Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Something's Wrong with the Ice in Torino

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 exceptions.

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.

The 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. Not bronze.

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 hometeam?

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 it.  

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?


bosoxblue6993w said...

i was never a big fan of Italian Ice ... the lemon is okay, but the other flavors blow

jevanslink said...

I wondered who would bite.  Mrs. L

artloner said...

 LOLL...I agree, the falls and thuds have had me wincing for days now...but my MAIN MALFUNCTION is Hedrick and Davis need to quit sniping at each other like little bitches...and in front of the WHOLE WORLD!  
I can't stand it when they are supposed to be representing the USA (and it ain't like we're feeling the global love anyway), and these ninnies get their tights into a bunch and forget that they are not there to promote their own careers.  grrrrrr  Don't get me started.

Oh, I already did, didn't I?  <sigh>

Love Ya, Dollface.


screaminremo303 said...

Maybe they need to shave it more often. I understand those Italians are a swarthy bunch. I'd opt for an early-morning skate.