I don’t know about all of you, but as I was watching the instant-classic U.S. versus Canada gold medal hockey clash on Sunday, a question occurred: was I watching the same Olympic games that I had previously started watching two weeks ago, or was I stuck somewhere in time like those dudes in that ridiculous-but-it’s-so-ridiculous-it-looks-funny movie Hot Tub Time Machine?
Well fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), it was the former. The 2010 edition of the Winter Olympics, which opened with bad weather, Opening Ceremony gaffes, and the tragic death of a young Georgian luger, transformed itself into a decidedly memorable version of the Games during those two weeks in Vancouver. While the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili will always be associated with these Games, the transformation of these Games from lackluster to spectacular ensures that this version of the Winter Olympics will not be defined by that one horrific incident.
Personally speaking, it’s not easy for me to define one moment or one event that “made” these Olympics. Certainly, a compelling argument can be made for many. For those of us in the states, the men’s hockey team overperformed to such an extent that many actually considered them the favorite going into Sunday’s gold medal game with Canada. While any comparisons to 1980 were downright ridiculous, this team was amazing in its own right, and not only gave us, as a country, a team to really get behind, but gave the entire world an absolute pleasure to watch. I would barely classify as a “casual” hockey fan, but that game on Sunday was one of the best I’ve witnessed in any sport: “epic” is one of the few words that does it any justice.
Of course, there were other moments that helped redeem the Games. Shaun White’s “McTwist 1260” was so insane I would probably have trouble doing it on a video game. Bode Miller finally did was he was supposed to do four years ago. Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso, despite their Twitter tussle, each performed admirably. While I’m no figure skating expert, I’ll take the experts word for it: Kim Yu-na had a performance for the ages. And Canada – oh Canada! indeed – actually (kind of) lived up to their “Own the Podium” promise, taking home an Olympic-best 14 gold medals. (On a side note: good for Canada. This was their Olympics.)
But, for me, the defining moment of these Olympics was the moment Joannie Rochette finished her short routine in the figure skating competition Tuesday night. Rochette, you will remember, lost her mother two days earlier to a sudden heart attack, and vowed to skate on despite the circumstances. By all accounts, she gave the performance of a lifetime. After that inspiring performance, she did what she should have done: she cried. Half of the Pacific Coliseum cried with her. Millions of viewers around the world (myself included) got choked up. Over the span of a few short minutes, she became the absolute personification of the Olympics. That, my friends, was a true Olympic moment.
So yeah, this edition of the Olympics fell short of perfection. Vancouver, despite being an absolutely breathtaking city, was nonetheless a questionable choice for the games because of the climate. Already valid concerns about safety only intensified after the death on the luge. However, no edition of the Olympics is perfect – the best you’re ever going to get is “pretty darn good.” And special moments like Joannie Rochette’s helped make the Vancouver Olympics “pretty darn good.”