As far as I can remember, the Olympic Games occurring every four years always fascinated me, largely due to its quintessentially global nature. It was just magical to see the athletes from all around the world competing equally and fairly, completely free from any political, ethnic, and geographical differences. However, having little interests in sports, I was not that keen to watch over the races and matches myself, except for those of a few major athletes who have been popularized by media. (Yuna Kim for South Korea, for example) All I used to do to enjoy the Olympics was merely searching for the medal rankings on the Internet.
But my feelings for this Sochi Winter Olympic Games was different. I was more than eager to keep track of the daily broadcasting schedules and staying up all night to watch the games to cheer for the national team. Maybe it was because I got back in my native land in thirteen years,
or because I had the time and means to do so. No matter what, the global games in such scale can be a great diversion from routine.
The last thing I cared about was the political concerns surrounding the Olympics, about the western efforts to discredit the Russian host of this Olympics. No matter what they say, this will be the first Winter Olympics I thoroughly enjoyed.
Here are several best moments I don’t want to forget.
1. Best Player – Victor An
The personal history of the likely MVP of this Olympics is pretty well-known: born, raised and trained in South Korea, he represented his native country in 2006 Turin Olympics and won three gold medals but was later mysteriously excluded from the national team for 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The power struggles within the national sports associations are notorious in South Korea, so the short-track genius has chosen to go and settle another place for which he could compete freely. Angry over the corrupted officials who clearly mistreated an excellent athlete, the South Korean public compassionately supported An’s decision to be naturalized and represent Russia. With no ace to replace An, the South Korean male competitors flunked this Olympics, bringing no medal after a number of crashes and penalties. But the remarkable achievement of An (3 gold medals from 1,000 m, 500 m and 5,o00 m relay and one bronze from 1,500 m short track race) kept my eyes on the male short-track games. His emotional triumph after winning 1,000 m race brought tears to my eyes.
2. Most memorable race- Sven Kramer, Speed Skating 5,000 m
I first laid my eyes on the speed skating races for the depending champion, Lee Seung Hoon, who this time was surpassed by the Dutch who took 23 medals from this category. The media labelled the male 5,000 m speed skating race as Kramer vs. Lee from which I learned the name of this unrivaled Dutch hero. From his race, I learned the joy of watching long-distance speed skating. It was stunning to see his remarkable race in which he magically reduced his lap time (32 secs -> 29 secs) towards the end, shortening the record by eight seconds.
3. Most controversial medal – Gold for Sotnikova, Women’s Figure Skating
Yuna Kim’s successful defense of her championship was largely anticipated across the globe. I stayed up til four in the morning to watch her Free Program and hear her score of 144.19, five points short of the Russian Sotnikova’s 149.95 who snatched the gold. Well, the controversy around Russia’s home buff has been publicized from the beginning of the Games, so this result did not surprise me a lot. But it was clearly not okay with the rest of the world. There are evidence that Sotnikova’s skills do not surpass those of Yuna, and people are harshly criticizing the home advantage Sotnikova must have enjoyed. This case just proves how unpredictable the Olympics are compared to other international games. I know it is enraging sometimes, but this randomness is what makes the Olympics fun.
4. Most tearful moment – Asada Mao after Women’s Figure Skating, Free Program
Asada Mao has been a longtime rival to the former champion, Kim Yuna, since their junior years. After she settled for Silver after Yuna in 2010 Vancouver, the media seemed no longer interested in their rivalry. Even so, Asada remained as the beloved skater in her native country, Japan, who widely anticipated her victory this time. However, Asada disappointed her supporters by continually crashing while executing her triple axel jumps in early in the Games. As if trying to make up the disappeared hope of getting on the podium after being ranked in the shocking sixteenth place in the Short Program, she masterfully cleaned her Free Program and burst into tears. Right at that moment, she was nothing but a soft-minded girl who must have suffered a lot by her steady decline from the top of the world.
5. Glad to learn the fun of – Curling, Team Pursuit Speed Skating
I used to glimpse at the Curling games in Canadian TV but never cared to watch the full game until now, largely due to its complicated strategic gameplay. This year, the female South Korean team made their entry to the Olympics for the first time, but sadly missed the ticket semi-final by 3 wins and 6 losses in the Round Robin. But it was sufficient to drive the whole nation into the fun of Curling.
I discovered another joy in watching a formerly unfamiliar game called the Speed Skating Team Pursuits, a vigorous, thrilling race by two teams running their hearts out to take over the end of the other team from the other ends of the track. The fun of it is that you can never guess the winner until the end because they always reverse the leading team. In the third-place match, Poland surpassed Canada by two seconds in the end after racing behind the exact amount of time in the first six laps. A same thing also happened in the semi-final match between South Korea and Canada. It was another game that proved the Dutch supremacy in Speed Skating. I hope they would get pretty tired at Pyeongchang, so other nations may have some more chances. ;)