Monday, January 02, 2006

Joy Awaits

Sometimes I like to think about things on the horizon that give me unfettered joy. And lately I am feeling a certain excitement, because...The Olympics Are Coming.

38 days from today, the greatest athletes in the world will gather in Torino for the opening of the XX Olympic Winter Games. And despite my mixed feelings for any sort of nationalism in the ra-ra sense, the Olympics, I think (or, at least I like to believe) that in this case one should really root for your hometown team.

The figure skating should be especially thrilling this year. Since the scoring fiasco in Salt Lake -- the infamous "SkateGate" -- the committee has instituted a completely new system. Skaters are now given cumulative points based on individual elements according to the level of difficulty and the quality (that's where the subjectivity comes in,) of the execution. Essentially, this creates no absolute "perfect score." In addition, there are no longer ordinal placements. In previous years, judges sometimes would place a skater higher than the individual performance dictated because they "knew" he was generally a better skater, or that she had won the World Championship and therefore somehow "deserved" better marks. This year, with the new scoring system, only the performance on the ice will count toward a medal. Also, judges will remain anonymous, and no one will know which "country" each score came from. The cumulative score also allows skaters, who after the short program might be several places back, to leap ahead and win the big one. If you want to geek out, you can visit the NBC website here, which explains it all in far more gory detail than I have. Plus, all those ridiculous costumes.

Not to mention commentary cameos by my favorite skater of all time, Midori Ito of Japan. She still holds the most perfect-scoring World Championship titles than any other skater, male or female, and she is the first woman to land a triple Axel and triple/triple combination in competition. You can see that history-making triple Axel here

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