Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Op-Ed: How Dangerous are the Russians

Jumping Clapping Man has inspired a blog post

Also, I’m trying out the Windows Live Writer interface to see if I like it.

But back to the Russians.  It’s Pairs skaters I’m talking about and we all know of their storied domination of Olympic competition.  Since 1964 in Innsbruck when the Protopopov’s won, the Russians have killed it going on an amazing 12 Olympic Games winning spree (yes…we still count 2002)!

However, it would appear that the tides are changing, and any betting person would put their good money on the Chinese or German's in Vancouver.

But, somehow, Russians always seem to get to the top of the podium at the Olympics (a little shady in 2002…but still there), fate just falls their way.  In 1997 if you had told me Kazakova and Dmitriev and their compatriots Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze would go 1-2 in Nagano I would have said…not a chance.  That four years later Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze managed to share a Gold Medal…a miracle.  The first time I saw Totmianina and Marinin in Olympic competition (2002), I thought them awkward and uninteresting…four years later I thought them well worthy of their Olympic Gold.

So I say fear the Russians in 2010 and do not count them out under any circumstances!  As per usual, there will be three, no doubt talented, teams to contend with in Vancouver.  Russian teams often have roles (not actually...just seems that way)at the Olympics and this is how I see it playing out…

There is always the team that is good, has had some success in International Competition, but don’t seem to have  the best Olympics.  In the past this role has been played by such skaters as Eltsova and Bushkov, Obertas and Slavnov, Petrova and Tikhonov…you know the type.  This I think will be Mukhortova and Trankov.  Wildly talented but I feel unprepared for the realities and pressures that Olympic competition will bring.

There’s often the young ones that have little experience that we barely, if at all, know.  This team will definitely be around but who knows who it will be?  Ozerova and Enbert?  Iliushechkina and Maisuradze?  Martiusheva and Rogonov?  Sheremetieva and Kuznetsov?  Rest assured one (or more) of these teams will burst on the scene next season and make the Olympic Team.  The young team often surprises all and has a much better result th an expected at the Olympics…think Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze in  1998.

Then there is ‘the’ team.  Maybe we didn’t expect them to do so good…but they do.  And I have a feeling this may turn out to be Kavaguti and Smirnov.  Also on their side is their coach, Tamara Moskvina who has a knack at turning out Olympic Champions.  Her teams seam to come alive on Olympic ice and I have a hunch this team will do the same.

Disclaimer: Of course I could be wrong about all of this!  Just using past history as a gauge of what may come.

1 comment:

Shame On Bush II said...

As a Russian and a big pairs fan [typical], I look forward to Vancouver with a mix of excitement and dread ... and while I've had this feeling before, this time around there's a bit more dread in the mix. The anemic results for Russian pairs in the last few years (speaking relative to the past, of course)are due largely to the economic crisis that chewed through Russia throughout the 90s, where the pairs world champions of today would have been struggling with rink closures and other financial impossibilities. It is especially bittersweet that Russian prospects for 2014, what would be 50 years of the reign, in Sochi no less, are actually quite bright given that Mukhortova & Trankov fit a nice age groove to peak at those games and that Russians have again come to dominate the junior ranks in pairs. A final thought: If the Soviet sports machine were still around (well everything would be different, wouldn't it), Totmianina & Marinin would be co-favorites going into 2010.