joey Cheek joined him on the winners’ podium with the silver medal in the 500 meter. Olympic superstar Apolo Anton Ohno only seized the bronze medal in 1,000-meter short track speed skating after the Koreans beat him out for gold.

Sunday’s ice dancing competition contained many spills for competitors. But Americans Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto managed to not fall on the ice while completing their Latin routine bumping them up from sixth place to second behind Russia. They took home the silver medal for the US.

The sport of curling has been overlooked by most viewers and often laughed at by other athletes. Now skeptics of the event are silenced as America (6-2) secured their semifinal spot after beating Britain Sunday morning.

The winter Olympics continue thru Sunday and can be seen on your local NBC station.

 

Editoral Note-

 

Related Interview with Jon Jackson, Olympic Skating whistle blowerhttp://www.thesop.org/article.php?id=519

 

When Tomato's Fly - Snowboarder Shaun White http://www.thesop.org/article.php?id=539