Posts Tagged ‘Sochi’

Celebrating Steven Bradbury

Thrills and spills are fairly common at the Olympics. They tend to be more prominent in some sports than others, though. If you’re looking for dramatic (and potentially painful) pile-ups, then speed skating is where it’s at.

Steven Bradbury is testament to this. He secured Australia its first ever Winter Olympic gold in 2002 in Salt Lake City. He finished first after his competitors ran into one another on the final turn of the race, skidding across the ice while Bradbury cruised to victory.

At the time, there’s no denying that Bradbury’s win seemed like a happy accident. However, the then twenty-nine year-old ad purposely stayed at the back of the pack, in the hope that his opponents would collide due to their risk-taking.

Bradbury’s career spanned four Olympic Games and nearly two decades. However, he’s best remember for that one unlikely win. The performance remains a perfect embodiment of Australia’s pro-underdog mentality, with the skater earning and retaining the congratulations and respect of the Australian public.

Bradbury’s stroke of luck was paralleled this week by the surprise success of Chinese speed skater Li Jianrou. The two scenarios are remarkably similar: the skater was languishing at the back of the pack, until her competitors were caught in a tangle of blades, and voila!

Click here to relive Bradbury’s moment of genius/triumph/luck.

What a ledge.

Bowing Out – A Sportsperson’s Retirement


Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko was today forced to retire from the men’s singles program. The 31 year-old – one of the icons of the sport – complained of spinal pains earlier in the week, after helping Russia secure gold earlier in the team competition.

Plushenko’s exit from the men’s singles event was dramatic. He took to the rink to warm up, holding his lower back in visible pain. He attempted various jumps and spins, but struggled to pull them off, eventually liasing with his coaching team before announcing his withdrawal to the judges. Although he is yet to officialy retire, Plushenko was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying “this was not how I wanted to end my career”. “For now I need a very big rest, ” he said.

Plushenko’s injuries and plateauing scores represent a familiar tale when it comes to sport: an elite athlete, after years at the top of their pecking order, experiences diminishing returns. Their constant physical exertions take a toll, causing further problems and an eventual, expected retirement announcement.

The familiarity of this narrative, though, doesn’t make it any less painful. Ian Thorpe’s tumultous career of highs and lows is indicative of this. After winning five Olympic gold medals, Thorpe retired from swimming in 2006. Four years later, though, he announced a comeback geared at the 2012 London Olympics. The media salivated at this prospect: the wonder-kid reclaiming his place as Australia’s king of swimming.

However, the height of expectations seemingly proved too much; Thorpe failed to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. This process was the subject of an insightful 2012 ABC documentary. Thorpe re-retired in the middle of 2013. However, he has continued to attract media attention – most recently for being admitted to rehab after a ‘dazed and confused’ episode in his parents’ southern Sydney neighbourhood.

retirement-waughHappily, not all retirement stories are quite so fraught with difficulty and pain. Cricket, for example, is ripe with happy end-of-career stories. Steve Waugh, then serving as the captain of Australia’s cricket team, bowed out in 2003. He ended his run in front of a home crowd, and referenced the mixed emotions that are sure to come with ending such a successful career. Glenn McGrath also managed to finish with dignity, taking a wicket with the last ball of his career.

These case studies all serve as food for thought: is it better for athletes to retire relatively early, at the top of their game with their dignity well and truly intact? Or should they fight, on Lleyton Hewitt style, earning the ‘veteran’ tag and forging a stronger place in the minds of sports fans? It’s safe to assume that, in pondering such a decision, logic and emotion will have to battle it out. There are cautionary tales related to both avenues, with neither resolutely better than the other.

Tinder Mania in Sochi


Winter Olympic gold medallist Jamie Anderson has revealed that hook-up app Tinder is proving very lucrative in Sochi. Anderson, who won the women’s slopestyle event, described the Olympic Village Tinder action as “next level” and “hilarious.”

Elite athletes have long declared the Olympics as a ripe breeding ground for, well, breeding. Former Olympian Ronda Rousey typified the atmosphere in the Olympic Village in both 2004 and 2008 as debauched.

Sochi is clearly no different. Organisers are said to have distributed 100,000 condoms to athletes – that’s about thirteen per person. Whether these supplies, intended to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDs, will last for the duration of the sixteen day event remains to be seen. In Anderson’s case, the temptation of sex seemingly proved rather distracting, with the athlete deciding to delete the app in order to maintain her focus on her events. Perhaps once she’s done and dusted, she’ll re-install.

tinder-basketballThe commonality of sex at the Olympics makes a lot of sense, really. Thousands of extremely fit, active and motivated people descend on a small geographic space, all toned bodies and nerves. They’re exercising at a high level, creating adrenaline and exhilaration. Barrels and barrels of free booze are on offer, with athletes understandably looking to celebrate, commiserate or blow off steam after their events.

The event is one of extreme emotional intensity, no doubt causing many athletes to throw caution to the wind – explaining the need for those condoms. We’re unsure whether the bulk of sexual activity comes prior to or after athletes compete. Perhaps it’s part of the warm-up process for some.

Not included in this group are LGBT athletes. It has been claimed that, in accordance with Russia’s anti-LGBT stance, gay hook-up apps have been hacked – some allege by the government itself. Days prior to the commencement of the Winter Games, thousands of profiles and messages deleted from around Russia. However, given the rather ramshackle state of the Olympic Village, we’re not sure the facilities would be all that conducive to sexual activity, anyway.

Is Sochi Ready?


Usually, the months, weeks, and days leading up to a global event like the Winter Olympics are filled with buzz and hype. Excitement normally grows progressively, reaching a fever pitch around the 100-hours-to-go mark. However, that certainly hasn’t been the case for this year’s Winter Olympics, commencing imminently in Sochi.

Controversy has enveloped the Games for months now. Initially, Russia’s questionable human rights record and Vladimir Putin’s anti-LGBTQI propaganda drew the most criticism. Then claims of an anticipated terror threat made headlines. As the Games’ commencement has drawn closer, stories of aggressive police pat downs have continued to mar what has been dubbed “Putin’s project”.

Now, as thousands of spectators flood in for the first events and the opening ceremony, a more practical problem has emerged: Sochi’s facilities might not be up to scratch. Even the International Olympics Committee has admitted that some aspects of the Olympic site and the surrounding city are worrying. Concrete pumping solutions in Australia may be readily available, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Russia.

In the run-up to February, Sochi has been virtually re-built from scratch. Existing resources were, it would seem, deemed unsuitable. Admittedly, this commitment represented a huge task for Sochi and Russia. New roads were required, plus event facilities, local business precincts, and accommodation for athletes, hangers-on, journalists and spectators. But, according to writers who have traveled to Sochi over the last few days, it is apparent that the government has not budgeted for the time or money required for such a large-scale project.

sotchi-athletesAlready, unfinished building and landscaping has been agonised over in numerous publications. In short, an extra mobile batch plant or two would not go unused. Faulty electrics, leaking sewage, and dodgy plumbing also indicate a rather rushed effort, and vast garage dumps on the fringes of Sochi add to a strange atmosphere in the city. If that wasn’t enough, hundreds of stray dogs are roaming the Olympic complex. Efforts are being made to ‘dispose’ of the canines immediately, but concerns have been voiced about this being done by less-than-human means.

Questionable accommodation for journalists is one thing. Cramped and stressful living conditions for athletes, though, are quite another. Photographs have emerged of athletes’ lodgings, showing three single beds stuffed into a small room. Admittedly some athletes, such as American speedskater Chris Creveling, have voiced their approval of the facilities. Mixed sentiments are, to an extent, to be expected – first-time athletes are no doubt excited about competing, with their anticipation unaffected by less-than-ideal practicalities.

Luckily, the interiors of the Olympic venues have been completed. External concrete walkways, though, are said by some journalists to be less-than-steady – probably because the concrete isn’t totally dry. Such reports illuminate the difficulty of preparing a city for an event like the Olympics, and also signal the role that services such as  Batchcrete play in any large-scale construction process.

Unfortunately, the evidence to date seems to indicate that politics and practicalities could overshadow the sporting element at Sochi. It seems very unlikely that the city will play host to a wholly celebratory atmosphere, but we can hope at least that the Australian contingent does itself proud.