Saturday, February 25, 2006

Hail to the queen of giant slalom..... 

She likes to wear a toy tiara, a good luck charm she got from a coach. Now American Julia Mancuso can actually claim to be skiing royalty. She won the gold, a pleasant surprise.

The course was hazardous, thick with fog in places and uneven with freshly fallen snow in others. Homestate fave Lindsey Kildow bowed out as she was still hampered by back spasms caused by a crash at the beginning of the games. Another local athlete crashed on her second run but amazingly escaped injury. And the defending Olympic champion, Janica Kostelic of Croatia, did not ski due to illness that has been bothering her throughout the games.

With Kostelic out of the race, Anja Paerson was expected to win. But she had an inexplicably poor second run, which left the door wide open for Mancuso, who had the fastest time in the first run. Mancuso managed to get down the course in one piece without sacrificing too much speed. And she wore her tiara on the podium.

Holy cow. Just thinking about the 10,000m speed skating exhausts me. That's six MILES of skating in one race. But Bob de Jong from the Netherlands made it look easy, or at least as easy as 25 laps can look. He was consistent throughout, which is a monumental challenge in a race this long. His biggest competition, American Chad Hedrick and Dutch skater Carl Verheijen, skated against each other in the final pairing. Hedrick started strong, but the fatigue of competing in four other events caught up to him, and he dragged terribly toward the middle of the race. That is, until Verheijen caught up to him with three and a half laps to go. Then as if on cue, Hedrick put on a burst of speed and fought with every ounce of strength to stay ahead. He finished ahead of Verheijen but nearly four seconds behind de Jong. So now Hedrick has a medal in each color. Interesting note: rival Shani Davis was in the stands, cheering Hedrick all the way.

Joey Cheek has been selected to carry the US flag during the closing ceremonies. Awesome choice.

I wore a tiara as a flower girl in my aunt's wedding. Wish I still had one to wear around the house. Queen of the castle, ya know.

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