The AnswersThatWork Blog

Friday, 21st February 2014

Adelina Sotnikova, A man who is still on his way back to Earth, and Elise Christie.

OK — let's get it out of the way :  I am mad about sport !

With that declared, it doesn't take much brain power to work out that the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics have been a heavenly period for me !

As with every Olympics or World Championships, there have been stories that define these Olympics.  For me, living in the UK, the 3 defining moments have been Elise Christie, Adelina Sotnikova, and Pierre Vaultier.

Elise Christie, a short-track speed skater from the UK, got disqualified in the Vancouver Olympics after having seemingly won a silver medal.  Same story here in the 500m. Then, in the 1500m, she easily finished first in her semi-final only to be called a DNF (Did Not Finish) because she finished on the inside of the track, outside of the timing line.  Then, in the semi-finals of her favourite event, the 1000m, she got penalised and was out of the final.  The UK press and social media has been full of sympathy for Elise Christie and outrage at the decisions.

I see things differently — to be disqualified in 4 races out of 4 over two Olympic tournaments is not bad luck.  If Elise Christie and her entourage keep thinking that it is bad luck then she will never win anything in her life.  All I can see is total incompetence. Make no mistake about this :  Elise Christie has fantastic talent, but she has incompetent coaching.  The story of Elise Christie over the last two Olympic Games is a story of incompetent coaches who have been unable to harness fantastic talent into a winning competitor.

There is a clear theme that runs through all of Elise Christie's disqualifications :  in the heat of the race she focuses only on herself and forgets about the rules.  It is the job of the coaches to realise this simple problem and coach Elise Christie into multi-tasking better so that she can become the winner that her obvious talent deserves.

Take the 500m :  short-track speed skating is actually quite simple — you are not racing on your own on the track.  Because of that, when you are overtaking you must respect the other person's space.  That is incredibly simple.  However, because of the nature of the sport where you can so easily slide or collide out of contention, it is also a sport where tactics and, above all, multi-tasking matter.  Elise Christie did not do that — deserved disqualification.

Onto the 1500m :  every short-track speed skater, and every coach, knows that there are sensors in the skates that must go over the finish line in order for a time to register. This is one of the most basic facts of the sport !  If you do not finish the race by crossing the timing line, even in first place as Elise Christie did, even if only 1cm outside that timing line, no time will be registered.  And time is as important as your place in the race because it determines in which lane you will start the next round.  It should therefore be no surprise to seasoned commentators that she was disqualified.  Instead, the UK press has been full of partisan "we-were-robbed" nonsense, and the BBC really did not cover itself with glory on this episode.  Imagine Usain Bolt running in Lane 1, breaking the world record, annihilating the other runners, but inexplicably finishing the race by hopping over into the inside of the track and outside of the finishing beam !  He would be disqualified, ridiculed.  The Elise Christie "incident" was no different to Usain Bolt going mad !

As for today, Elise Christie's favourite event, today's 1000m semi-final :  same problem as with the 500m. On the back straight that precedes the bend before she was taken out by the Chinese skater, Elise Christie who had been overtaking on the outside, changed lane as if the Chinese skater was invisible and not right on her shoulder on the inside.  Predictably, the Chinese skater had to move inside the track to avoid collision but then realised she would be disqualified herself if she skated inside the cones on the next bend, so moved back onto the track in order to make the bend without disqualification, but in doing so collided with Elise Christie.  Both skaters were penalised for their respective moves — in my view this was a terrible decision :  the Chinese skater should have been advanced to the final because Elise Christie would have been disqualified anyway, and she prevented the Chinese skater from having a chance to race without getting herself disqualified.  Elise Christie and her coaching entourage should re-watch the final — the Chinese girl who came second had the opportunity to do exactly what Elise Christie did, overtake and change lane, but she thought better of it, multi-tasked by remembering the rules, and finished second getting the silver medal rather than first place followed by a disqualification !!

The BBC, and the UK press, have been appalling in their coverage of Elise Christie :  pity will not help Elise Christie.  A coach who repeatedly says how he cannot understand the decisions of the officials, will not help Elise Christie.  What Elise Christie needs is to use all the goodwill the British people currently have for her and raise the money to help her change coach to go to the best coach available, wherever that coach is in our World, and then she will become a World and Olympic champion — at the moment she is surrounded by incompetence.  Coaching such a talent to 4 successive Olympic disqualifications is total utter coaching incompetence, and criminal !

Adelina Sotnikova.  I thought there was an element of destiny on the previous day when the Russian poster girl of the Games, Julia Lipnitskaya, fell in her short programme routine and, by contrast, Adelina Sotnikova instead used the crowd support to skate out of her skin to finish the day in second place barely half a point behind the favourite Yuna Kim.  And she simply carried that through in the free programme — Adelina was in that rare moment which some athletes experience from time to time in the history of sport, she could not do anything wrong.  She was going higher than Kim in all her jumps, every single one of her landings was perfect, she engaged the judges and crowd by waving at them in the middle of her routine, she performed more technical jumps and, throughout all of that, she was always smiling as if she knew she was unbeatable, culminating in a flood of tears at the end of her routine, knowing that she had skated the skate ....... of a Lifetime.  It was poetic !

Onto my favourite moment of the Olympics.  OK, Pierre Vaultier is a compatriot, point taken, but this was my favourite moment not because Pierre Vaultier is from France, but because of how he concluded his win in what is a totally mad and absolutely fantastic sport to watch, snowboard cross.  Asked how it felt to have one the gold medal, Paul Vaultier replied with :  "I don't know.  I took off at the last jump and I have not landed yet !"

Ahhhhhhh — Sport !!!


—— (TUT) SpaceMan




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