Sunday, February 28, 2010

Armchair Olympics final post

Kevin Martin's Canadian side were always looking like the team to win the Olympic final, and they did. Martin himself was impressive, his freeze in the seventh end, played and judged, was curling perfection. Canada was undefeated in eleven games at the Vancouver Olympic Centre. Congratulations to them, and well done too to Norway for putting up a great fight.

Happiness is winning Olympic bronze medals, to judge by the Swiss reaction yesterday! I hope their governing body is pleased - you will perhaps remember that the Eggler team's participation at Vancouver depended on them doing well at the Europeans at Aberdeen. There they lost in the final to the Swedes. Swiss revenge came in the form of winning yesterday's game in Vancouver.

I've never watched so much television before. I have thoroughly enjoyed BBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics - not only the curling - this past fortnight. Still, my main reason for being glued to the box at ridiculous times of the day and night was our sport. At times watching the GB teams was difficult, but the semifinals and medal matches were great. I just feel somewhat jetlagged today!

Anyway, what did I like, and what did I not? However much I would have wished to be in Vancouver, I cannot say I missed out on the Olympic experience. I had my own 'virtual Olympics'. I've mentioned the television. The official website was first class with all the linescores and standings. Mike Haggerty did a good job with his reports for the RCCC website, and the WCF updates were both timely and accurate.

I watched all the Daily Host Videos. And I enjoyed looking at the best of sports photography on the official website and elsewhere.

I cannot say that I saw every curling shot on the red button coverage by the BBC, but I gave it my best effort. I thought the beeb did a good job, although not everyone agrees that they should even have been there, see here! I warmed to the Steve Cram and Rhona Martin double act on the commentary. They commented through twenty-five games, something of a record I would think. I wonder if Rhona enjoyed the experience!

It would have been better to have some knowledgeable experts contributing at times and helping out - I hardly think that Carl Lewis and Paula Radcliffe added much. All credit to Eve Muirhead coming on during the women's final. I wish I had been able to tape all she said in answer to Steve's questioning. I certainly got the impression that if future GB teams are to be selected she would like to see players picked for their positions, and that in itself said volumes. She also said that she was looking forward to getting a new team together for another tilt at the Scottish Junior Championship. Altogether she sounded very positive looking ahead to next weekend's Columba Cream Scottish Championship, and that has to be a good thing.

I have to say something about the performance of the GB teams. I was disappointed in what I saw. The television was full on. Players were miked up. There was no hiding and we saw, and heard, everything that happened in excruciating detail! Prior to Vancouver, the word was that these two teams were the best prepared... ever. No expense had been spared. Strength and conditioning, diet, physiotherapy, video analysis, psychology, everything had been considered. For the past year, the teams have been accompanied to each event by a retinue of followers, in addition to the coaching staff. Was it all worthwhile?

We did NOT see the best prepared, best coached, best team efforts, on the ice in Vancouver.

Take the shotplay statistics (here) as an example. Over nine games these indicate just how well players have executed the shots they have been asked for. In the men's event, the average for Team GB was 81%, fifth in the ranking, and that was of course the position in which the team finished. Better was expected of the World Champions.

Individually David Murdoch's average was 80%, equal with Niklas Edin in third place of the skips' ranking. Ewan MacDonald was 80%, ranked in fourth place of all the thirds. Pete Smith finished with an average of 76%, bottom equal of all the second players. Euan Byers was on 86%, top equal of all the leads!

In the women's event, the stats show (here) that Team GB finished with an average over nine games of 75%, equal sixth in the rankings. Individually Eve can take much credit in that she was ranked fourth of the skips, on 76%. Jackie Lockhart was fifth equal of the thirds on 74%. Kelly Wood was ranked seventh of the second players on 74%. Lorna Vevers was sixth equal of the leads on 75%.

As we all know though, stats only tell part of the story. China's team average was 74%, equal eighth, yet the team are of course the Bronze Medallists!

Back to the television coverage, at times I was shouting at the screen to see such poor releases and sometimes poor deliveries, not to mention the fact that one of our sweepers was not even sweeping in front of the stone on occasion. Where was the great team chemistry that the Murdoch team had shown in the past? It was obviously missing in some games. And some of the tactical decisions at key points left me puzzled.

But, hey, what do I know.

The buzz in the media generally about the Olympic curling was great. Jennifer Jones, one of Canada's greatest players - she is that country's skip at the Worlds in Swift Current next month - was writing and video blogging for Yahoo! Sports. She definitely has a big future as the most knowledgeable hack on the media bench! And she was even answering questions in a Live Chat during both gold medal games.

I learned such a lot this past couple of weeks. How about this article about the passion that some Wall Street traders have for curling! Or this one from someone whose sport is skeleton. But the Americans have an uphill struggle to educate a largely ignorant percentage of their population about curling, but this Christian Science Monitor article makes a good attempt. Jay Leno trying to be funny is here, and this post with seven pieces of photographic evidence of why curling is not a sport made me smile.

There should really be a special medal for the Norwegian team uniform. A Facebook page in tribute (The Norwegian Olympic Curling Team's Pants) has more than half a million fans!

Executives of Loudmouth Golf head for the arena! The California sportswear company sells 'golf pants only for the bravest'. The Norwegians were certainly brave to sport their colourful trousers. Well done to them.

I would retire happy if I thought that colour would return to Scottish ice. I doubt it will happen, and for now I'd just like to see four curlers all dressed the same, preferably not in black or navy, in major championships such as the Scottish Championships.

Anyway, thanks to all who visited skipcottagecurling this past fortnight.

These pics are from the Pants Facebook albums. More here.