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Canada's Ski Team: DNF

posted Feb 19, 2010, 2:27 PM by Duking It Out   [ updated Feb 19, 2010, 2:33 PM ]
It seems like every Olympic Games there is at least one Canadian team that disappoints so badly as to warrant intensive scrutiny and substantial changes to their program once the games are over.  In recent Summer Games it has been the swimmers.  In Torino it was the men’s hockey team. 

In Vancouver, Canada’s national embarrassment is undoubtedly the ski team.

Firstly, skiing has been covered to death by the unholy trinity of Canadian Olympic networks (CTV, TSN and Sportsnet).  At one point this afternoon the Men’s Super-G was being broadcast simultaneously on CTV and TSN (Sportsnet had the Sweden/Belarus hockey game) and throughout the games skiing has been the most ubiquitous sport, despite the fact it translates terribly to television.

Because really, races are only entertaining when the participants compete at the same time.  Snowboardcross?  Exciting.  Short Track Speedskating?  Exciting.  Downhill Skiing?  Not so much.

If it weren’t for the interval numbers popping up on the screen, the majority of viewers wouldn’t have a clue how successful the individual runs are. Every run essentially looks the same, except for the ones that end in crashes.

And yet, skiing has been rammed down Canadian viewers’ throats all week long. 

That would be tolerable if the Canadian team were at least living up to expectations.  Considering the length of time most of the skiers have been part of the national program and the huge advantage of the Olympics being held on a course several of them grew up skiing on, you would think they’d have made a bigger dent in the standings that two 5th place finishes (both by Erik Guay) and one 6th (Britt Janyk).

Alas, they have not.  And what is really frustrating is how content they seem to be in their mediocrity.

For example, following his Super-G run earlier today Jan Hudec was interviewed on TSN and described his effort as his “best performance and gutsiest performance in probably three years.”

Hudec’s placing? 23rd.

He continued to say:

“I’m walking out of here pleased with my effort but obviously pretty disappointed… I wasn’t the only one up there stuck at the start…I have absolutely no regrets of how my performance went today….I thrive on pressure and big occasions and, you know, I just came out and had my own race today and had an amazing effort. I did what I could to be fast, sometimes when you put it on the line you make a couple mistakes and I’m okay with that.”

Great.  So in summation, Hudek:
a) acts like a five-year-old (I wasn’t the only one throwing paper airplanes!)
b)claims to thrive under pressure despite his lackluster performance
c)explains that he is fine with his crappy 23rd-place run

Well guess what, Jan?  Canadian fans aren’t happy with it, not considering you’ve been on the national ski team for the better part of a decade.  Not considering you finished 25th in the downhill.  Not considering the amount of taxpayer dollars* poured into a program that generates precious little revenue and even fewer medals.

*Now, many people will tell you that Canada’s amateur athletes are woefully underfunded.  I’m not going to get into that here, but I will say that even though we may not fork over the dough as generously as some nations, we do provide taxpayer money to fly these skiers all over the world so they can pursue a rather singular, self-serving dream.  Additionally, and at least somewhat related, consider for a moment the ungodly expense of airlifting all that snow into the Whistler Creekside resort the week before the games.  Canada certainly doesn’t seem to be getting much bang for its buck when it comes to skiing.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on Jan.  I mean, at least he made it all the way down the freakin’ mountain, which is more than can be said for Robbie Dixon or Manuel Osborne-Paradis in Friday’s Super-G.  Osborne-Paradis in particular has bombed at these games. 

After having been featured in a commercial that ran endlessly on Canadian television (narrated by Donald Sutherland, no less) touting Osborne-Paradis as a medal favourite since, you know, the races were taking place ON HIS HOME COURSE, the golden boy so far has a DNF and a 17th-place finish.

Even Britt Janyk (full disclosure – Janyk is a former roommate of mine) proclaimed in an interview with Michael Landsberg that she was thrilled with her 6th-place finish.  In that same interview she explained that the first time she skied Whistler Creekside, which is also her home course, was at age 3 or 4.

It’s fine for her to be happy with a top-10 Olympic finish.  It is, indeed, quite an accomplishment.  But shouldn’t more be expected of our ski team considering the advantages provided by their home turf and our national “Own the Podium” program.

The only thing the skiers are owning these days is a seat in the bleachers after posting yet another DNF.

But thank goodness skiing is on TV four hours a day!

In the same way the Torino abomination resulted in a personnel overhaul and revamped modus operandi for the national men’s hockey program, the alpine ski team deserves a long, hard look following this fantastic choke job.

Because unless they manage to secure a medal or two in the remaining events, the ski team’s motto may as well be DNF: Daily National Failures.