Here we go with the Olympics, Vail |

Here we go with the Olympics, Vail

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky attends the unveiling of the Samsung Winter Games Pavilion Wednesday February 10, 2010 in downtown Vancouver just two days before the opening ceremonies of 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Tara Walton)

Sure, America thinks all these Winter Olympics sports happen only once every four years, but we know better.

Skiing, snowboarding, hockey and Nordic – also known as what we call daily life here – get center stage, as does, yes, figure skating, which I know people do here, but I just don’t get it. Forgive me.

Some thoughts as we head into the Games of the 21st Winter Olympiad:

• Who lights the torch? Hmm … Am I the only one who thinks this has got to be Wayne Greztky? The Games are in Canada. Hockey is Canada’s sport. He could run for prime minister at the drop of a hat. My money’s on TGO.

• Lindsey Vonn: First, she’s going to be OK. We’re talking about a lady who did a yard sale in training in 2006 in Italy, and was skiing two days later. The shin-bone injury is painful, no doot (in honour of our Canadian hosts), but remember she’ll have a week from her surprise announcement Wednesday until the downhill. The Vonn-ster does have super combined on Sunday and that will be our first indication of how she’s skiing. If she’s in serious distress, she should drop out of the SC, but don’t bet on that.

Another thing regarding Vonn – stop the hype now. The talk of Lindsey winning five medals or five golds is utterly absurd. As she has rightly said, “I’m not trying to be Michael Phelps.” It’s great that she’s on the cover of “Sports Illustrated” and so on, but the Michael Phelps scenario is totally inapt when it comes to alpine skiing.

Vonn is the favorite in the downhill and the super-G, and rightly so. That doesn’t guarantee anything because, well, ski racing is about the most impossible sport to predict. Did any of you have Carlo Janka, going into Birds of Prey in December? Who’s the defending men’s Olympic champion in downhill? You knew that it was France’s Antoine Deneriaz? Sure you did.

A reasonable expectation for Vonn is a medal of any color in downhill or super-G. Let’s leave the bar there.

• Yet another reason to like living here: It’s a regular afternoon in Vail and you find yourself sitting in a ski shop next to a four-time Olympian, while a few customers go by and realize that they’ve just bumped into an Olympian. Sarah Schleper just seems to be in the right place right now. She’s talking about the possibility of skiing next season. Good for her, but I’m rooting for her to do something special in the next two weeks.

• Hottest local going into the Games: Chris Del Bosco with three wins in four starts in skicross. We root for Canada in this sport, people.

• This brings us to NBC. Why is it that any athlete who competes in the Games must have had a family member die in a tragic combine accident in the last six months and is using the memory of that person to spur him or herself onto gold? Del Bosco has handled his past openly, patiently and with great class with the media. (Yeah, I’m totally biased here because I’m also a recovering alcoholic, but I’ve been tracking this for a year and I’d have killed somebody by now. So, good on Del Bosco.)

But he’s not the only one with a story. We’ll see a ton of this, er, stuff in the next two weeks. Spare us the melodrama and show us the sports, dammit.

• And show it live. None of the alpine will be live. I understand why the women’s downhill on Wednesday will be taped. It’s a weekday, although having the Games in British Columbia is the best setup for which a network could ask as far as time zones go. But why isn’t the men’s downhill on Saturday at 2 p.m. Eastern being shown live? Very weak.

• Obligatory plug: will have it.

• What will be live is hockey, and the tourney will be a dandy. Of the four major team sports in North America, hockey is truly the most international. The pressure is huge on Canada as the host and the United States because we keep on wanting 1980 redux.

We’ll have Battle Mountain hockey coach Gary Defina doing deeper analysis, but this is not going to be a North American affair. Russia has awesome goaltending. (OK, blatant Sharks bias coming out – Evgeni Nabokov.) Seriously, with Ovechkin, Malkin and the rest of the Kontinental Hockey League, watch out. Don’t forget Sweden, Finland, the Czechs and Slovakia.

• Sports I find oddly hypnotic: Curling, speed skating and short-track speed skating.

• Sports which should be on TV more: All Nordic stuff and ski jumping. (That was for Karl Hochtl.)

• Sport which I really like, but would like to watch in the Queen’s English: Snowboarding.

• And the sport about whose invention you wonder about the most: Two-man luge. Too weird.

Let the Games begin.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or

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