Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Olympic thoughts on a Wednesday

Like most curling enthusiasts, I am looking forward to the Olympics. There are just a hundred days to go! Although I won't be in Vancouver, February 16-27, I shall no doubt be watching the BBC television coverage which I understand will be extensive - the Red Button is a fantastic innovation.

The photo above shows the medals which will be awarded. They are circular in shape and based on a large master artwork of an orca whale by Corrine Hunt, a Canadian designer/artist of Komoyue and Tlingit heritage. Each of the medals has a unique hand-cropped section of the abstract art, making every medal one-of-a-kind. The medals were revealed for the first time last month. There are more photos of the medals, and those which will be awarded at the Paralympic Games, on the VANOC website here. Indeed, one can happily while away the hours with the content that's now on that site!

As the games get closer, there will be increasing media coverage, to generate interest in the Team GB curlers. Here's one of the better examples, in sportscotland's online magazine Sport First, the Autumn 2009 issue. Lots of interesting information in this, not least that all ten of the Olympic curlers are now full time athletes, the women from the end of August and the men from the end of October.

What I find difficult to stomach is some media coverage which implies that all Team GB needs to do is turn up, in order to be guaranteed a medal. Ignorant, really. And what short memories people have. It's not yet four years since Team Murdoch was sitting top of the standings in the Pinerolo Olympics with a record of six wins and one loss, and to my eyes playing some of the best curling I've ever seen them play. They lost their last two games in the round robin, then that fateful semifinal, then the bronze medal playoff. Unlike many other sports, particularly individual ones, success in curling does not entirely depend on previous training and preparation. And there is such a small margin between winning and losing - just replay that semifinal against Finland. What a great game. It is hard to fault Team Murdoch at any level. And it came down to Markku Uusipaavalniemi's ability to play a huge shot, just at the right time.

Yes, Team Murdoch are currently the World and European Champions. But past success is no guarantee of future medals. It shows only that they have the potential to win. And I'm certainly 100% behind their efforts.

But the squad's recent competitions in Canada show that nothing can ever be taken for granted. They played nine games, winning just two. They were without Pete Smith, the second player, and Graeme Connal took his place.

There have been lots of rumours about Pete's absence. He apparently suffered an injury when the team were competing in the Bern Open last month, and coach David Hay was drafted into the side.

David (Hay) explains, "Pete was having some discomfort in his lower back due to a trapped nerve. This was being irritated when he curled. Following medical advice we decided that it would be best for him to take some rest and be given the chance to get some treatment at home rather than travel with us to Canada for two and a half weeks in Toronto, Calgary and Brooks.

I am delighted to report that this decision has worked well and we hope that Pete will be on ice with us again when we return from Canada."

Pete is scheduled to play in the next Curling Champions Tour event in Lucerne on November 12. Get well soon, big man!

One final piece of Olympic trivia is that the venue for the 2018 Winter Games will be either Annecy (France), Munich (Germany) or PyeongChang (Republic of Korea). They were the only cities to submit their applications to the International Olympic Committee before the closing date (October 15). It is the first bid for Annecy. Munich hosted the Olympic Summer Games in 1972. Pyeongchang was unsuccessful with two previous bids for the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games. The host city will be elected by the 123rd IOC Session in Durban, South Africa, on July 6, 2011. The 2014 Games will be in Sochi, Russia.

Photo of Pete is from the Bruadar Scottish Championship last season © Skip Cottage