Unforgettable Moments of The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics
The 2010 Vancouver Olympics came to an end with resounding success as well as tragedy. Here are some of the unforgettable moments that have come to pass during the Games:
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Luger’s Death Mars Opening of Olympics
The 2010 Vancouver Games could not have had a more unfortunate start. Just a few hours before the opening ceremony, Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed in a tragedy with which these Games might forever be associated. The 21-year-old Georgian luger died in a horrific training crash at the Whistler Sliding Center when his sled went off the track and struck a steel pole.
Although investigations concluded that it was the driver’s error that caused the death and not due to any track deficiencies, international luge officials decided to move the starting point of all luge events farther down the track, thereby, resulting in a 10 percent reduction in the maximum speed. In addition, the walls were raised at the exit of Curve 16, the last on the course, where Kumaritashvili lost control.
Canada Strikes First Olympic Gold At Home
Canada has never won an Olympic gold medal on home soil, having been shut out of golds in two previous Olympics—the 1976 Montreal Summer Games and the 1988 Calgary Winter Games. The country is desperately waiting for someone to break the Olympic curse, to see who will finally climb to the top of the podium and to hear “O Canada” as the Maple Leaf flag rise during the medal ceremony. And they were not disappointed.
On Sunday night of Valentine’s Day, Alexandre Bilodeau, became the first ever Canadian to win an Olympic gold medal for the host nation in the men’s mogul competition. The 22-year-old from Quebec was instantly a household name across the nation and was hailed as “Alexandre the Great” in the headline of one of Vancouver’s daily newspaper. Canada Post and the Royal Canadian Mint promptly publicized plans to issue commemorative stamps and coins in his honor.
Canada ultimately landed on top of the medal standing with 14 golds, 7 silvers and 5 bronzes including the final gold in the men’s ice hockey competition where the Canadian team dealt a crushing blow to medal favorites Russia in the quarterfinals and the United States in the finals.
Chinese Pair Seals Golden Comeback
Shen Xue, 31, and Zhao Hongbo, 36, proved that the third time’s truly a charm. The married couple came out of two-year retirement to claim gold after winning bronzes at two previous Olympics. Despite being disadvantageously drawn first to skate in the pairs short program, the Chinese pair was able to set a world record score of 76.66 points, a 0.70 lead over of two-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany.
Shen and Zhao went on to earn the second highest score in the long program after committing a few minor errors in their Adagio in G minor routine—she tumbled onto his back during a lift—but it was sufficient to secure the gold. Their score of 216.57 points was more than 3 points ahead of fellow teammates Pang Qing and Tong Jian with Germany’s Savchenko and Szolkowy dropping to bronze position due to flawed free skate. The victory of Chinese pair effectively ended Russian or Soviet dominance in the sport that began in 1964. Unexpectedly, the Russians are leaving without any medals in the event.
Ammann Creates Olympic History
Simon Ammann earned his place in Olympic record books by winning the large hill competition to claim his fourth individual gold medal. The 28-year-old Swiss ski jumper shrugged off complaints by an Austrian coach against his ski bindings to sweep golds in both the normal and large hill competition for the second time, eight years after double victories at 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
Ammann garnered the top score after soaring 144 meters on his first jump and nailing the landing on his second at 138 meters for a total of 283.6 points. With the triumph, Ammann became only the second ski jumper to win the normal and large hill events since Matti Ensio Nykänen of Finland did it at the 1988 Calgary Games. The international ski federation eventually rejected the protest over Ammann’s equipment bindings, which supposedly gave him an unfair aerodynamic advantage.
Ohno, the Most Decorated US Winter Olympian
At the tender age of 19, short track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno made his Olympic debut at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, winning a gold and a silver in the 1,500 and 1,000 meters respectively. He won three more medals at the Torino Olympics four years later—a gold in the 500 meter, and bronzes in the 1,000 meters and 5,000 meter relay. In Vancouver, he clinched a silver in the 1,500 meters and a bronze in the 1,000 meter, first tying and then surpassing long track speed skater Bonnie Blair for the most Winter Olympic medals ever won by an American. Blair attained her six including five golds in three successive Olympics (1988, 1992 and 1994). Ohno would subsequently add medal number eight, a bronze in the 5,000-meter relay. It could have been a record ninth medal in the 500 meter final, where he finished second but was disqualified after impeding Francois-Louis Tremblay of Canada around the final turn.
Kim Wins Gold; Rochette Wins Hearts and Bronze
During the ladies singles figure skating short program, 19-year old reigning World champion Kim Yuna (South Korea) rose to the occasion in her Olympic debut by setting a world record score of 78.5 points, which is almost five points ahead of her perennial rival, Mao Asada (Japan). Though Joannie Rochette (Canada) could not match the brilliant leaps and spins of Kim and Asada, she embodied the true Olympic spirit, displaying true courage as she fought back tears—her mother died of heart attack two days earlier–to place third with a personal best score of 71.36 points.
Already one of the top earning Olympians, failure was not an option for the popular Korean sports superstar. Her endorsements, most of which expire this year, may not be renewed if she fails to live up to expectations. Known as “Queen Yuna” in her homeland, she reigned supreme with one of the greatest performances in figure skating history. Kim dazzled on ice without the slightest miscue, stumble or wobble, shattering her personal record for the long program with a score of 150.06 points and giving Asada a devastating loss by more than 23 points. And if it was any consolation, Asada did make history as the first woman to land two triple axels at the Olympics. Asada could have challenged Kim on those axels alone, but made a series of mistakes including singling a planned triple toe.
However, the true inspiration of the competition was Joannie Rochette, who won hearts as she fulfilled her mother’s dream of her making the Olympic podium. Everyone had initially wondered whether she would even skate following her mother’s sudden death. But she triumphantly battled through emotional pain, pulling herself together to skate a near-flawless program to earn the bronze, which was worth pure gold to all who watched on that memorable Thursday night.
More articles on Greatest Athletes series:
- (Almost) Greatest Female Gymnasts in History
- 10 Greatest Male Gymnasts in History
- 10 Greatest Female Gymnasts in History
- Greatest American Female Gymnasts
- Greatest American Male Gymnasts
- 10 Greatest Female Figure Skaters of All Time
- 10 Greatest Male Figure Skaters of All Time
Articles on the Olympics:
- Unforgettable Summer Olympic Stories
- More Unforgettable Summer Olympic Stories
- Unforgettable Winter Olympic Stories
- More Unforgettable Winter Olympic Stories
- Unforgettable Moments of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
- Unforgettable Moments of The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics
- Michael Phelps: The Greatest Olympian of All Time
Golden Olympic Performances:
- Men Singles Figure Skating
- Ladies Singles Figure Skating
- Men’s Gymnastics – Floor Exercise
- Men’s Gymnastics – Pommel Horse
- Men’s Gymnastics – Still Rings
- Men’s Gymnastics – Horizontal Bar
- Men’s Gymnastics – Parallel Bars
- Women’s Gymnastics – Uneven Bars
- Women’s Gymnastics – Balance Beam
- Women’s Gymnastics – Floor Exercise