Now that the Olympics are over...

Watching the Olympics
How Sammy enjoyed the Olympics

It's hard to believe the Olympics ended almost a week ago. I spent so much time anticipating them and then enjoying them while they were on that it was a bit of a let down once they finished. Since I wrote a preview before the Games began, I thought it would be nice to wrap things up with a post about some of my favorite moments (and yes, most of them are figure skating related).

What I want to remember about the 2014 Winter Olympics:
  • Meryl Davis and Charlie White winning the first gold medal in ice dancing for the United States. They are such great ambassadors for the sport, and it was wonderful to see them win with two great performances.
  • Carolina Kostner winning the bronze in the ladies’ event. Carolina is a skater I’ve come to appreciate over the last few years because she focuses on interpreting the music rather than racking up points. I was so happy she had a great Olympics after finishing well off the podium at the previous two.
  • Mao Asada’s long program. It was so beautiful after her disastrous short program.
  • Noelle Pikus-Pace winning the silver medal in skeleton. I think she may have been the happiest silver medalist ever, and her family was super cute.
  • Ted Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin winning gold medals for the U.S. in skiing. I'm glad they didn't "respect" the course as much as some of the other skiers.
  • The three U.S. women (Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner and Polina Edmunds) finishing in the top 10. Both Gracie and Polina showed a lot of promise for the future, and Ashley showed that she really did deserve to be at the Olympics.
  • Both of Jeremy Abbott's programs. After he took such a hard fall at the beginning of his short program, I thought his Olympics might be over. I'm glad he got up and skated as well as he did. (And kudos to the crowd for cheering him on.)
  • Other top moments: Watching the snowboarders celebrate at the bottom of the hill; seeing Denis Ten win the first Olympic medal in figure skating for Kazakhstan; enjoying all of the Russian culture, music, and dancing during the Opening and Closing Ceremonies; cheering as the U.S. men's hockey team defeated Russia

Only a couple more years until the next Summer Olympics. Rio, here we come!

On being sick during the Olympics

These past few days have been, in a word, miserable. I began feeling sick on Wednesday evening, and by Thursday morning, I was the reluctant owner of a full-fledged cold. Sore throat, stuffy nose, body aches, fever, and chills — I had it all. It's the worst I've felt in a really, really long time. I stayed home from work on Thursday, and when I felt even worse on Friday morning, I had to skip that day as well.

The only bright spot to being sick the last two days is that I was able to watch the entire men's figure skating competition from Sochi live. I would have preferred to watch the dance or ladies' events live instead, but any skating was nice to take my mind off of my dreary state. The competition was not the best skated event I have ever seen, but Olympic pressure has a way of doing that to even world-class athletes. I was happy to see Yuzuru Hanyu and Denis Ten make history for their countries.

I was also excited to receive my figure skating photo book from Blurb in the mail on Friday. I created it using some of the pictures I took at the Four Continents Championships and Skate America in 2012. (Yes, it took me this long to put something together.) One of the best parts of waiting this long to make the book: noticing that I put two of this year's Olympic gold medalists on facing pages. Volosozhar and Trankov and Yuzuru Hanyu, it was nice seeing you at Skate America in 2012.

You can see my figure skating book below:

2014 Winter Olympics: A Preview

Ashley Wagner

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are finally here! By this time tomorrow, I will be sitting in front of my TV watching the first events from Russia. As always, I'm looking forward to the figure skating events the most, and this year, there is the added bonus of the team competition. I promised a preview of the events, so here we go.

This is the first year for the team competition at the Olympics, even though the ISU has held several World Team Trophy events over the last few years. The concept is pretty simple: One man, one woman, one pair, and one dance team will perform in the short program competition and in the long program competition. Each country can make two substitutions throughout the event (for instance, two men might split the short and long programs, and two pairs could split the two programs). The countries with the most depth and fewest weaknesses will do the best in this competition. Canada, Russia, and the U.S. are expected to take home the medals, but Italy could play spoiler.

The favorites for the gold medal are Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov from Russia, who began skating with each other after the 2010 Olympics. If they slip up (like they did at the Grand Prix Final and the European Championships), Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy could take home gold instead. Savchenko and Szolkowy won the bronze medal at the 2010 Olympics but have suffered from inconsistency during the last four years.  
  • Other pairs to watch: Qing Pang and Jian Tong (2010 Olympic silver medalists from China), Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (2013 World bronze medalists from Canada), Kristen Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch (Canada), Stephania Berton and Ondřej Hotárek (Italy)
  • Fun fact 1: Pay attention to the pants! (Trust me — it will be hard not to.) Both Trankov and Hotárek have sported bright yellow pants earlier this season. Both teams ended up winning on the Grand Prix Series, so obviously the pants can bring good luck.
  • Fun fact 2: Meagan Duhamel is almost as fun to watch in the Kiss and Cry as she is on the ice. She usually begins analyzing the program the moment the music ends.

This event is all about Patrick Chan and the Japanese men. Oh, and a certain Russian named Evgeny Plushenko. Chan has won the last three World Championships and is truly spectacular when he's on. However, he's also had performances where he's fallen three times and still won. That probably won't work at the Olympics since the level of skating has improved so much. Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan won the Grand Prix Final this year and could definitely play spoiler to Chan's Olympic dreams.
  • Other men to watch: Daisuke Takahashi (2010 Olympic bronze medalist from Japan), Tatsuki Machida (Japan), Javier Fernandez (Spain), Jeremy Abbott (USA), Jason Brown (USA), Denis Ten (Kazakhstan)
  • Fun fact 1: No Canadian man has ever won an Olympic gold medal. Not Brian Orser. Not Kurt Browning. Not Elvis Stojko. If Patrick Chan wins gold at these Olympics, he would make history for Canada.
  • Fun fact 2: Hanyu's good luck charm is a tissue holder shaped like Winnie the Pooh. It even has its own Twitter account: @HanyusPooh.

Ice Dance
This is the competition I'm most looking forward to (my 16-year-old self would probably be shocked). Meryl Davis and Charlie White from the United States are the reigning World Champions and the 2010 Olympic silver medalists. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir from Canada are the 2010 Olympic Champions and two-time World Champions. Both teams train together under the same coach at the same rink in Canton, Michigan. I'm rooting for Davis and White to win the gold medal this time, but Virtue and Moir are some of the purest ice dancers I've ever seen. May the best pair win!
  • Other ice dancers to watch: Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat (France), Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (Russia), Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (Canada), Madison Chock and Evan Bates (USA), Alex and Maia Shibutani (USA), Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (Italy), Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (Russia)
  • Fun fact 1: The short dance this year includes the Finnstep, a pattern dance similar to the quickstep in ballroom dancing. Be prepared for lots of music from the Big Band era and Broadway.
  • Fun fact 2: Alex and Maia Shibutani (the "ShibSibs") have their own YouTube channel with some fun skating videos.

If you're just tuning into skating for the first time since Vancouver, you might think things look very similar at the top. The reigning Olympic gold and silver medalists (Yuna Kim and Mao Asada) are skating once again and are still considered the favorites for the top two spots. Yuna Kim is the first reigning Olympic ladies gold medalist to return since Katarina Witt, so it would be amazing to see her win again. However, the Russian ladies should not be ignored: Julia Lipnitskaia (15) and Adelina Sotnikova (17) recently finished 1-2 at the European Championships, defeating Carolina Kostner of Italy, the reigning World bronze medalist. I'm also still rooting for my favorite, Ashley Wagner, to pull off the best performance of her life.
  • Other ladies to watch: Gracie Gold (USA), Zijun Li (China), Akiko Suzuki (Japan), Kanako Murakami (Japan), Polina Edmunds (USA), Valentina Marchei (Italy), Kaetlyn Osmond (Canada)
  • Fun fact 1: Julia Lipnitskaia will skate her long program to music from Schindler's List. Her dress is red, just like the little girl's in the movie.
  • Fun fact 2: Ashley Wagner is returning to her long program from last year (Samson & Delilah) after her poor performance at U.S. Nationals.

Get excited! The Olympics are almost here.

January 2014 Round-up

Snow day

Happy Super Bowl Sunday and Groundhog's Day! The time has come for me to look back at the last month for my monthly round-up post. Here are some of the highlights from this January:

  • Celebrating the new year with Mom at Torchy's Tacos.
  • Watching the season premiere of Downton Abbey. I'm so glad this show is back on my TV for the next few weeks.
  • Attending the UT-Iowa State basketball game on January 18. The Cyclones were ranked 8th at the time, and the Longhorns beat them in a great game.
  • Watching the U.S. Figure Skating Championships (held in Boston!) and looking forward to the Olympics in February.
  • Shopping at the Round Rock outlets and IKEA one Friday after work. There were some great sales at the outlets, and I found some nice things for my upcoming trip at the LOFT store. I like shopping trips like that.
  • Getting back into the walking routine during the latter part of this month.
  • Enjoying one and a half snow days off from work — even if I still went into the office in the afternoon both days.
  • Meeting my friend Michelle for dinner last Thursday. It was great to catch up with her and hear about her new job and apartment.

Books I read: Russian Winter (Daphne Kalotay); Someday, Someday, Maybe (Lauren Graham); Morning Glory (Sarah Jio)

Movies I watched: Philomena, Her, American Hustle, Notorious (DVR), Harry Potter Weekend on ABC Family

TV: Downton Abbey, Castle, Parenthood, U.S. National Championships, European Championships, Four Continents Championships, UT basketball, Call the Midwife (Season 2 DVD and Christmas special)

About My Monthly Round-Ups
At the end of each month, I take a look back and write a post about the month's highlights, as well as what I read and watched. To see all of my round-up posts, visit this page.