Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hottest Olympians; hottest hockey tournament

In my first two Olympic Games, 1980 and 1984, I covered hockey and, to a lesser extent, speedskating.
Then I switched to figure skating, and I've never looked back.  People ask me all the time if I miss covering hockey.  I really don't.  That may have something to do with the fact that two of the gold medalists from the Calgary figure skating competition, Katarina Witt and Ekaterina Gordeeva, were among the most beautiful women in Winter Olympic history.  That took some of the edge off having to deal with the weird politics of the sport.
     Consensus is that here in Vancouver, there's an unusually large contingent of beautiful Olympians, many of them medalists.  Lindsay Vonn (right), who has a gold and a bronze, is in many ways the face of these Vancouver Games for America.  But she has company when it comes to hotties on the podium.  I'm guessing, because few of them are American, NBC has ignored these ladies.  More's the pity.  One more reason to follow this blog.

Meet Torah Bright, gold medal, halfpipe.  Australia


 Say hello to Tina Maze, Slovenian silver medalist, Super G:

 Ashleigh McIvor, Canadian Gold Medalist, Skicross

Curling created a bit of a stir in these games when a topless photo of the Danish skip, Madeleine Dupont, started circulating on the internet, courtesy of the website Deadspin.  The offending photo was soon taken down, but not before Dupont had been heckled to tears during her match against the Canadians.  


But the most beautiful curler is 43-year-old Cheryl Bernard, the skip from Canada, who will win either the gold or silver medal.  Her eyes could burn a hole into the granite rock she slides.

As usual, figure skating has more than its share of lovely athletes.  Tanith Belbin, who finished fourth in ice dancing after winning silver four years ago in Torino, makes anyone's list of beautiful Olympians.   
But the loveliest lady on the ice?  She skates tonight: Kiira Korpi of Finland.  Who needs a triple axel when you look like this? 
Okay, enough eye candy.  They're athletes, too, right?  Remember that.  An extraordinary group.  
      Briefly, then, a word about the hockey tournament, which, however it turns out, will go down as one of the most interesting, most competitive in Olympic history.  Among the upsets and near upsets?  Switzerland, the surprise team of the tournament, lost in a shootout to Canada, won its first playoff game over Belarus, then gave the U.S. all it could handle in a 2-0 loss, the second tally into an open net.  Second biggest surprise?  Probably Slovakia, which beat Russia in the preliminary round, 2-1, then knocked off defending champion Sweden, 4-3, to get the semifinals.  Near upsets?  Little Latvia only lost to the Czech Republic in the playoffs, 3-2.  And Norway gave Slovakia a scare in the first round, falling 4-3.  Every team but Germany was competitive in every game in the men's draw.  Parity has arrived in the men's game.
Not true, of course, in the women's game, where the U.S. and Canada, driven by their own fierce rivalry, have further separated themselves from the rest of the world, leading some to speculate that women's hockey might be tossed from the Olympics until the rest of the world catches up.  Well, you can relax on that score.  Women's hockey is secure.  The rest of the world will, eventually, close the gap, as more and more Swedes, Finns, etc. come to North America to play college hockey.  In the short term, we should just marvel at the skills being exhibited by the women players in North America.  I'm looking forward to today's women's final between the US and Canada as much as I am to the gold medal game for the men.  
My predictions for the women:
U.S.: Gold
Canada: Silver
Finland: Bronze
Canada: Gold
US: Silver
Slovakia: Bronze

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