Well, the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during a training run kind of puts things into perspective, eh?
The fact that NBC will probably lose an extra $50,000,000 this weekend because the womens SC has been postponed at least until Monday due to the shitty Pissler weather, and NBC for sure won’t have any skiing segments of Lindsey Vonn for the weekend, doesn’t seem so relevant in light of what transpired at the luge track today.
The question of the hour is…..will the mens DH happen tomorrow? Or perhaps Sunday? Postponed to Monday (gah!)? The weather at Pissler continues to sucketh dot com. Fog and rain, the course is mush, and the forecast LOW temperature at Creekside tonight is 38 degrees Farenheit. Yikes. They’d have had better luck holding the downhill in Washington DC or Dallas.
Daron Rahlves is an interesting name to watch. Rahlves was a fantastic American downhiller who retired from the alpine World Cup about 5 years ago. He was really, really fast. Fearless, too. Even the Austrians respected Rahlves. The spectacular crash he took at the GS in Adelboden (aka Rattle-boden) is the stuff legends are made of (check it out on YouTube). Rahlves was so fast, in fact, that he won the Hahnenkamm DH, which is downhill’s ultimate. It’s The Super Bowl, the World Series and the NBA Finals all rolled into one, if you’re a ski racer. Rahlves has served drinks at The Londoner, an honor given only to Hahnenkamm DH champions. No American ski racer other than Rahlves has served drinks at The Londoner for a long time. (NOTE: Bode Miller has consumed drinks at the Londoner many, many times. Possibly too many times. I’ve even seen Bode do that myself. But he hasn’t served them) Anyhow, Rahlves now races skiercross, a combination of skiing and roller derby. I personally think skiercross is incredibly dumb, but I’m 49 years old. The teen crowd thinks it’s rad, man. If I was 19, I’d probably love it. Rahlves was named to the US team a few weeks ago, and then promptly dislocated his troublesome hip, which is something that plagued him during his World Cup alpine career. He’s touch-and-go for the Olympic Skiercross, but if he goes, watch out.
Rahlves is a potential big US story for NBC, should Lindsey fizzle.
Olympic ski racing is known for unknowns, if you’ll pardon the pun. Good ski racing courses are difficult to find, and many Olympics have had – to put it kindly – makeshift courses. In Nagano, for example, Jean-Luc Cretier won the mens DH on a really mediocre, milquetoast course. He’d never won a World Cup race up to that point, and never won again. He retired the next season knowing that he’d won in a fluke, and there was simply no way he’d ever achieve anything even close to an Olympic Gold Medal again. He deemed it ridiculous to continue trying, so he quit. Hans Petr Burras won the Nagano slalom. He won exactly one other race his entire career.
Unfortunately, the woman I picked at the beginning of the season as a sure thing to come out of nowhere to win a medal for Canada in Vancouver is hurt and can’t compete: Kelly Vanderbeek. There was something about the way she was racing, and about the way she was talking, and even about the confident way she was walking at the season opener at Lake Louise that shouted “I’m going to win”. A shame she can’t compete. Canadian John Kucera, the current DH World Champion, hit the fence at Lake Louise during the Super-G in November and broke his leg badly, so he’s out too. Another bummer for Canada there.
The possibility of a talented (relative) unknown like Steve Nyman or Andrew Weibrecht winning a DH medal at Whistler is very real. The conditions are going to be lousy, and amazingly shitty weather and course conditions adds another level of uncertainty, favoring the random result.
Somebody once told me that getting a racer to a “real” downhill and giving him a run costs about $5,000. Alpine Canada has invested a lot of money in their athletes, so guys like Robbie Dixon, Jan Hudec, and Manuel Osborne-Paradis have raced more than anybody at Whistler. I’m putting my money on Canada.