This weekend I discovered how to watch obscure winter sports that have been rudely neglected by Universal Sports (which had recently made me so happy regarding the Alpine ski season), purely thanks to the wonders of social media. Between Twitter investigation and US Speed Skating on Facebook, I discovered that the TVU Networks Player carries Chinese and Korean sports channels and Tony Chung provides mucho helpful live commentary to short track events on Twitter (you know, since I am Chinese and Korean challenged).
FYIs completed, let’s move on to the action.
The men’s team was comprised of Kyle Carr, J.R. Celski, Simon Cho, Travis Jayner and Jordan Malone. They not only gave a strong showing at these ISU World Championships, but also social media-ed it up with a lot of conversational tweeting and a couple informal live webcasts for fans… which was ‘interesting’ and definitely involved nearly toxic numbers of teenage girls, leading Cho to wonder, “How many of you skipped school to watch this?”
As for myself: When you are an unemployed so-called writer, you can only watch so much CNN. Trust me. Also, an inquiry on Twitter did confirm that people were figuring how to get out of class in order to tune in. Distressing– particularly because it was being recorded for later viewers.
On Friday Celski and Jayner made it to the 1500 meter final along with Thibaut Fauconnet (France), Kwak Yoon-Gy, Lee Ho-Suk and Sung Si-bak (Korea). From starting position #2, Celski settled into second place at the beginning, Jayner at the back of the pack from his #6 starting position; however the 1500 meter saw a lot of movement back and forth before the finish. France, Korea and the US each had a turn in the lead–at one point Celski and Jayner were in first and second positions respectively–but the race ended in a Korean sweep: Kwak, Sung and Lee for the podium with Celski taking fourth and Jayner sixth, despite all efforts to split up the Korean team. In terms of world rankings for the 1500 meter Jayner is tenth and Celski is unranked due to that epic injury from the Olympic trials last autumn that prevented him from competing for several months; Malone– who apparently got into an argument with the ice a few times in Bulgaria– is ranked fourteenth.
Fast-forward to the 3000 meter super final on Saturday: Celski competed once more against familiar faces from the Olympics: Charles and Francois Hamelin (Canada), Kwak Yoon-Gy, Lee Ho-Suk (Korea), Liang Wenhao (China) and François-Louis Tremblay (Canada) in the longest distance individual short track event.
Celski started from position 7– which pushed him into a start line behind the other six competitors– no problem: He immediately settled into the top three working hard to keep the team of three Canadians separated. After a pace pick-up to about 44 km/hr around 1.15 Celski fought his way into first by 1.30, ahead of Tremblay. As a bonus for being in the lead at 1000 meters Celski was awarded five extra points; he would hold his position until the last lap. After the 1000 meter mark, Celski was so far ahead that the he was out of the camera shot, which was following the rest of the pack. At eight laps to go it appeared that all he had to do was hang on for the win… it was not to be. The pack slowly gained ground and by 4.20 Lee and Kwak were coming up fast from behind, the three appear to have lapped other competitors and in an unbelievable pass Lee and Kwak passed Celski to take first and second in the super final, respectively, with Celski taking the bronze. In terms of the overall results for the Championships, this meant that Celski missed the podium by a mere eight points, taking fourth. Eight. Points.
See? It’s so exciting, people should always be watching short track when it is not the Olympics!
And to close their season (it seems that although the team qualified they will not be attending the team Worlds in Torino at the end of the month), the men went ahead and took home the silver in the 5000 meter relay. If you are not familiar with the relay format, note the image and my previous post on the Olympic relays.
The relay began with two false stats, which create visual mayhem during a relay– the ice starts to look like a public rink full of people aimlessly milling and circling about. The US started out in first quickly shifting over to Germany and then Korea, an order (Korea, Germany, USA) which was maintained for quite a while. Around 2.23 the American men passed into first place leaving Korea to hold off the Germans. The lead did not last long and at 2.40 the teams reordered: Korea, USA, Germany and China way behind. China eventually ended up getting lapped by the three leading teams. At eight laps left the Korean team was pretty far ahead of the Americans who had, in turn, broken away from the German team… AND, that is how it ended, with Team USA .03 behind the Koreans.
And what did we learn at the medal ceremony? The flowers are presented by girls in full Bulgarian folk attire. Just thought you should know. Also, there are not a lot of spectators– shocking, I know.
The United States was represented by Allison Baver (who did not compete due to a residual flair up of a broken leg injury from last year’s Worlds), Kimberly Derrick, Alyson Dudek, Lana Gehring and Katherine Reutter. The ladies are not quite as enamored of bonding with fans via social media, although Derrick did make a brief appearance during one several of the webcasts organized by Jordan Malone.
Anyways, Katherine Reutter made it to the first final event of the weekend on Friday for the 1500 meter. She started from position #4, getting pushed to the back of the pack after the starting turn, settling into fourth place. As commentators repeated again and again during the Vancouver games, Reutter– unlike, for instance Apolo Ohno– hates being at the back and tends to get panicky if she cannot get into a leading position and skate offensively. Thus, Reutter pulled an impressive outside power pass into the lead. Unfortunately the efforts was not enough, or perhaps she used her energy and power up too early, because the three Korean women pushed her back into fourth again, where she finished behind Park Seung-Hi, LEE Eun-Byul and Cho Ha-Ri. Reutter finishes the year with the third world ranking in the 1500 meter.
Reutter also raced in the 3000 meter super final event on Sunday against nine other women. Starting from the second starting position Reutter settled into fourth behind Wang Meng (China) and two women from the Korean team. After the race speeds up around 1.30, Reutter passed into third and then into second behind Park Seung-Hi… and at this point the amount of movement in the race got out of hand and pretty difficult to follow with Jessica Gregg (Canada), Reutter and Cho Ha-Ri each taking a turn in the lead. Reutter executed another mad pass outside all three Koreans around 3.40 but was shortly overcome again by the Korean team effort. It appears that Reutter might have even lost her balance a bit towards the very end, giving up first the lead and then third place, finishing in a hard-fought fourth place by .14 behind Park, Cho and Lee. Park won the overall Championship title; Reutter ranked in sixth.
For the women’s 3000 meter relay final that followed (Derrick, Dudek, Gehring, Reutter), the USA skated against Korea and Canada (China was supposed to race but did not show), in a rematch of the dramatic and highly contested Olympic relay. It was a race of redemption for South Korea, who this time took home an uncontested gold in the relay with Canada in second and the American women finishing in third place, similar to the Olympic outcome minus the disqualification drama and the Chinese team.
Whew… and that’s that for short track.
And now for a few brief moments of hilarity and randomness from last week’s men’s team webcasts:
- When asked why Apolo Ohno was not on the team for Worlds: “Because he’s in Beruit.” Here is a hunch: they are really sick of people asking about Ohno. At one point, when asked the question, “Where is Apolo,” Simon Cho replied, “Hey what’s that supposed to mean? That’s an insult!”
- There was a discussion on Snuggies. Malone has purchased them as gifts. I almost purchased my dog one once… and then I came to.
- We were also treated to a discussion on how McDonalds is different in every country. Based on the team’s knowledge of various incarnations of fast food burgers, everyone’s greatest question has been answered: Olympians really do eat McDonalds!
- Cho is afraid of birds: “Everyone hates birds, right?” Meanwhile, a) that is not true, b) he and frequent Words to Bumble guest star Kathleen have an irrational fear in common, and c) Malone was like, ‘Really? I have a parakeet.’
- Kyle Carr’s luggage got lost by Air France and so his skates were in limbo for most of the trip. Instead of getting to skate while the rest of the team had practice, he just had to jog around the track.
- There were questions about rolling toilet paper over or under. Over. Obviously the answer is over. How do I come to this? Because that is how hotels to it to make life fancy. The end.
- Cho says, “Don’t waste your money on the iPad,” good advice really.
- Too many people are obsessed with the sexuality of spandex-wearing guys, and the guys appear to pretty tired of it all, really. Even though some people talk about bubble baths, their preferred shampoos and a love of cupcakes; however, those are all really important things in my mind.
- Most of these people fondly remember Pokemon and Digimon from their childhoods. Malone remembers Teddy Ruxpin, and I like that about him because I always wanted one of those and my mother would never get me one and, and…
Ahem. I think that’s it.
So short track recaps: Done. Back to normal programming… I think.