TOPIC: Are You Excited About The Winter Olympics?
With the Winter Olympics right around the corner, much excitement is being built. The Winter Olympics have been in existence since 1924 with Norway winning the most medals.
What is your favorite Winter Olympic sport? Why?
How would one prepare for this sport?
Which nation do you think will win the most medals? Why?
Do you know of any good prospects?
Bonus Question: Are you doing anything special for the Winter Olympics? If so, what?
Show off your knowledge to the world!
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The Best Of The Best: Turin 2006
From February 10-26 this year, the Winter Olympic Games will be held in Turin, Italy. Like their summer counterpart, the Winter Games is a chance for the very best of the best to compete in their chosen sport and to find out who really is the best in the world. Olympic gold medals are special. They are held in higher regard than other competition (world championships, world cups etc.).
Turin, or Torino as it is in Italian, beat several other host cities including Sion in Switzerland, Helsinki in Finland, Poprad-Tatry in Slovakia, Zakopane in Poland and Klagenfurt in Austria to be given the hosting rights for what will be the 20th Winter Olympics. In Turin, 85 countries will compete in 21 different sports with over 2500 athletes striving to be the best that they can be.
The Winter Olympics began in 1924 in France with approximately 200 athletes from 16 nations competing. Since then 19 Games have been held and grown dramatically to the level it is today.
|Winter Olympic History|
Like the Summer Games, the Winter Games are the pinnacle of their own sports. Although it cannot compare to many events such as the Summer Games and the FIFA World Cup, it is one of the truly great sporting events in the world.
What Is Your Favorite Winter Olympic Sport? Why?
I enjoy many of the events contested at the Winter Games. My favorites though are probably short track speed skating and bobsleigh. Both these sports are a superb combination of skill, power and immense technique.
You can be a strong, fast and powerful as you want, but one tiny mistake in technique, especially in bobsleigh, can mean the difference between a gold medal and no medal at all. I have always enjoyed speed skating but I became extra special to me after Steven Bradbury's "Last Man Standing" win in Salt Lake City.
How Would One Prepare For This Sport?
As I mentioned, both of these sports are a combination of sports specific skills, power and perfect technique. I cannot offer any information on the sport specific skills or technique side, other than to say it makes up probably the largest proportion of training time for these sports.
Learning the track by heart and how to steer it in a bobsled or learning how to make a sharp corner at top speed on a pair of stakes takes plenty of time and top level coaching to achieve. The power side of things however is more universal.
Apart from the drivers, many bobsleigh competitors are ex-track athletes, usually 100-meter sprinters. Why? Because that is how bobsleigh is basically done of the non-driving or braking members. Grab a bar on top of the sled, run like a bat out of hell, jump in and stay down.
The team, 2 or 4 people, have 65 meters of track to accelerate the sled to as high a speed as possible. This first 50m or so of track is vital to having any chance of winning. According to Bobsleigh Canada a 0.1s lead at the top equals a 0.3s lead at the bottom.
Teams have about 5 seconds to get the sled up to speeds of 40km/h with that sled weighing 390kg for the 2 man and 630kg for the 4 man.
Main Strength Qualities Required:
These are the areas of power training a bobsleigh competitor must focus on. However, that is not to say they should ignore other qualities such as maximal strength. Remember peak power or strength-speed occurs about 50-60% of your max. Maxing out at 200kg will result in a greater power output than 100kg.
A Full Training Program For Bobsleigh Could Include:
- Sprint training (with a heavy focus on acceleration).
- Strength training (as discussed above).
- Plyometrics (as part of above).
- Work with the sled on ice or in a specially built off-ice facility (such as on rails).
Speed skating is the winter games equivalent to sprinting. Distances include 500m, 1000m, 1500m and a 5000m relay. Obviously, the technique aspect is a lot different to sprinting, but the goal is the same, cover the distance as quickly as possible.
For men the 500m race takes about 40 seconds, the 1000m 90 seconds and the 1500m around 140 seconds. Therefore the events are more on par with the 400m and 800m on the track than the shorter sprints.
Main Strength Qualities Required:
Strength-Speed is required for the initial acceleration period for a dead stop to top speed, while the other qualities are required to go as fast as possible for the 40-140 seconds. On top of this technique and skill based learning needs to include learning to be as aero-dynamic as possible and to corner as efficiently as possible.
Ice based training usually will focus on speed, endurance, skills and techniques, while land base training will focus on strength and power.
The real X-factor of speed skating is that 5 competitors are in each race with no lanes to separate them. Anything can happen. Simply look at the final of the Men's 1000 meter in Salt Lake City when Steve Bradbury was a long distance 5th, when all those in front of him fell in the home straight. He simply skated past for the gold in one of the truly great Olympic moments.
Who Will Win?
Which Nation Do You Think Will Win The Most Medals? Why?
Olympic Games medal tallies tend to be consistent over time. That is it takes a long period for a new power to emerge. The top performers at the Olympics tend to be consistently at the top. As an example look at the following table comparing the performance of the top 5 nations in 2002 to their results at the previous 3 Olympics:
|Top 5 Nations In 2002|
As you can see there is a consistently strong performance by these top nations. Every Olympics a new one might make the top five but disappear by the next Games. This trend also occurs in the Summer Games, but is much more entrenched in the Winter Games due to the limited number of competing nations and athletes.
I predict the following for the top 5 performing nations at the 2006 Winter Olympics (In no particular order):
Ranking them 1-5 would be almost impossible with many questions needing to be answered. How much advantage will the host's Italy receive? How much advantage will the USA lose by not hosting this time? Which nations have invested money heavily? Who hasn't? etc.
I do have a tip for the number one position, but the more I think about it the more I'm not sure. I'm tipping Germany to finish number 1. Not only do they historically perform well at the games, but I predict a large number of Germans will make the short trip to Italy to support their team as winter sports are obviously popular there.
The one fly in the ointment might be the fact that Germany is hosting the World Cup this year and it may have limited government funding to its athletes and the opportunities for fans to do both, then opting for the football.
Norway will be the only challenge to Germany, with the other 3 extremely unlikely to grab top spot. Italy because they are typically placed much lower and hosting will deliver them a top-five spot, and the USA as they couldn't do it at home so it is doubtful they will here. Also USA funding would have been cut dramatically from Salt Lake and I expect that to impact on their performance.
Do You Know Of Any Good Prospects?
Due to the limited media coverage of winter sports here in Australia it really is hard to offer too many prospects. That is also coupled with the unpredictable nature of the Olympics in general which makes picking winners even harder. This being said I can offer a couple of, what I think are, good prospects whether you are just curious or wish to place a few bets (which is not necessarily encouraged).
Italy To Win More Than 4 Gold Medals And More Than 13 In Total.
Why? The answer is simple. Host countries traditionally do better than they did at the previous Olympics. During the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City Italy won 4 gold, 4 silver and 5 bronze medals for a total of 13 medals.
The combination of immense home support, which is particularly vital in individual sports, and the number of competitors gives the host nation that extra edge.
Host nations are able to have competitors in every event because they are the hosts and also the costs are minimal. You only need to look at the United States who in Nagano won 6-3-4-13 and came 5th, then in Salt lake won 10-13-11-34 to finish 3rd. Japan had similar results in 1998 when compared to 1994. Always beware to the host nation, in this case Italy.
Alisa Camplin (AUS) Freestyle Arials.
No, I haven't lost my mind. In 2002, Australia won its first ever winter gold. In fact it won two. Camplin was the winner of the second. Freestyle Arials is an event that Australia has had a long history of doing well in on the world stage with names like Marshall, Cooper and now Camplin.
Although Camplin has had injury problems (her current knee ligaments were taken from a corpse!!), she appears to be hitting form at the right time.
Just last week she qualified for the games at an event in Lake Placid by placing fourth in just her first competition back. With typical Australian guts and determination, Camplin may well find herself fighting for a podium finish in Turin.
Are You Doing Anything Special For The Winter Olympics? If So, What?
Personally I love the Olympics. The fact it only occurs every four years and only the best of the best compete makes it the world's greatest sporting event.
Coming from Australia, the Winter Games is a bit foreign. Having only seen snow while I was holidaying in Sweden and New York makes it even more so. But I will be getting 'into' the event wholeheartedly.
This is what the Olympics are about embracing sports you've never heard of or played and cheering on your country like crazy. Nation's have stood still to watch athletes perform at this highest of high levels as once again sport brings the world together.
Since I cannot be at the games, I'll be doing the next best thing. I'll be watching as much as I possibly can on television. I'm pretty sure the time difference will not be great down here, but I'm a night body anyways. And besides this only happens for 2 weeks every four years, so why not, I can always sleep tomorrow.
So there you have it. We are only a few weeks away from one of the world's truly great sporting events. The worst part is we only get 2 weeks of it. Then again, that is what makes it so special.
For further information about the 2006 Turin Olympics check out their official site.
2nd Place - Backa53
The Olympic Games
Am I excited about the upcoming Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy?
I am Canadian. Asking a Canadian if he is excited about the Winter Olympics is like asking Charlie Francis if he knows anything about how to run fast. In the realm of sports, Canada has always been second tier to the USA in everything.
| Charlie Francis:
Charlie Francis, a former sprinter and long-time sprint coach. He has been coach to a number of Canadian sprinters including Ben Johnson.
Francis was Canadian 100-meter sprint champion is 1970, 1971 and 1973. He reached the second round of the Munich Olympics in 1972 with times of 10.51 and 10.68. His personal best was a 10.39.
Francis was coach at the Scarborough Optimists track and field club when Johnson joined the club at age 15. Francis later admitted having Johnson use steroids to improve his performance in 1981. He coached Johnson until the latter's infamous 1988 Seoul Olympics's disqualification.
It has been over a decade since a team from the great white north has even hosted Lord Stanley. And even though it is a foregone conclusion that the USA's medal total will once again dwarf that of Canada's, there is always that one gleaming hope that our men and women with skates and sticks always have an overwhelming shot at taking home that gold.
While for the most part, Canada has a hard enough time finding a single athlete that will bring home any hardware in international sport (Exhibit A: 2001 World Track and Field championships, hosted in Edmonton, Alberta. Team Canada Medal total: A big goose egg), in a few winter sports, such as hockey and curling, Canada could send two teams and have a great shot at gold and silver.
Now, I am by no means a gigantic hockey fan, by any Canadian standards, but it is human nature, I believe, for a person to be much more interested in success.
The reasons stated above are really only one of many reasons the 2006 Turin winter games are of great interest to myself. The events you will only have a chance to see on television during the games are truly the special ones. Two of the fastest and most exciting sports you will have a chance to see this winter are short track speed skating and the Skeleton.
Speed skating is one of the fastest sports you will ever see. It truly is a one of a kind event. It is the raw talent and athleticism of a sprinter with sport specific skill and is topped off by the need of careful strategy that is rivaled by few sports on earth.
The Skeleton is less known than the similar Luge and Bobsled - mainly due to a 54 year hiatus from the games, only to make it's comeback in 2002. Skeleton, however, involves many more dynamics that make it one of the most exciting sports you'll ever feast your eyes upon.
| The Skeleton:
Skeleton is the oldest known sledding sport. It originates from St. Moritz, Switzerland, where in 1884 the Cresta run was built by Major Bulpetts. The following year, the first annual Grand National was organised, which continues as the premier race in the sport. For many years, Skeleton competitions were conducted only in St. Moritz. When the Winter Olympic Games were held there in 1928 and 1948, the event was included in the program. Skeleton returned a third time at the 2002 Games.
Unlike the luge event, where the competitor rides on his back, feet first and paddles a bit with his or her hands to gain some momentum, a skeleton rider takes off from full sprint, leaps into his position and streaks down the track at extreme speeds.
The skeleton is all about acceleration. The rider must attain full speed as quickly as possible. This means they would train the same way a short sprinter would train for starts. Olympic lifts and other explosive movements would be very beneficial to this start that is so crucial.
After the start, the sport becomes more about the sport-specific skills of shifting bodyweight to attain the best thrust and momentum coming in and out of the Winding turns. Good core strength is a must for this section of the run.
You could be the best athlete in the world and be a lousy Skeleton rider because of the main reason that sets these athletes apart: GUTS! Few humans have the audacity needed to subjugate themselves to the danger of the Skeleton. The sport most definitely separates the men from the boys.
If you ever have an opportunity to get into a sport as outstanding as the Skeleton, do not let it pass you by.
Who Will Win?
Predicting which country will come out with the most medals is like someone outside the city itself naming a single player who plays on the Kansas City Royals. Some hardcore prognosticators might pick one with confidence, but not many.
If I must choose one country, I think I will have to go with the States on this one. With a push from Germany. The USA will have medals popping out their ears by the time stars like speed skater Apollo Ohno and über-athlete Jeremy Bloom are done in Turin.
Bloom might just be the face of the American team. He is a multi-sport star who plans on attending the NFL combine shortly after competing in Moguls in Turin.
Plans For The Olympics
I am an avid follower of every sport that appears on the boob tube that involves the competitiveness that is anywhere close to Olympic spirit. It is safe to say that during the Olympics, if I'm not at the gym, I will be on my couch.
The Olympic constant coverage is unparalleled by any other sport and one can always be entertained by some sport they may have never seen before or one that they hardly have ever gotten to see for the last, oh three years and fifty weeks.
Bring on the torch!