Tuesday, February 14, 2006

OffTopic: When Olympic Silver Shines Brightest.

This is soooo off topic.

My kids called me over yesterday evening to watch with them on TV a quick roundup of the Winter Olympics Couples Figure skating.

To be honest, I didn't even know the Olympics were starting till I saw the modified Google logo the other day. It's not that I'm disconnected from the world, but I have so much going on in my own selfish little universe, that the Olympics could have been on another planet.

Growing up, I loved the winter Olympic games; skiing, bobsledding, and ice-hockey were great fun to watch. Those I could do; I'm a pretty decent skier, I could sled down a hill, helplessly bailing out at the end into a snow bank...but I was never much of an ice-skater.

Hockey for me is strictly a Saturday Night sneaker-only sport...and exclusively for the over 30 crowd so we don't kill ourselves.

I could roller-skate, but NEVER ice-skate.

Yet there was always something about the poetry-in-motion of couple's figure skating that had me captivated. I was surprised that my kids called me over to watch it, as they had never expressed any interests in it before...they had seen the promo for it, and said I had to watch it with them.

First the Russian couple; they were favorites to win the Gold. Impressive. Kids liked it, all the whirling and majesty on the ice.

Then came the Chinese couple...Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao. They were guaranteed the Silver Medal by their previous standings, yet to snatch the Gold from the Russians would require something spectacular. If they failed in their attempt, they would lose all hope for a medal.

So they start their skating routine, and my kids said - "keep watching, keep watching" and then it came...they attempt the spectacular -- an unprecedented throw quad salchow (whatever a salchow is). He threw her in the air as she attempted to turn 4 times and land gracefully.



We all cringed in pain as the graceful landing turned into a catastrophic wipe out, with legs splayed split on the ice and the obvious agony on the skater's face. My daughter the gymnast gasped, "Ow! That must have really hurt!" and we thought it was all over for the Chinese team.

Her partner quickly picked her up and tried to help her continue skating, but her pain was unbearable. Partly dragged, part limping, partly skating off to the side with the support of her partner, they took a quick breather and shockingly returned to the ice within minutes to continue.

From where do people get such physical strength, to exert themselves beyond the normal limits of human endurance?

Is this the same quality in a soldier running in a "masa kumta", the 70 kilometer run to obtain a coveted IDF infantry beret? Exhaustion overwhelms the body with every muscle straining and yet, there are those who grab the front handle of the stretcher (with a soldier on it) and urge everyone to keep running, keep going, keep going towards the finish, even though they have been running for hours and hours.

Or the marathon runner who has hit "the wall" yet keeps going to complete the race?

We watched in awe as the Chinese team continued their performance, including difficult twists and turns -- with the injured skater alternating between her good and hurt leg. Attempting to smile and ignore the previous fall, she graciously skated with a passion and flair of an Olympic skater.

It would be melodramatic to say we held our breath while waiting for the judges to announce the score...but we were honestly thrilled for them when the annoucement was made.

Their Silver Medal shone brightest for us.


Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

17 comments:

FrumGirl said...

I know! I couldn't believe it either! They deserved it. I guess when you do this over and over and are taught to work through the pain you gain endurance. Bravo to a job well done!

Tovya @ Zion Report said...

Well I hope her leg is okay, because knowing the Chinese government, if she doesn't recover, they'll probablly throw her in a gulag somewhere for the mistake.

MUST Gum Addict said...

It's sad, but many times, you watch sports for the catestrophic events that sometimes happen. Horrific crashes. Broken bones. As ABC had defined it many years ago -- the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.

I think it shows just how dangerous some of these things can really be. It also clearly demonstrates a different level that these athletes perform on.

Chana said...

I was planning on writing about this *smile* but you did it before I could. So I will just continue where you left off...later...

I was thrilled that she received the standing ovation from the crowd. Incredible. :) Amazing performance.

Ezzie said...

I didn't see it, so maybe I'm missing something... but how did they get the silver with a major fall? (and leaving the ice?) It sounds like a beautiful story, and I'm thrilled for the Standing O, but... a silver?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Ezzie: I guess you had to see it.

What's funny is that I was talking to a hitchhiker this evening about blogging, and said, "today I blogged about something cool I saw on TV last night" and she said, "You mean the amazing win of the silver medal for the chinese pair in figure skating? Cool!"

I was a bit flabbergasted.

Olah Chadasha said...

Ez, the way it works is that it doesn't matter how bad a mistake or fall, the skaters only get one point deducted from their over-all score. One point for every mistake. The rest of their program was excellent. That's why they won the silver, and had only one point deducted from their total score. It was awesome!!
-OC

MC Aryeh said...

Things like this are the best part of the Olympics - the triumphant spirit. I also did not get to see this, so thank you for recapturing it in your words.

To bring it back on topic, however, I would like to add that we should all make aliyah.

RR said...

Yeah, I saw that too- and as her partner was helping her up right after the fall, all concerned, you just know he had to be thinking, "I don't care if your thigh bone is poking clear through your skin, there's no WAY I'm going home without a medal! You will skate! You will skate!"

Seriously, it was amazing that they managed to pull it off. Didn't China take 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place in that event? Looks like they're the new Russia of pairs skating.

Olah Chadasha said...

Yeah, they did finish 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. It is looking very good for the future of China's winter sports.

mcaryeh, I've been saying what you're saying all along. I totally agree with you. I'm reading now that she actually strained a ligament in her knee. As some-one who has done that a few times, I can't describe the pain to you. It's absolutely excruciating. So, her getting back up, determined to complete the routine and go for a medal was simply awe inspiring. And, that is EXACTLY what the Olympics is all about: Percerverience against all odds. Absolutely amazing!!
-OC

Little Wolf said...

It has to be one of the most facinating performances I have seen in a while.

One of the US women's downhillers and I believe an Italian women's downhiller also had practice accidents (The woman from the US spent the night in the hospital I believe.) and both returned to compete last night. I didn't watch that unfortunately.

But on the Chinese skater, I was wondering if she was going to be able to continue. Yeay that she did.

Chana said...

For all the people who don't really understand what we are talking about-

Watch her performance.

And then you will know...

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Chana: Thanks for posting the video clip!

Shabbat shalom.

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