Posts Tagged biathlon

Dummkopf of the Week…

Dummkopf of the Week...

When a German says something remotely controversial, all hell breaks loose. When somebody else does something so obviously bad that it demands a public horse-whipping, it’s somehow just a “gaffe” that elicits a litany of scarcely believeable excuses. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Winter Wonderland

A Winter Wonderland

Those of you that know me well will have some idea why the blog has been something of a tumbleweed zone for the past week or so – yes, the Winter Olympics.

There’s something I have always loved about winter sports; it has a certain something that the summer games doesn’t quite provide. Watching sprinters and swimmers break world records is of course enjoyable, but the tension experienced when watching either a number of competitors on the biathlon rifle range or a bobsled rocketing down a treacherous track just cannot be matched.

Thank God though for satellite television, as terrrestrial coverage of what some would describe as the “unpopular” sports has been its usual dire self. This is in comparison to the lavish coverage of the “fashionable” sports and something of an overkill in some departments. While the snowboard halfpipe is great to watch, those of us without satellite or cable would be none the wiser about the the biathlon or Nordic skiing events – which are just as if not even more exciting. Hell, to most people the Nordic Combined could be a Saturday-evening game show hosted by Ulrika Jonsson and Mariella Frostrup.

Magdalena Neuner

Now there's a sport worth watching: Lena Neuner on target in the biathlon

Meanwhile, freeview even chopped the Olympics feed for a short while to bring us – wait for it – the EastEnders quiz. The less said about televisual virus, that the better.

The build-up to the women’s downhill was one such example of media overkill – it didn’t take too long until I was tired of Lindsey Vonn, and as pretty as she is I was ready to throw the nearest solid object at the television when I was confronted with the BBC’s “The Vonn Show” skit. I wonder how much this cost them to produce – oh how I laughed when she straddled a gate in the combined slalom and handed the gold to Maria Riesch. Bonus.

Worse still was “Miller Time” – pitter-pattered ad nauseum whenever American bad boy Bode Miller took to the slopes. I know some people like to think we have some sort of special relationship with our transatlantic Amis, but to try and adopt them as our own – as the BBC so often does – is lame in the extreme.

I’d say that the Beeb’s obsession with the fashionable and glamourous – and this does not include their designer jackets paid for by the taxpayer – even served to flatten the rightly-deserved euphoria of Amy Williams’ magnificent gold medal winning performance in the bob skeleton. Yes, there was the usual media flim-flam and interviews with the parents, siblings and family dog, but after that it just frittered away.

The truth is that unlike the party-loving alpine ski set, Williams is a hard working athlete in what is essentially a sport nobody would want to do even if a gun was put to their head. Sliding down an icy tunnel on a tin tray? You have to be a nutter to do that, donchaknow. Yes, you have to be slightly crazy, but then millions of us have to endure using public transport every morning – something that is infinitely worse. Better hurtling down a freezing Eisbahn at 60mph as opposed to being crammed like sardines in what is little more than a slow-moving petri dish.

While success in the skeleton is never going to provide a long-term story, one can only wonder what would have happened if glamourpuss Chemmy Alcott had won a gold – all hell would have broken loose and the fashionistas would have come a running. There would have been endorsements, book deals, a slot on some high-profile reality show and a front-page shot of her groping Julia Mancuso’s tits. Meanwhile, Amy Williams and the other members of the skeleton crew would be spending the next four years begging for scraps from the lottery fund.

Amy Williams

Amy Williams in the skeleton: more sliding sports on TV, please!

One thing that really put a bad taste in the mouth were the protests by the Canadians about Williams’ allegedly “illegal” helmet – and this after their own competitor had trashed her final run to finish out of the medals. It appears that Canada has shed its previous humble mantle and become more like its neighbour America: brash and loud when they win – witness men’s skeleton winner Jon Montgomery’s embarrassing fist pumping and screaming when his Latvian opponent ran in outside the clock – and sorry and sore losers when things don’t go their way. It’s telling that the Germans who finished second and third behind Williams took their defeat in good grace, offering genuinely warm congratulations instead of making groundless complaints.

Canada’s almost maniacal desire to succeed (again, echoing the behaviour of their southern neighbours) was epitomised by its “Own The Podium” scheme, which among other things conspired to prevent its opponents from getting a good sight of the facilities prior to the games – so I actually found it hilarious when Williams and the two Germans trumped home hope Mellisa Hollingsworth (yes, it’s Mellisa, not a typo) who probably had ten times as many practice runs down that hazardous Whistler track. Even funnier was the tight-turn topple of the Canadian bobsled driven by Lyndon Rush, who in spite (or perhaps because of) his familiarity with the nasty capsized on the unlucky thirteenth. Meanwhile, the magnificent André Lange breezed through all four runs as if it was like a day out on his home track at Oberhof. Now there’s a man who is both a winner and a sportsman. As a long-time bobsled fan, I will miss big André and the even bigger Kevin Küske when they both retire after the games.

Of course, the alternative to playing a balancing game between the fashionable items and the unfashionable ones is to rebrand the otherwise unfashionable ones. Yes, I am talking about curling.

When Britain (or should I say Scotland – let’s be blunt here) won the gold in Salt Lake in 2002 the game was unknown outside of the Highlands – it was also seen as a sport for the middle aged, with participants being a far cry from the fit and toned alpine skiers or the crazy bobsledders. Indeed, we just needed to look no further than the two British skips, the matronly Rhona Martin and the schoolmasterly Hammy McMillan. Fast-forward to 2010, and how things have changed. Curling is now being billed as a sport for sexy chicks – we have a Swiss player with a tongue piercing, a willowy Russian blonde, and a rather fetching teenage German redhead. The blokes are still for the most part middle aged and balding, however. Funny that.

In most of the teams the youngsters have been shielded by more experienced players, but this is not the case with the British team, which is perhaps gone overboard in its attempt to “sex up” the sport by appointing a rather attractive nineteen year old skip, Eve Muirhead.

OK, I am not a curling expert but to see a pretty young thing like Eve Muirhead boss about a trio of of her elders – one of whom is probably old enough to be her mother – was a little bit disconcerting. I suppose it was all fine and dandy when the team were winning, but when the wheels started to fall off in rather spectacular fashion you could sense the lack of collective spirit – especially when poor Eve herself has been largely responsible for some absolute howlers that have been instrumental in Team GB losing four matches on the bounce.

Eve Muirhead

Eve Muirhead: Too much too soon

Worse still was yesterday’s display against Denmark which saw Muirhead carry out the sort of demolition job on her broom that John McEnroe would have done with many a tennis racket. You could sense the commentators itching to say something – it was at times pretty painful to watch.

This folly was best illustrated when Steve Cram (yes, Steve Cram – the great middle distance runner) interviewed the team after their catastrophic loss to Switzerland and directed all of the questions towards a more senior member, while the sad-faced young skip was left standing there like a lemon. It was as if they didn’t want to interview her lest she burst into tears there and then. I really felt sorry for her – and while she may be a good player the truth is that she is not that good. Yet.

Ultimately, the blame rests with the team selectors, whose decision to appoint Muirhead as skip has spectacularly backfired. OK, they have achieved their aim and guaranteed the additional television coverage and media exposure – but in hindsight it would have been far better if the team had reached the final stages with a skip that looked like a bag of spanners.

Still, we all know who Eve Muirhead is now – if her curling career falls flat and she gets rid of the silly chavvy two-tone hairdo she can easily make it as a TV presenter. Well, if Steve Cram can…

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