I'm an Olympics nut. Like, real big Olympics nut. For the duration of the Games, I pretty much lose it and divert just about all excess energies to the Olympics. (I feel genuinely sorry for anyone like me on the West Coast. For those unaware, even though the Olympics are on the West Coast, NBC has decided to put them on a three-hour tape delay anyway. They're three hours delayed from watching their own Olympics. It's just dumbfounding. No wonder NBC doesn't have any viewers these days.)
I buy completely and utterly into the Olympic ideal. I'm a total sucker for it and I don't mind a bit. For one, the vast, vast, vast majority of the athletes have worked their entire lives for this one moment that only comes around once every four years. And for the vast majority of the sports, the Olympic gold medal is the sport's ultimate prize. It's also a very nice catch for those for which it isn't. For a ski jumper, this is it. This is what you've trained all this time for. For an NHL player, it's not the big prize- the Stanley Cup is- but when you have athletes saying they'll skip out on the NHL to play in the Olympics, that tells you they value the gold medal pretty heavily as well. So you're getting everything that everybody's got, even if they might not actually have that something in them. They'll fake the something if they have to. Anything to push themselves a little further. It's the Olympics. If not now, then when?
Second, I buy into the global-brotherhood aspect of it all. It's very refreshing to have a period every so often when we all set everything aside and just watch sports together for a couple weeks. I don't care who wins as long as we get a good competition- and more importantly, as long as everybody shows up. I hate boycotts. Hate them. Even when we did it for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. For those few weeks, I don't care about communism or nuclear weapons or war or politics or anything. You want to know how to stick it to a country during the Olympics? You go, you have fun, make friends, learn something about each other, and then you beat them and take all their medals. Bloodless, yet still carries a ton of prestige. I mean, to this day we're still talking about Jesse Owens figuratively posterizing Hitler. I'm not so naive as to think it can stop a war from happening- we absolutely needed to fight World War 2 anyway- but that could not have been a fun day for Hitler nonetheless.
Which is why I hate it when NBC gets way too jingoistic with their Olympics coverage. Did you happen to catch Uzbekistan during the Opening Ceremony's Parade of Nations? If you're American, no you didn't, because the poor bastards had the misfortune of marching between the United States, which came before them in the alphabet, and Canada, who marched last as hosts. NBC lingered on the American team well past when Uzbekistan came out, and by the time they were done, it was time for Canada. Bob Costas made a brief note about how Uzbekistan "slipped in", as if they had entered through the emergency fire exit or something, but that was it.
I couldn't stand it. Earlier in the parade, Costas had noted how for many of the lesser athletes, the Parade IS their Olympics, as they have no shot at a medal and are merely hoping to set a personal best and maybe beat at least one other athlete along the way, while judging themselves among the best in the world.
So in an effort to make up for NBC's shortcomings, here is some information on Uzbekistan's three Vancouver athletes:
Anastasia Gimazetdinova is 29 years old, living in Tashkent. She will be competing in ladies' figure skating. She is a three-time Uzbek champion, for 2003, 2004 and 2005, having come in second the five years prior. She skates for the club Alpomish. Her coach is Peter Kiprushev. Her choreographer is Mikhail Voskresenski. So far this season, she has finished 14th in the Nebelhorn Trophy (won by Alissa Czisny of the United States), 12th in the Cup of Russia (won by Miki Ando of Japan), and 11th in the Four Continents Championships (won by Mao Asada of Japan).
Kseniya Grigoreva is 22 years old, competing in the women's slalom and giant slalom. She won three slalom events in 2009, all in Iran. In her most recent slalom on December 17 in Miass, Russia, she did not finish. She finished first in the giant slalom in January 2009 in Shemshak, Iran; in her most recent event on December 22 in Magnitogorsk, Russia, she finished 36th.
Oleg Shamaev is 27 years old, competing in the men's slalom and giant slalom. He was Uzbekistan's flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony. Shamaev has not finished his last three slalom races, and has only finished three of his last nine. However, he did finish second on March 31, 2009 in the Kazakhstan national championships in Chimbulak Almaty. Shamaev did not finish his last giant slalom race in Magnitogorsk, Russia, on December 22; his highest finish this season has been 35th on December 9 in N. Tagil/Kirovgrad, Russia.
Good luck to you three.