Olympic Observations – Bolt & Lezak

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With the summer Olympics at the half-way mark, here are some observations:

Track – Usain Bolt
After watching Usain Bolt shattering the world record with a 9.69 in the 100m, I realize I have been coaching the event all wrong. I always thought sprinters had to use their arms in the last 20 metres of the race. Apparently holding them out like wings while pounding the chest is faster. I can hardly wait to implement this new technique!

Swimming
Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals in swimming was a super story.

But the best race performance, for me, was watching his teammate, 32 year-old Jason Lezak on the final leg of the of the 4 x 100m freestyle relay.

Lezak was anchoring against the world record holder in the 100m freestyle, Alain Bernard, of France. Bernard had done some trash-talking before the race, stating that the French team would smash the Americans. As the race progressed and the final exchange took place, it  appeared that Bernard’s prediction would come true, as he entered the water almost body-length ahead of Lezak.

However, as the Frenchman raced down the pool, he edged too close to his lane line. Lezak, the canny veteran, realizing the mistake, edged over to their shared line and drafted behind Bernard, riding his bow-wave, like a dolphin with a ship.  It was a rookie error on Bernard’s part, and Lezak made him pay.

With 10 metres to go, Lezak, who had expended a fraction of the energy of the Frenchman, made his charge, head bobbing, legs thrashing and arms flailing furiously.  The move was so dramatic, that he almost appeared to lift out of the water. Lezak out-touched Bernard by 8/100th of a second after having swum the fastest relay leg in history.

It was something to see. Michael Phelps deserves the attention he’s receiving, but he owes his record of 8 gold medals to Jason Lezak.

There will be more Olympic observations in the next blog.

P.S. Bernard later redeemed himself by winning the 100m freestyle in a new world record.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]Olympics,Usain Bolt,Jason Lizak,swimming,track[/tags]

Downhill Skiing Video Is A Sure Adrenaline Rush

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The Winter Olympics have just been put to bed and with it the adrenaline rush you get from watching death-defying high-speed sports.

Two of my favorite events are downhill skiing and the giant slalom. That stems from the days of the Crazy Canucks, a group of Canadian downhill skiers who made Canada’s first impact into World Cup skiing in the 1970s and ’80s. During a sport psychology clinic in the 1980s, I remember watching a video of Dave Irwin. A camera was mounted on this Crazy Canuck and he was miked up so we could hear his self-talk as he plummeted down the mountain. It was exhilarating, frightening and gave me tremendous respect for these daredevil athletes. It also provided an inkling into the fear and doubt these athletes must overcome in order to perform their sport.

There’s a new video that reprises that early Irwin video. It follows legendary skier Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, an Olympic Champion in the Super-G in Vancouver and five-time World Champion in downhill, giant slalom, and super combined. The video is taken on a downhill course, the year after he suffered a season-ending injury due to a horrendous crash.

The camera work, some of it “Go-Pro” style is incredible. The sense of speed, danger and courage, and the mental games required to conquer the fear associated with downhill skiing is communicated wonderfully. The back-view of Svindal’s knees over his very narrow skis shows how fragile are the human beings who attempt to harness the brute power of these massive mountains.

It took me a few moments after watching this four-minute video for my heart rate to recover. And I only watched it… and I don’t ski!

It’s filmed in full 1080p. I’d advice you to select that setting, go full-screen and settle in for four minutes of adrenaline rush.

As physical educator, one of your jobs is to inspire your students to take up a sport and chase goals. This video might inspire one of your charges. And it might even teach them some Norwegian!

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To check out the PE Update.com website, click here
Physical Education Update

[tags]physical education,winter sports,downhill skiing,giant slalom,Olympics,Aksel Lund Svindal,In the Blink of an Eye,Crazy Canucks,Dave Irwin,skiing videos>[/tags]

Why the Olympics are So Addictive

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The Winter Olympics are over, and if you’re like me, you’re feeling a huge void in your life! That’s particularly true here in Canada, where Olympaholics like myself became accustomed to following the Games in the mornings, at the office, during meals, in the shower, and late at night.

It’s interesting, but for those 17 days, I completely forgot about the Toronto Raptors, a team I’d been following before the Olympics. Somehow, the struggles of the millionaire players on that squad seemed inconsequential compared to the efforts of the world’s snowboarders, curlers, nordic skiers, ice dancers,  skeleton racers, and bobsledders, many of whom live below the poverty line.

I was particularly interested in the efforts of two athletes, Canadian hockey player Rebecca Johnston and cross-country skier, Devon Kershaw. I coached them both in their high school days, when they were competitive runners in addition to being phenoms in their chosen sport.

They were both excellent runners, having won medals at the provincial, and in Rebecca’s case, the National Junior level (in the 400m).  I can take absolutely no credit for their Olympic success – they made wise choices in specializing in sports other than running. But it sure was fun watching them perform at the highest level, at our home Olympics, under the most intense scrutiny they’ll ever face.

Rebecca, a speedy forward on the team’s “energy line,” won a gold medal in hockey – Canada’s game- with every eye in the country watching her every move! At only 20 years of age, she played with incredible composure and was a threat to score every time she took the ice.

Devon helped put Canada’s men’s team on the map in cross-country skiing, placing a surprise fourth in the men’s team sprint (a two-man relay), then a shocking fifth in the 50km mass start – the most prestigious of the cross-country skiing events. Better known as a sprinter, he missed fourth by a photo-finish and a bronze medal by .5 of a second.

My favorite moment of the Games was Devon’s interview immediately after his race, when, exhausted and emotional, he was asked why he was so upset. He said, that it was a tough pill to swallow to have skied for two hours only to come up 1.5 seconds from a gold medal… Not the bronze, not a silver. but gold. What a mental shift from an athlete who went into the race ranked 27th, and before the Games would have thought a top-10 finish to be a dream result.

For me, that’s why Olympics are so addictive to so many. The pressure-filled atmosphere allows us a glimpse into both the athletic evolution and the true character of the athletes we observe, and if we’re lucky, with whom we’ve associated.

You can see the finish of Devon’s race and his interview at:
http://www.ctvolympics.ca/cross-country-skiing/results-and-schedules/event=ccm750000/phase=ccm750101/highlights.html

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]Winter Olympics,Olympic cross-country skiing,Olympic nordic skiing,,Olympic hockey[/tags]