First, no one is setting ANY speed skating records. There have been no new Olympic records or world records. None. Zero.
By contrast, at the 2002 winter Olympics in Park City Utah, every single
men's speed skating race set a record -- four worlds and one Olympic.
From the beginning of the speed skating in Italy there has been talk
about how slow
the ice is. Commentators discussed it often at first, to the point of
complaint. Skaters have been way off their personal bests, with few
Second, Enrico Fabris, the Italian
who recently won
the 1500 meters, beating American rivals and archenemies Shani Davis
and Chad Hedrick, is setting records for his country: He has three medals so far -- two golds and a bronze, all at these games.
Italian team has never been as good
as the rest of the world at the Olympics. A perusal of past Olympic speed
skating records -- back to 1924 -- reveals that there has NEVER been a single medal
awarded to Italy in speed skating at the Olympics. Not gold. Not silver.
Is it possible that the Italian
success on this slower ice was calculated? The same way that
baseball greenskeepers cut the grass longer or shorter. Or make the infield dirt
loose and dry or wet and hardpacked depending on the strengths of the
Maybe this slower -- softer -- ice
is more to their advantage in speed skating. They're used to it for one thing.
They've practiced on it. They know how to pace themselves on
In Utah a few months ago there were
world records set by the Americans in speedskating. Chad Hedrick holds
two of them. Shani Davis has one that I know of. Clearly the ice in Utah was more conducive to
faster times. And yes, the Americans were on home turf as it
were, which is always an advantage in any sport.
Bottomline, the ice in the US was harder, faster, and better than the ice has been in Torino.
Which raises is a second question
about why the Italian ice sucks: Is it melting?
And it's not just speed skating. Five different ice dance teams have suffered ignoble
falls. Not little slips, but horrendous catastophes. Commentators were calling it NASCAR on ice. I don't think there
have ever been so many terrible drops, slips, and partner tossing
moments in the history of the competition.
The ice drags. It's like pulling
extra weight. The skates
are struggling against it. They aren't gliding on top of
it, but sinking into it. In speed skating, Chad Hedrick was ahead
of the Italian for the gold medal
in the 1500, but he ran out of gas in the last 100 yards, as did Shani
Davis -- because, in my opinion, the ice was fighting them. One could
argue that the additional effort threw
them off, physically and mentally.
Or, in Hedrick's case, his reputation as the Paris Hilton of skating
for his partying, just caught up with him. Bode Miller isn't the only
miscreant on the American Olympic team.
The Italian ice dancing pair finished in sixth place
last I heard. I also don't
recall any Italian team ever doing as well in Olympic
competition. Coincidence? I think not.
As someone who has competed in
several sports, I know how the surface you play on can affect your
game, throwing off your timing, changing your footwork, slowing your
speed and reducing your quickness. Especially if you're used to one surface and you suddently have to compete on another.
Maybe the ice is bad because it's been warmer in Torino, as opposed to up in the
mountains where the ice for the luge events is very hard. But the
lower altitude venues are indoors, in a controlled environment. And a good Zamboni driver should be able to
make any ice skate like glass.
What if that's the problem? A bad Zamboni driver?