Another Week Of Olympic Wonder

If you want more thrills from the Winter Olympics, you're in luck. The Games in Vancouver are at the halfway mark, with another week left of skating and skiing, nationalistic pride and despair. Host Scott Simon talks with NPR Sports Correspondent Tom Goldman.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Scott Simon. Time now for sports.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: The Olympic Games in Vancouver at their halfway mark - another week is left of skating, skiing, occasional despair, and lots more beer commercials.

NPRs sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us from Vancouver. Morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN: Drinking a beer right now, actually, Scott.

SIMON: Well, you usually are.

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

SIMON: The earlier it is, the better. Listen, we can talk, begin with the incredible Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn, Chicagos own Shani Davis, who is having a great Olympics. My daughters are watching curling, Tom. Whats coming up there?

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: They are. Theyre looking at this rock that, you know, looks like a dead moose going down the ice and our girls are going - looking at the screen going: USA, USA, USA!

GOLDMAN: Well...

SIMON: The Canadians are cleaning up there, right?

GOLDMAN: To help your daughters, Im prepared to give an in-depth report on curling, but Scott, I just dont have a lot of time. So...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: There will be some teams sliding some rocks down a sheet of ice.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: And those rocks will be bumping into other rocks and the Canadians should do well.

SIMON: All right. Well, a perfect answer, Tom.

GOLDMAN: Got it? Okay.

SIMON: And more seriously, the funeral for the young Georgian athlete who died on the day of the opening ceremonies at the luge track is being held in Georgia today, I gather, looking at the wires even as we speak, and there have been more troubles at that track.

GOLDMAN: Oh, one of the black marks in these Olympics that wont go away. Number of crashes during the bobsled training have hit Switzerland particularly hard. Switzerland, one of the best countries at bobsled, had three sleds entered in the two men competition; now they are down to one because of injuries to athletes during training.

The International Bobsled Federation says its monitoring the situation. It also says high numbers of Olympic training crashes arent unusual. But you know, officials also admit the Whistler Sliding Center track is hard, its fast. A number of athletes in sliding sports say its dangerous. So yeah, still problems.

SIMON: There was even one athlete that used the phrase test crash dummies, wasnt there?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

SIMON: Canada proclaimed they were going to own the podium.

GOLDMAN: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: So far...

GOLDMAN: Kind of - hardly.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: As one U.S. - as one snarky U.S. snowboarder, Nate Holland, said: Canada can own the podium, we'll just ran it for the month. Owning the podium is the $110 million program designed to develop athletes and teams, so Canada can win the most medals in these games. The tally as Saturday began had the host Canadians with the total of eight; that puts them in fourth place but compared to the U.S. not so good. The U.S. has 20 medals, leading the count by far, not very neighborly of the United States. And Canada is having its troubles - whether its nerves or too much pressure to own the podium it could be. Yesterday, two medal-contending male Alpine skiers both fell in the mens Super G race, on their home mountain up at Whistler.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: And last night, a Canadian woman favored to win the skeleton, thats face first on a little sled, she finished fifth and cried during her interview. She said she felt like she let her country down. But there was a little bit of good news at the end of the day. Canada finished the day well with a gold in mens skeleton.

SIMON: And its going to be a big U.S.-Canada mens hockey game, all though I dont know how Americans and Canadians can play hockey without Russians and Swedes at this point.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: I mean theyre just not used to it.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, exactly. Theyre lurking in the background, Russia and...

SIMON: (Unintelligible) right?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, its a little hockey game, as in - little as in going to be watched by every single person in Canada. Hockey is Canadas sport. No matter what else happens in these games, if Canada cant win the hockey gold medal, especially the men's, the games will be judged harshly by the home country fans. So tomorrows game between Canada and the U.S. isnt for a medal but it will still be intense.

SIMON: So Tom, did the Olympic athletes watch Tiger Woods and his appearance?

GOLDMAN: You know, some did. I didnt get a complete poll. Ive read some tweets by Julia Mancuso, silver medal winning skier. Yeah, theres interest. But, you know, just as theres interest all over the world. But, you know, if people are looking for some special connection - Tigers an elite athlete. These Olympians are elite athletes. Its not there. Theres no real comparison. I mean, these athletes are the best at what they do. But most do toil in relative obscurity. And theres certainly not the entitlement here that that Woods talked about having all during his life. Everyone here is pretty focused on their 15 minutes of glory and fame. And they dont seemed to care about a guy who has way too much fame.

SIMON: Yeah. Go, Shani. NPRs sports correspondent Tom Goldman, thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: You bet.

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