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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will serve up news and opinion about the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C. — and also invite you to chime in on one of the world's biggest sporting events.

March 30, 2010 at 8:42 AM

On a hiatus

Posted by Ron Judd

No surprise to anyone checking here, but we're on a hiatus burning off some extra time worked during the Winter Olympics cycle. In the meantime, you can see the weekly Wrap column in Sunday's newspaper, or here.

Thanks for your patience, and stay tuned.

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March 7, 2010 at 9:16 AM

Why we won't be covering the Paralympics

Posted by Ron Judd

Short answer: The International Paralympic Committee won't let us.

Sad, but true. As a veteran Olympic writer, I've always been frustrated by our inability to cover the Paralympic Games, a 10-day event following the Olympics that allows athletes with disabilities to showcase their talents in many of the same venues used by Olympians.

Usually, the reason is a practical one: The much-smaller Paralympics take place a week to 10 days after the Olympics -- when 99.9 percent of the world's media already have gone home. (I always thought it would make more sense to have the Paralympics right before the Olympics, when the whole world is watching.) This is especially true of the 2010 Games, when tight budgets at most media outlets have put the clamps on travel.

In fact, not a single national Olympic writer I know stayed on in Vancouver to cover the Paralympics. So needless to say, I was delighted at the possibility to cover at least a piece of the event, thanks to its rare proximity.

Alas, in my all-consuming effort to cover the Olympics in Whistler, I -- and a lot of other people -- inadvertently missed what I now am told was the final, Feb. 28, deadline to apply for Paralympic media credentials. For some reason, this is a completely separate process from credentialing for the Olympics, requiring a completely separate application to a completely separate group of bureaucrats.

There are no exceptions, said Eva Werthmann, the credentials person for the Paralympics. So my request to cover any portion of the Games, which will include several Washington state athletes, as well as a number of members of our armed forces who lost limbs in Iraq or Afghanistan, was summarily denied.

Same fate for the request from my wife, Meri-Jo, a freelance journalist who was hoping to cover the Games for several U.S. publications. And, apparently, for many of our peers who have run into the same brick wall.

Bottom line: A significant group of North American journalists, anxious to capitalize on a rare chance to highlight the stories of Paralympic athletes, is being turned away at the door.

"I am really sorry but hope for your understanding," Werthmann wrote in an e-mail. She invited us to follow the results online, or try again for London, 2012.

It's not my understanding she needs. It's the athletes whose stories won't be told. To them, I offer my humblest apologies for not making all the arrangments well in advance. But in the rapidly changing media world, that's not always easy to do.

Indisputably, it's my fault for failing to meet the deadline for a separate Paralympic credential -- one that makes no sense. Credentialing for the Olympic Games is a months-long process involving security checks and full personal vetting. The Paralympics inexplicably chooses to recreate that wheel. A joint credential would make sense, but none of this is about sense.

The fact is, every major sporting event has a credentials deadline. And just about every one of them makes exceptions when journos are freed up at the last minute and space remains available for them to work in venues, which surely is the case here. It's free publicity for the athletes, and for the event.

Not this one.

The result is that no one on the Seattle Times staff is credentialed for the Paralympics. And the Paralympics makes no exceptions. So any coverage we are able to obtain will come from elsewhere, and probably not focus on local athletes.

I just wanted readers and athletes to know our lack of presence there was not our choice.

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March 4, 2010 at 8:19 AM

Lessons learned from Vancouver's "Spring Games?"

Posted by Ron Judd

An interesting post here by the New York Times' Christopher Clarey, echoing some of my own thoughts about selection of future Winter Games venues, based on the "Cypress Mountain" lesson.

Vancouver organizers keep trumpeting the fact that the warmest January in 100 years was to blame for problems at Cypress. But the fact is that the warmest January in only a handful of years might have created similar problems at Cypress, because it was a poor choice to begin with. A number of test events at the site failed, which is why they have test events. And those test events didn't take place in record-warm years. Unless VANOC wants to claim every winter for the past three has been a record warm winter.

The hope is that Cypress, if nothing else, can stand as a lesson for future organizers: Don't pick a winter-sports venue with the combination of a maritime climate and low elevation. It might sound like a "Duh" proposition, but Vancouver organizers sure managed to talk themselves into it.

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February 28, 2010 at 9:21 PM

Final word from Whistler Village

Posted by Ron Judd



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February 28, 2010 at 5:32 PM

LIVE closing ceremony insightful/inciteful commentary

Posted by Ron Judd

THAT'S ALL FOLKS. We'll have a final word from here tomorrow.

LONG SUCCESSION of rejects from Canada Ain't Got Much Talent. We're searching the TV grid for alternatives. Maybe some tape-delayed curling?

ALANIS MORISSETTE up next. There's been some really poor lip-synching tonight.

THE INEVITABLE Avril Lavigne moment. Basically turns into a concert at this point.

OK, this thing has devolved into giant beavers and flying moose. It's like the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade hijacked to Yellowknife. If you need to do tax forms tonight, this would be the portion.

A SINGING MOUNTIE appears before a large Canada postcard scene. It's Michael Buble, who is joined by four Mountie-ettes in red skirts. Show-tune time.

MICHAEL J. FOX is up next. Says he thinks of team Canada as the home team. "Canada is a big tent. And if you're good at something, we will claim you."

CATHERINE O'HARA is doing a bit riffing on how often Canadians say, "Sorry." It's falling pretty flat.

OMG: William Shatner has just risen from the floor to take his place. (This is the "I am Canadian" part of the program.) "We are a people that know how to make love in a canoe." Please god don't let him sing. Says he's proud that Canadians, after four beers, can pronounce the name of the Straits of Juan de Fuca without being censored." Except he says it like "Straits of Juan de Fookah." Nice try.

NEIL YOUNG is on stage, wearing a black hat. He's going to sing, "Long May You Run" at the base of the Fortress of Solitude flame caldron, which goes out and the end of the song. Neil disappears into the floor.

JACQUES ROGGE's speech, the one where he ends by calling some Olympics the greatest ever, ends with "These were excellent and very friendly Games." (Ouch!) He declares the Games over and invites the youth of the world to reassemble in four years in Sochi.

JOHN FURLONG, Vanoc CEO, takes the stage. Speaks really bad French. Says Canada is stronger, more united more in love with selves than ever before. "These Olympic Games have lifted us up.' Then he actually says: "Now you know us, eh?" Quiet, humble natonal pride in the country has taken to the streets, he says. Athletes "were the wind beneath our wings," he said. (Not making this up.) Says volunteers were the backbone, triumphed over nature at Cypress Mountain. Furlong really does sound like a first-year French student. Yikes. For a bilingual nation, that was embarrassing. Especially since Rogge, who speaks fluent French, follows.


OH NO: First ballet, and now ice dance. And then opera.

RUSSIAN conductor, we are led to believe, is conducting orchestra live in Red Square in Moscow. Huh. Wonder how they are handling that two-second satellite delay.

SOCHI 2014 PRESENTATION begins. Russian supermodel launches. Some clear orbs with people walking in them. Uh-oh. violin music.

RUSSIAN CHOIR is singing Russian anthem, which apparently has 14 verses.

HANDOVER CEREMONY -- Vancouver mayor about to hand over Olympic flag, and accompanying seven-year headache, to the mayor of Sochi, Russia. Who knew Sochi had a mayor?

OLYMPIC FLAG comes down, carried out by Mounties.

NOW IT'S the Olympic hymn.

THEY'RE PLAYING the national anthem of Greece, "O Greece."

BAD POP MUSIC ongoing.

HERE IN WHISTLER, we are engaging in the traditional closing ceremony reporter's ritual -- rolling our collected start sheets and flash quote pages into a firelog to burn in the condo fireplace.

MY COLLEAGUE Bob King of the Blogs Condotta is blogging as well, from inside the stadium (or so he says), right here.

CANADIAN athletes are wearing sweaters with a caribou or elk on front. Total ripoff of our moose hat in opening ceremony.

THE ATHLETES are filing in. Team USA looks depleted by about half. This is going to take a while.

FLAGBEARERS have entered. Billy Demong carries the stars and stripes, looking quite natty in Ralph Lauren. Joannie Rochette for Canada. Quite the Olympics for North America, eh?

ANOTHER COMMERCIAL. So, we were down in Whistler Village when Canada won the hockey game. Quite the scene. Wall to wall people, and soon as it ended, Blue Rodeo (or as known in Quebec, Bleu Rodeo) took the stage. Doesn't get any better than that if you're a Canuck. Pretty serious gulp went down when the U.S. got that last second goal, however.

O, CANADA being sung in boy/girl band fashion.

THE RIGHT HONOURABLE Prime Minister Stephen Harper has entered the building with IOC President Jacques Rogge. Rogge is wearing a "Chicago 2016' button. Just kidding.

AND NOW, ALREADY, a word from our sponsors. Speaking of which: Major sponsor throughout CTV's coverage here has been B.C. Tourism. I guess they want the rest of Canada to discover the West Coast. Shouldn't they be advertising on NBC? Maybe they got enough of America in the hockey tournament.

THE FLAME is relit by Catriona Le May Doan, the athlete who did not get to participate in the opening ceremony torch lighting because of technical malfunction.

NICE START: The Canadians poke fun at themselves, with a mime with a toolbelt coming out and "hoisting" up that fourth pillar that failed to materialize during the opening. Not a bad touch.

Hi folks,

Watching the closing ceremony live on CTV here in Whistler. Probably will have some thoughts.

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February 28, 2010 at 1:07 AM

Want to be a Winter Olympian? Here's where to start

Posted by Ron Judd

Some nice advice from Bob Condron, director of media services for the U.S. Olympic Committee, for youngsters looking for their own place on future podiums:

How to Be an Olympian: Where do you go? Who do you call? Where do you sign up?

Vancouver, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada-- An Olympic journey begins with a single step. It's that first one toward a goal that's the most important.

For every one of the medals earned by U.S. Olympians in Vancouver and Whistler, there was that first step on the frozen ponds of Minnesota, the ice sheets in Wisconsin, the rinks of Boston and the hills and jumps in Steamboat Springs.

They all asked those first questions about how to be an Olympian to a parent or a coach. How do I take that first step?

And the answers came.

"So you want to be a bobsledder, Steve? Do you know where Lake Placid is located?

"Well, Apolo, You want to learn how to skate? Vancouver is a pretty good place for a kid to learn.

"OK Lindsey, you might want to ski on that little hill in Minnesota?

"Shaun, you ought to learn how to spin around a couple of times, add a few twists and give it a good name, like the double MacTwist. Dude, that'd be Cool."

After watching the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler and reading about the heroes on the ice and snow, millions of kids in living rooms and back yards around America are asking the same questions.

"How do I get involved? How can I get on the United States Olympic Team."

If a soldier with six medals in the Army and a degenerative eye disease can pilot the USA bobsled to a gold medal in the Olympics, so can you.

`If a young African American skater from Chicago can win two gold medals in speedskating, you can too.

If a California skateboarder can be the best there has ever been in snowboarding, you can too.

You can be an Olympian. All it takes is a dream, some conviction...AND, most importantly, taking that first step.

And it doesn't matter where you live. There are hockey players from Simi Valley, Calif., speedskaters from Miami and Houston, bobsledders from Georgia. All found their way to Vancouver and the Olympic Games.

In this case, that first step is a phone call or getting online and checking out a website.

The U.S. Olympic Committee is made up of a variety of organizations, including Olympic sports federations, also known as National Governing Bodies. There are eight of these for Olympic Winter Sports.

These federations would love to get those youngsters involved in their sports. But, first you have to ask.

For all those kids interested in becoming the next Shani, Apolo, Shaun, Lindsey, Bode or Steve, take the first step. Get on a website and find out how to get involved. Make a phone call, go to the library.

One day you could be on that podium. Or you could just have fun in your neighborhood. Either way, you'll be a winner.

For that first step, pick a sport. Pick several sports and contact them. Here's a list to help you get started:

U.S. Biathlon Association
49 Pineland Drive, suite 301A
New Gloucester, ME 04260
207 688-6500 or 1-800-BIATHLO (242-8456)

U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation
1631 Mesa Ave. Copper building
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
719 634-5186

USA Curling
5525 Clem's Way
Stevens Point, WI 55482
715 344-1199

U.S. Figure Skating Association
20 First St.
Colorado Springs, CO 80906-3697
719 635-5200

USA Hockey
1775 Bob Johnson Dr.
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
719 576-8724

U.S. Luge Association
57 Church St.
Lake Placid, NY 12946-1805
518 523-2071

U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA)
1 Victory Lane, P.O. Box 100
Park City, UT 84060
435 649-9090

U.S. Speedskating
Utah Olympic Oval
5662 South Cougar Lane
P.O. Box 18370
Kearns, UT 84118
801 417-5360

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February 27, 2010 at 8:12 PM

Night train crew opens for Usher

Posted by Ron Judd

WHISTLER -- Out in the hallway at the media centre, just ran into Steve Holcomb and the Night Train Crew, fresh from tonight's medal ceremony in Whistler Village, packing that gold hardware.

The medals are pretty stunning in-hand. Holcomb, still wearing his, said the scene was awesome -- a huge crowd in the plaza.

"I think they were there to see Usher" (tonight's entertainment), he said.

But they got to see the world's best four-man bobsled team as part of the deal.

Speaking of nice moments: I liked this one, recounted by Night Train crewman Steve Mesler, who was asked if the team discussed the 62-year gold-medal drought in the event before they raced today:

"Never. Even at the top of the hill before the fourth run, we didn't sit there and talk about what we were going to do. We just relaxed and there was a moment where the four of us were standing there and everyone else had gone inside and we were the last ones there and it's a moment that I kind of stopped for a half a second and took it in. The four of us in an empty parking lot getting ready to go down the hill. I'll never forget that."

Another gold medal to a good bunch of guys.

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February 27, 2010 at 1:56 PM

Holcomb one run away from historic bobsled gold

Posted by Ron Judd

WHISTLER -- Park City's Steve Holcomb and his black "Night Train Express" sled are poised to break a 62-year U.S. drought today, with one run remaining in the Olympic four-man bobsled competition.

Holcomb, sliding first in the third run, extended his lead over Lyndon Rush of Canada and Andre Lange of Germany, whose perfect, 4-for-4 Olympic bobsled record is in serious jeopardy. Lange trails Rush by .09 seconds, and remains .54 seconds out of first.

Driver Holcomb and the Night Train crew of Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler and Curt Tomasevicz hold a .45-second lead over the Canadians. They are essentially one clean run away from the gold medal, which would be America's first in the event since the 1948 St. Moritz Games.

Warmer temperatures today appear to have slowed the track, perhaps making it safer. No sleds crashed during today's third run. Six sleds went upside down in yesterday's runs one and two.

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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider


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Final word from Whistler:

9:57 PM Feb 28 from
roncjudd profile

Live blogging the closing as done by CTV:

5:34 PM Feb 28 from
roncjudd profile -

4:05 PM Feb 28 from TwitPic
roncjudd profile

Clarification: Earlier tweet said Whistler sliding track "claimed another victim." I meant crash, not fatality.

6:25 PM Feb 26 from web
roncjudd profile

Holcomb of USA leads Can-2 by .40 after 2 runs in 4-man bobsled.

3:55 PM Feb 26 from txt
roncjudd profile

Napier appears ok but shaken.

3:32 PM Feb 26 from txt
roncjudd profile

sled no.6 driven by USAs Napier is 6th victim of xurve 13 today.

3:31 PM Feb 26 from txt
roncjudd profile

2 more craahes in 4-man bob 2nd run. 5 so far 2day.

3:16 PM Feb 26 from txt
roncjudd profile

NBC will show men's gold-medal hockey game live all time zones, 3 p.m. PDT Sunday.

2:19 PM Feb 26 from web
roncjudd profile

1st run bobsled complete: It's Steve Holcomb, USA-1, Lyndon Rush, CAN-1, and Andre Lange, GER-1. Only three bad crashes.

2:16 PM Feb 26 from web

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Blog roll and links The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information. Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site. Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription). News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions. Beijing Organizing Committee Web site. Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site. London 2012 Summer Games site. Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site. Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
Bellevue Olympian Scott Macartney's WCSN alpine ski-racing blog
Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.