August 07, 2012

London 2012 - The View from Here

When I was Canada's Assistant Chef de Mission for the 2008 Olympic Games, I basically had the run of Beijing. With my "Ac" accreditation, there weren't very many places I couldn't go. I spent most of each day in various sporting venues, cheering on Canadians wherever they were in competition. I think I got to see, in person, 12 of Canada's 18 medal-winning performances.

I'm now in London for the 2012 Olympics, but in a much reduced … or maybe I should say, focussed capacity. This time, I have the privilege of an "IF" accreditation, provided to me by the International Canoe Federation. It actually gives me a very similar level of access -- but only to a single venue. Around London, I'm basically just an Olympic spectator; but at the Canoe Sprint venue at Eton Dorney, I could wander pretty much where I please.

One of the places I have access to is the "Olympic Family" lounge, which is a warm dry room with comfortable seats, where VIPs can get served food, coffee, and other beverages. I always thought that "Olympic Family" in this context is one of the most opaque euphemisms at the Games, since these lounges are in fact quite exclusive -- athletes and their coaches, for example, are not admitted.

The Olympic Family lounge at Eton Dorney is unique in my experience, because it provides a view of the actual competition. In most of the OF (invitation to insert your own acronym definition here) lounges, the sporting competition is visible only on the television, accompanied perhaps by the muted roar of the crowd. At Eton Dorney, however, the OF Lounge has perhaps the best of all views of the race course, offering ground-level picture windows right onto the water. I took this photo of Mark Oldershaw's semifinal through one of the windows.

The crowds for the first two days of racing (preliminary heats) have been fantastic, full, and loud. I am expecting even more noise and more spirit tomorrow. It will be a big day for Canada at Eton Dorney, with two athletes in the Canoe Sprint "A" finals. I'm looking forward to seeing our 2012 Chef de Mission, Mark Tewkesbury, on site. And I'm looking forward to big performances from our team. Go Canada Go!

August 01, 2012

Almost there ...

Back in January, a group of CanoeKayak Canada volunteers and members of the canoeing family committed to Get Excellent in 2012, inspired by our Olympic athletes.

I have not provided regular updates on my exercise program, but it has been even better than I expected. We are now 11 days from the completion of that challenge, and tonight I am heading to London!

From my perspective in front of the television, these have already been a fascinating Games. Those of you who know me will not be surprised to find out that I have some strong opinions about the events so far.

I'll try to provide updates on my perceptions (and a few o those opinions, no doubt) on this blog over the next couple of weeks. And I'll definitely keep up with the daily fitness challenge! For those of you out there who are still committed -- or want to recommit -- let's shoot for something special for workout #224 on August 12!

March 19, 2012

Let's Blog About ... Burpees!

Mixed in with the CKC Excellence 2012 challenge, it seems quite a few members of the paddling community have joined in with the 115 Royal Burpee Challenge, launched by CrossFit to honour Royal Huddleston Burpee and the exercise he made famous.

What? You've never heard of Royal Huddleston Burpee?? Well, neither had I. In fact, I find it delightful that the burpee is named after a person — who knew?

The challenge, in a nutshell, is to execute an arithmetic progression of burpees, to be precise, {1, 2, 3, ..., 114, 115} burpees; with the suggested optimal timing to execute one element in the sequence per calendar day.

In somewhat less mathematical terms …

Athletes from around the world are joining CrossFit Advanced in the 115 Royal Burpee Challenge to honor of the man who made the burpee a household name: Royal Huddleston Burpee. Those who join us in the challenge will start with a single burpee on Feb. 11. On Feb. 12, the second day, we will do two burpees. On Feb. 13, the third day, we will do three burpees. We will continue adding a burpee to our daily workout until June 4, when we will do 115 burpees in honor of what would be Royal H. Burpee’s 115th birthday. Over the course of the challenge, athletes will do a total of 6,670 burpees.

Now, if you don't know what a burpee is … well, then I am not sure how you happened to wander onto this blog! But burpees are a very common dryland training exercise in the canoe-kayak community.

A burpee, which is similar to a squat thrust, is an intense exercise that combines a squat, a push-up and jump.

Here's what that looks like at my house:

OK, seriously, here's a pro from CrossFit showing how it's supposed to be done:

If you want to join the 115 Royal Burpee Challenge, you can sign up for the event on Facebook. It's not too late … the rules of the challenge state that make-up days are allowed:

The burpees can be spread out over the day, but each day’s required burpees must be completed before moving on to the next day. So if an athlete fails to do 10 burpees on Day 10, they must do 10 burpees the following day, plus the 11 burpees owed for that new day.

Since today is day 38, that means you would need to make up … 703 burpees. And then do today's. But on the plus side, the vast majority of the burpees in the challenge are still ahead of you!

Here's the rest of the story on the challenge and the origin of the burpee:

In the 1930s, Royal H. Burpee created a test that used burpees to measure agility and coordination for the U.S. military. The test was included in his book, “Seven Quickly Administered Tests of Physical Activity.”

Burpee (1898-1987), a World War I veteran, served as the overseas program director for the United Service Organization (USO) during World War II. Between the wars, he earned a doctorate in physiology from Columbia University.

A lifelong advocate of physical fitness, Burpee was also the executive director of Bronx-Union Branch of the New York City Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) from 1946 to 1964. He continued to be involved with the Greater New York YMCA until his death in 1987 in Easton, Pa., home of CrossFit Advanced.

While it’s not clear whether Burpee invented the exercise, or just made it famous with his test, the move is still being done today. This June 4 marks Royal H. Burpee’s 115th birthday, and CrossFit Advanced, led by owner Greg Tymon, thought it would be fun to celebrate the day in a unique way.

“The burpee is the king of all exercises,” Tymon said. “It takes coordination. It takes strength. Do more than a handful, and it takes endurance.”

Yet the burpee is also an exercise that does not require special equipment, or even a lot of space, he said. It’s a staple of CrossFit workouts, and is one of the best conditioning exercises around, Tymon said. In addition to CrossFit, burpees are still favorites of football coaches and military trainers everywhere.

…“I like to think if Royal Burpee were alive today, he’d be a fan of CrossFit,” Tymon said. “We certainly are a big fan of his.”

Burpee’s grandson, Royal H. Burpee III, who lives in Easton, will be invited to attend the grand finale of the Royal Burpee Challenge on June 4th.

February 19, 2012

P90X and Hip Replacement Recovery: a Highly Unscientific Study

We just got back from a week's ski vacation in Sunday River, Maine. I took a week's hiatus from P09X, meaning I suspended the program for a week after Sunday's X-Stretch. I counted the day's skiing as a workout from Monday-Friday, did an extra Yoga-X on Saturday after our drive home, and then completed the AMW run tonight before supper. Tomorrow morning I'll start Week 7 of the program, picking up where I left off. I'm looking forward to it!

The week of family skiing was marred by a fairly serious accident, as my mother was injured on the slopes during a lesson on Monday morning. She ended up being evacuated by the ski patrol and taken by ambulance to the hospital in Norway, Maine. She was diagnosed with a broken hip, and on Tuesday morning she had a full hip replacement.

By Tuesday afternoon she was already feeling infinitely better. Thursday she was discharged from the hospital and had dinner with us in our condominium. Friday and Saturday my dad drove her and her newly installed hardware back to Nova Scotia, where she is now recovering at home.

This is somewhat faster than a normal recovery time from a hip replacement. My mother will be 64 in July, and has suffered from aggressive rheumatoid arthritis since she was in her 30s. There is no doubt that both of those factors contributed to the severity of the break. But the doctors agree that what facilitated her recovery was her exceptional fitness. She has remained very active througout her life, in spite of her arthritis, and has spent the last few months doing P90X with my dad in their basement gym. She has much stronger muscles than the average hip replacement patient, and that's allowed her to get back on her feet in record time.

So if you are collecting reasons for keeping up this challenge — and for continuing the committment way beyond these 224 days — you can add that to the list.

Here's hoping that metal joint doesn't slow you down too much, mom!

February 05, 2012

Week Five Recap

The home gym can get a little steamed up on a cold morning.

The CKC New Years Fitness Challenge continues, and we're still going strong. It's not too late to join in! From my perspective, there was a lot to feel good about this week.

Week 5 of P90X brings the return of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, a result of what the creators call "muscle confusion." In essence, the program introduces a whole collection of unfamiliar exercises in week 5. It's not nearly as painful as week one, but it hurts ... "in a good way," as Tony Horton likes to say. Monday was one-arm pushup day. Wednesday was corn-cob pull up day (also known as "pterodactyl day" for those who haven't put Tony on mute just yet). It was the first week I did all the workouts in my home "gym" instead of a hotel, the first week I could more or less match Tony's crew on Ab Ripper X, and the first week I did more than 100 pull ups during the Legs & Back routine. I see from the CKC challenge page that Kim Crumpton is looking for a chin-up challenge … not sure that is a fair fight Kim, but I'll put that marker out there for now :-)

This week also felt like the first week of "real winter" in Nova Scotia. Saturdays are running days for me (I always skip the P90X Kenpo routine) and this weekend we were all in the New Glasgow area for a hockey tournament. I did get out at 7 a.m. for a slow 10k in bitter, snow-covered conditions. I've put the route on the map. By the way, I want to encourage challengers to use the map — especially those of you who don't live in the Halifax area, or those of you who are working out and travelling. Let's represent the geography of CKC's fitness more accurately! If you want to do it but don't know how, leave a comment!

January 27, 2012

Tip of the Day: Engage!

Four weeks into this fitness challenge, I have to agree with Julia: this is starting to feel great!

Like Julia, I haven't found it easy. I've been on 15 airplanes this month. I've done 9 of my 29 workouts while on the road, in two different US states and three different Canadian provinces. I'll add to all of those totals in February, no doubt. But I feel good about the fact that a daily workout is my new default mode: early in the morning, late at night, adapting to the location and the equipment available.

Benefit number one is that I'm starting to feel fit again, and I love that. I'm already measurably stronger than I was on January 1. And even though I'm not running very much, today I ran a strong time on one of my standard courses — still a few minutes off my personal best, but significantly faster than anything I've been able to do so far in 2012.

Benefit number two is a more positive attitude in general. That's probably not entirely attributable to the exercise, but I firmly believe that it helps. I'm definitely more motivated and more engaged at work today than I was when the year ended. I've also seen a difference at the rink, where I've got more energy to keep up with my kids and a more enthusiastic and positive approach to coaching.

But maybe the most surprising benefit of the challenge has been the conversation. For me, working out is at heart an antisocial activity. Although I enjoy playing hockey and I enjoy socializing at the canoe club, I don't really like fitness classes or the gym, and I don't seek out running partners on a regular basis. I've done 29 workouts so far this year, and I've done 28 of them either alone or with Kate.

But in the meantime, I've realized that the CKC Fitness Challenge has created a small network of people to share my progress with — and there are many, many more out there. Kate has joined in. My parents (who are both over 60) are three weeks into P90X. By talking about the challenge with others, I've found two more colleagues at work who are also doing P90X, another who has qualified for the 2012 Boston marathon, another who was a spare for the Canadian taekwondo team at the 1996 Olympics, and still another who has a personal objective to work out every day, to improve his fitness and his running times.

So let's keep that conversation going!

January 25, 2012

January 20 Fail

I have a confession to make.

No, that is not me on the rowing machine. My confession is that on January 20 (last Friday) I had my first miss in this New Year's Challenge. I spent a very long day travelling from Maryland to Halifax, including two separate flights that departed from Montréal, and didn't make it home until midnight. I will confess that I snoozed through my 6 a.m. alarm that morning, thinking that I'd be able to work out at home, and thereby missing my opportunity.

I did make up my P90X workout for Friday, but that doesn't change the fact that I missed a day.

Speaking of P90X, this is Week 4 — Recovery Week — which means a change in routine. On the travel schedule, it's been more of the same, I'm afraid; a two-day offsite in Wakefield, and another two-day visit to headquarters in Ottawa. I've added the latest location to the map.

January 19, 2012

Tip of the Day: Clear Your Mind

From today until Friday, I'll be working out at the Hampton Inn in Lexington Park, Maryland. There's not much in Lexington Park to draw anybody outside at this time of year, and there's not a great gym at the hotel. It's one of those hotel gyms that just barely meets the minimum requirements. On the other hand, I'll give Hamption Inns credit: if you have to put your "fitness centre" in a cramped, ground-floor room and you are extremely limited in your equipment choices, you could do a lot worse than the Star Trac Instinct Dual Adjustable Pulley system. I was able to improvise almost everything from the P90X Shoulders & Arms program on this single machine.

I also have to give Hampton Inns credit for their gym decor. I love the message to "clear your mind," one of the primary benefits of exercise and coincidentally Tony Horton's Tip of the Day for Yoga-X … which happens to be on the program for tomorrow.

January 16, 2012

Tip of the Day: Pace Yourself

I started the day in a fairly miserable state. After a terrible night's sleep, I ignored my 5:50 alarm and snoozed through my designated exercise time. On the plus side, that meant I could do my workout (after the kids were in bed) with my favourite training partner. (And no ... I don't mean Tony Horton. He's very reliable and all, but frankly we're not entirely compatible). And today was (finally) the day when I started to feel like the workouts were paying off. At the start of week 3, I am getting measurably fitter. Onward and upward!

View CKC Excellence 2012 Fitness Challenge in a larger map

Also, I've created a Google Map for the CKC Excellence 2012 challenge, so that my fellow challengers and I can capture all the different places we are working out. Since the group includes people from all across Eastern Canada (nobody publicly declared from the West ... are you out there?), I thought a map might be a neat way to capture some of the challenge geographically. Julia has already joined in! If you want to be added to the list of collaborators so that you can add your own favourite workout locations, drop me a comment to this post and I will add you.

January 11, 2012

On the Road

Day 10 complete and I still haven't missed a day. Hooray!

I suspect that when I eventually do miss a day of working out, I will have my busy travel schedule to blame. Some travel days make a real workout impossible. However, I am in D.C this week for some meetings, and I've been able to adapt my routine for this trip. The best way to do that is to stay in a hotel that has a great gym. I can report that the Courtyard Crystal City has an excellent gym, especially for a middle-tier hotel. (Unfortunately the WiFi is not as excellent, but that's another story.)

In this fitness challenge I've made extensive use of the iPod Touch Kate gave me for Christmas. I'm quite enjoying the P90X App, which schedules the workouts for the "Classic" program, and includes a tracking feature for all the strength workouts so that I can record the weight and reps and view the history (so far) right on my iPod. You can also separately purchase "guided workouts" for each routine that include mini-videos for each exercise.

Yesterday before supper I did the P90X "Plyometrics" routine, which is driven by a set of timed intervals. For that one I used the Seconds Pro app, which I higly recommend if you need to do any kind of complicated interval training. The "Pro" version allows you to create and save completely customized interval timers that you can use to guide your favourite workout. I have a Timex Ironman watch with a variable interval timer that is almost as flexible … but wristwatches are just so 20th century, aren't they?

Hard interval training, by the way, was always my favourite kind of workout when I was a real athlete. I am reminded that coach K_____ used to name his favourite interval workouts a la "Piece of Cake" … always one of our favourites. When I trained alone on a regular basis after I moved to California, that Timex Ironman interval timer came in really handy for this one.

Piece of Cake

120 seconds ON, 20 seconds OFF
60 seconds ON, 15 seconds OFF
30 seconds ON, 10 seconds OFF
20 seconds ON, 5 seconds OFF
10 seconds ON, take a few minutes. Repeat.
All done at faster-than-1000 metre race pace.

Maybe I'll work my way up to that one in time for racing season this year!

January 09, 2012


Technology is your friend. Or else it's your nagging conscience.

Well, that hurt.

Still hurts, actually, when I climb the stairs. Or sit down. But the worst part of the start-up suffering should be over, so maybe now is the right time to share a few perspectives on my new fitness challenge.

For 2012 I am joining Julia Rivard and 19 other members of the CanoeKayak Canada family in making a New Year's Fitness Resolution. My resolution is to work out every day from 1 January until the day of the 2012 Olympic Games closing ceremony. That's a total of 224 Workouts, as Julia has noted in her new blog about the experience.

Why are we doing this? I suspect that each of those 21 people had their own reasons for joining in. Julia's launch introduction is an eloquent statement about finding a way to reconnect with and pay tribute to the athletes on our Canadian team, and to join them in their quest for excellence. I also think that being an Olympian should come with a lifelong committment to physical fitness. And although I have not been entirely consistent in my own committment on that front, I'm looking forward to getting fit again. I did something like this once before, sticking to a once-a-day committment for 2008 and the first half of 2009. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was a great year and a half of my middle-aged life.

For days 2 through 91 of the challenge, I'll be doing the P90X "Classic" Program, with some minor customizations that I will probably mention at some point over the coming 13 weeks. This will be my fourth time through the drill with Tony Horton and friends, but the third time was quite a while ago. I start the program at 201.5 pounds, and (according to the black magic hidden in my wife's bathroom scale) a disheartening 20.5% body fat.

I am now safely through Week 1 without dropping the ball, although the week was not without its challenges. On January 4th, I departed for Ottawa at 7:15 a.m., worked until 5, worked out in the company gym, raced to the airport without showering, and arrived home just before midnight. Fortunately, I was upgraded to business class, so my neighbours didn't have to get too close. Jan 5th and 6th I started my workouts after 11 pm, for various reasons; that's not my favourite way to get this done, but sometimes it's unavoidable.

In case you are wondering what I did on Day 1, I executed my Alternative Minimum Workout (AMW), which is my own personal benchmark for whether I give myself a check in the workout box for any given day. Yes, I admit it: I find Julia's hour-a-day standard too strict. I am simply going to admit up front that I am not going to get that done every day. My personal AMW benchmark is a 4.5 km run that starts and ends at my house. On New Year's Day, in something less than peak physical condition, I ran that course in 21:30. By summer I will be doing it in under 19 (strenuous) minutes. I'm not going to shrink my daily exercise to that level, but I do think that counts as a workout.

The map for the AMW run can be seen here, courtesy of MapMyRun and my Garmin Forerunner 305. Since I tend to travel more than a little bit these days, I get to run in some interesting locations. I'll post some of my more unusual routes on this blog as I go. I'll also post here about the P90X program, my progress on the challenge, and some of the fitness technology I like. I know that this fitness venture is a bit of a change of direction for this blog, but then again it's been dormant for almost two years. I hope I can come up with a few interesting things to say. Who knows … maybe with my new fitness I'll find the energy to write a few things about Olympic and amateur sport again!

P.S. It turns out that today marks 200 days remaining in the countdown to the Opening of the 2012 Olympic Games. And a CanoeKayak Canada Olympian, Kristi Gauthier, was at the British Consulate in Ottawa to help the High Commissioner mark the occasion. Go Kristi Go!

February 28, 2010

2010 Olympics - Day 16

If there was ever a time for the Svein Tuft award, today was the day. Actually, I am thinking of changing the name of the award.

In case you missed it this afternoon — and there was some other big news today about some kind of hockey game that was going on in Vancouver — Devon Kershaw finished fifth in the men's 50 km mass start event in cross country.

The 50 km race is considered the event of the Olympics and always has a star-studded field. Finishing ahead of Kershaw were defending world champion Petter Northug of Norway (bib 1 in the photo above), with his fourth medal of these games; Axel Teichmann of Germany (6), with his second; and Johan Olsson of Sweden (18), with his third. Kershaw (28) finished 1.6 seconds behind the winner (Northug), in a photo finish for fourth place with Tobias Angerer of Germany (19), a four-time Olympic medallist and the 2009 world championship bronze medallist in this event.

Canada had never finished better than Kaare Engstad's 16th-place in the 50 km in 1932.

Immediately after the two-hours-plus race, Kershaw commented that to finish one and a half seconds behind the Olympic champion "stings." I hope the sting has worn off by now, because this is a performance to be congratulated, not bemoaned. The whole men's cross country team has shown this week that it is a contender on the international stage, and Kershaw's result was a great finale to a week full of milestones.

February 27, 2010

2010 Olympics Week 2

I've been a negligent blogger this week due to other committments; but to be honest I've been enjoying my role as an Olympic spectator a lot more since I stopped writing about my medal prediction every day.

I promise (threaten?) that I'll have lots more to say when the Games are over about Own the Podium, the team's overall performance, and the post-mortem on my medal prediction. For the moment I am just going to give the last remnant of the prediction.

Now that we're down to the last two days of competition, and with Canada's (medal or non-medal) fate already decided in a few of the events, I don't really have the statistics of "large numbers" on my side. As a result, some of the numbers here are a bit meaningless.

Nevertheless, here they are. With teams already in the men's curling gold medal game, the men's hockey gold-medal game, and the men's speed skating team pursuit, team Canada is guaranteed to take at least 24 medals. I am showing the most likely number as 25 (45%), followed by 26 (30%). (The two best chances are in the four-man bobsleigh, and the men's snowboard parallel giant slalom, both today.) Altogether, there is an 83% chance that Canada will set a new national record for total number of medals at a Winter Olympics.

Canada has already set a new national record for the most gold medals won at the Winter Olympics, with 10. The previous best was 7 in Salt Lake City and Torino. I have not been able to confirm this, and I have not seen it written anywhere else — but as far as I have been able to determine, Canada has never won more than 10 gold medals in any Olympic Games, summer or winter. The previous highest total was 10 at the boycotted 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

February 22, 2010


The teachers and students at my son's elementary school are having a two-week celebration of the 2010 Winter Olympics this month. Each classroom has been "assigned" a Winter Olympic nation to follow, cheer for, and learn about. Last Thursday I was in to visit with one of the primary classes. I had a great time talking to the kids about the Olympics.

The inuksuk pictured at right is installed in the school's foyer.

In some ways, I have never been much of a Believer. I am trained to be something of a skeptic. I have, for example, at different times over the past five years, expressed various levels of disBelief that Canada could Own the Podium in 2010.

After nine days of competition, it's even more difficult for me to Believe that the Canadian team is going to win more medals than any other nation at these Games (despite the reassurances of people I respect at the COC). I Believe in numbers, and frankly, the numbers aren't looking too good. If you are in the business of counting Canadian medals at these Games, things are looking pretty grim.

In spite of all that, I still choose to Believe — and to hell with CTV The Canadian Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium and their official "broadcast theme song."

What I Believe — and what I love about the Olympic Games — is that every time I sit down to watch an Olympic competition, I am going to see the athletes performing in a way they have never performed before. I Believe, in particular, that Canadian athletes are going to show that they are among the very best in the world.

Sometimes, that Belief hurts. It is never easy to see an athlete's day end in misfortune or missed execution. Over the past three days, there has been enough Canadian misfortune and missed execution to fill a newspaper. It might be enough to make some people abandon their Belief.

But not me. Tonight, when I sit down on the couch to watch the Olympics again, I will choose to continue to Believe. And my reward will be to experience those moments when my favourite athletes achieve something I never expected — but Believed in anyway. If I ever lose that Belief, then I will have lost the best part of a sports fan's Olympic experience.

The truth is, there is no reason to think that an athletic misfortune yesterday will lead to another disappointment today. There are hundreds of athletes at the 2010 Olympic Games who have not yet had their last chance to compete. Those athletes, their coaches, and their families and friends still Believe. They Believe in themselves and the moment still in front of them. I'm going to be Believing right along with them.

February 21, 2010

2010 Olympics Day 8: Is Canada a Cross Country Country?

I admit it — lately I've been getting a bit down about Canadian results at the 2010 Olympics. But I don't want to forget about the great things that happen, just because they don't end in a podium ceremony.

On that note, yesterday's results in the cross country, the men's 30 km double pursuit, were a highlight of these games so far.

So the Day 8 Svein Tuft of the Day goes to the Canadian cross country ski team. In yesterday's race, Canada placed three men in the top 10 and four in the top 16. Ivan Babikov, previously highlighted here, finished fifth, nine seconds behind the winner. George Grey finished eighth, Alex Harvey was ninth, and Devon Kershaw finished in sixteenth place.

Although the double-pursuit format is relatively new to the Olympic Games, Canada's previous best-ever over 30 km was by Alex' father Pierre, a 14th place in 1988.

February 19, 2010

2010 Olympics Day 6: Defiant Fatigue

The COC issued this flash quote from Canadian biathlete Megan Tandy after the 15 km race on Day 6:

I felt pretty decent on the ski trails, defiantly fatigued on the last loop though.

To all my friends on the Mission Team: I wish you defiance in your fatigue as you start Day 7!

On another somewhat superficial note, Canada witnessed another one of Maëlle Ricker's talents tonight. If you didn't hear it, the Snowboardcross Olympic champion stepped into the CTV broadcast booth for a chat and started giving great commentary on the half-pipe competition she was watching. She sounded like a pro.

The usual medal table and picture are presented below. Day 7 is looking like a great chance to get on the "plus" side of my original prediction, and also a great chance for the Whistler team's first medal. For those of you in North America who are supposed to be working today, I'll point you to the great Vancouver 2010 official web site, where (for example) you can monitor live race splits in progress in the Men's Super G this afternoon.

I also love the GeoView presentation of the 2010 Athletes.

Sport Event Athlete Category Result Impact
Initial Prediction         27.05
Day 1         -0.75
Day 2         +0.45
Day 3         -0.50
Day 4         +0.00
Day 5         -0.70
Speed Skating - LT 1,000 m - W Nesbitt, Christine Lock GOLD +0.10
Speed Skating - LT 1,000 m - W Groves, Kristina Outside 4th -0.10
Figure Skating Singles - M Chan, Patrick Possibility 5th -0.35
Snowboard Halfpipe - W Nicoll, Mercedes Outside 6th -0.10
Alpine Ski Super Combined Brydon, Emily Outside 14th -0.10
Day 6         -0.55
Current         25.00

February 18, 2010

2010 Olympics Day 5

Unnoticed Noteworthy Performance for Day 5

For Day 5 I had a tough time finding an unexpected, non-medal, overachieving performance for Canada. It was one of those days. Due congratulations to Marianne St. Gelais for her silver in the short track 500 m yesterday, but the medal disqualifies her from consideration.

I'm going to name two co-recipients for yesterday. Both of them probably had dreams of getting on the podium, and missed; nevertheless I think that the performances were noteworthy and overshadowed.

Whistler native Britt Janyk finished sixth in the women's downhill yesterday, the best Canadian result in the premier alpine event since 1994. American Lindsey Vonn absolutely dominated the field, with her teammate Julia Mancuso the only competitor to come within a second of her time.

The second co-recipient for Day 5 is short track speedskater Jessica Gregg. Gregg did not have a great race in the 500 m final last night, but she got into the final by being great in the preliminary rounds. She finished fourth after a restart. Gregg will turn 22 in March, and is in her first Olympic Games.

Medal Prediction

Alright, I know I'm falling behind! It's nice to know that somebody's reading … even if it is to nag.

Canada "lost" another 0.7 medals yesterday, compared to my prediction. The short track women's 500 m was a good chance for two medals, so to win one was not enough to boost us back over my predicted pace.

I suspect that there are a number of Canadians starting to think that reaching the top of the medal table is going to be very tough. I agree. In fact, I agreed from the outset. To add to that feeling, the US team has exceeded my expectations a bit. However, there is still lots of reason to think that the highly-publicized Own the Podium goal can be achieved.

First of all, let's look at my own prediction. It's true that so far the team is tracking a little bit under my initial prediction, as shown in the figure at the end of this post. But don't forget that I have tended (in the past) to be pessimistic about Canada's chances. And even according to my prediction, after the results of day 5 our chances of reaching 30 medals or more has decreased from about 25% to about 9%. A couple of days of winning two medals per day would recover essentially all of what's been "lost."

Second, let's look at some of the other predictions that were made before the Games. As previously noted, the Associated Press predicted that Canada would win 30 medals, and that they would have won 7 by the end of day 5. So we're only "down" by one on that front. Sports Illustrated also predicted 30 medals, but only six by the end of day 5, so we're even on that one. And the Canadian Press predicted a ridiculous 37 medals for Canada — remember that nobody won more than 29 in Torino — so the fact that we're "only" at six compared to the 10 predicted by Day 5 is not that disturbing.

In short, there are still lots of ways that Team Canada can get to 30 medals. I don't know for sure if that will be enough. As I said above, the US team is lapping the field at the moment. In Torino they "only" won 25 medals and they are going to have more than 15 medals after Day 6 this time. But I can say that Canadian experts fully expected to get their biggest medal surge in the last few days of the games.

Sport Event Athlete Category Result Impact
Initial Prediction         27.05
Day 1         -0.75
Day 2         +0.45
Day 3         -0.50
Day 4         +0.00
Alpine Ski Downhill - W Brydon, Emily Possibility 16th -0.35
Alpine Ski Downhill - W Janyk, Britt Outside 6th -0.10
Speed Skating - ST 500 m - W Roberge, Kalyna Strong 6th -0.65
Speed Skating - ST 500 m - W Gregg, Jessica Outside 4th -0.10
Speed Skating - ST 500 m - W St. Gelais, Marianne Outside SILVER +0.90
Speed Skating - LT 1,000 m - M Morrison, Dennis Outside 13th -0.10
Cross Country Ski Sprint - W Renner, Sara Outside 34th -0.10
Cross Country Ski Sprint - W Crawford, Chandra Outside 26th -0.10
Snowboard Halfpipe - M Lamoureux, Justin Outside 7th -0.10
Day 5         -0.70
Current         25.55

February 16, 2010

2010 Olympics Day 4

Svein Tuft of the Day for Day 4: JP Le Guellec

It was a bit tricky to find an unnoticed noteworthy performance today, but in the end I had to give it to Jean Philippe Le Guellec for the second time.

I didn't see any of it, but it sounds like Le Guellec had a very weird day. He officially finished eleventh — a very respectable finish on its face. But in fact, Le Guellec was fifth to cross the finish line. As I discussed on Sunday, Le Guellec was supposed to be the sixth athlete to leave the start line in today's 12.5 km pursuit. Instead, due to a starter's mistake, he left fifth, about 30 seconds before he was supposed to. He crossed the finish line in fifth place, but after a post-race adjustment to correct for the error, he ended up eleventh.

"The guys just let me out too soon. Why, I don’t know," said LeGuellec, 24, of Quebec City. "I was just like, well, if worse comes to worse I’ll be disqualified or there’ll be a time adjustment. Whatever, do your race, have fun and that’s what happened."

After 2.5 kilometres and five-out-of-five shooting, LeGuellec appeared to be in second place. But his coaches were scrambling to make sure he knew he really wasn’t, that 30 seconds had to be added to his score. At the end of the race, with a decent 18-for-20 shooting, LeGuellec seemed solid for fifth, with no one in his sights behind him. He slowed down at the end to acknowledge the boisterous crowd.

But when he crossed the finish line and organizers added the 30 seconds to his time, he dropped to 11th.

"I am upset," said LeGuellec. "I came in fifth and I’m 11th. There’s nothing much we can do, it’s done."

LeGuellec forgave the official who let him go early. "You can’t blame the guy. With the hype of the Olympics and everything, there’s things that can happen," said LeGuellec.

Jean Philippe gets extra credit for handling the offical's error with such equanimity.

Medal Prediction

Nothing much happened to my medal prediction today. Maëlle Ricker's gold medal gave my prediction a boost of 0.35, but Dominique Maltais' fall took it away. My prediction still stands at 26.25 medals (the update table is at the end of this post).

Since there's nothing that interesting to report about my prediction today, I thought I might look at progress so far in a different (and more optimistic) way. As I noted in my original prediction, there were three major media organizations that also made medal predictions on an event-by-event basis. How are they doing so far at predicting Canada's results?

The Associated Press predicted 30 medals for Canada. They were wrong about Charles Hamelin in the short track 1500 m, wrong about Manuel Osborne-Paradis in the alpine downhill, and wrong about Dominique Maltais in women's snowboardcross. They also missed Kristina Groves in the long track 3000 m, and Mike Robertson in the men's snowboardcross. So the AP predicted that Canada would have six medals by now, an overestimate of one.

Sports Illustrated also predicted 30 medals, and was also wrong about Osborne-Paradis. They also missed Mike Robertson, and Alexandre Bilodeau. So SI predicted that Canada would have four medals so far, an underestimate of one.

The Canadian Press predicted the astonishingly high total of 37 medals for Canada. They were wrong about Hamelin, Osborne-Paradis, and Maltais. They missed Mike Robertson, too. The CP predicted that Canada would have seven medals so far, an overestimate of two.

Sport Event Athlete Category Result Impact
Initial Prediction         27.05
Day 1         -0.75
Day 2         +0.45
Day 3         -0.50
Snowboard Snowboardcross - W Ricker, Maëlle Strong GOLD +0.35
Snowboard Snowboardcross - W Maltais, Dominique Possibility 20th -0.35
Day 4         +0.00
Current         26.25

February 15, 2010

2010 Olympics Day 3

Svein Tuft of the Day for Day 3: Ivan Babikov

My pick for Team Canada's unnoticed noteworthy performance of the day is cross-country skier Ivan Babikov.

Babikov finished eighth in the men's 15 km free this morning. He was eighteen seconds (in a thirty-three minute race) behind the bronze medallist. Canada's previous best result in the 15 km event was a fourteenth place by Pierre Harvey in 1988.

Harvey's son, twenty-one-year-old Alex Harvey, finished 21st in his first Olympic start.

Medal Prediction Update

I had a few complete misses in today's results — the first of these Games. I had pegged Rob Fagan as having an outside chance at a medal in snowboard cross, but I had not identified Mike Robertson, today's silver medalist. A few more of those surprises will probably have to happen over the next two weeks if Canada is going to get to the top of the medal table.

Conversely, I had picked Devon Kershaw with an outside chance at a medal in the men's 15 km cross country race. It appears that he didn't enter the event. Oops.

I had picked the men's downhill as a strong medal chance for Canada, and the pairs figure skating as a possibility. So despite Robertson's great result, my predicted total has gone down again today.

As a brief editorial comment, I should say that I loved watching the snowboard cross today. The course seemed to be set up to enable lots of passing and lead changes, unlike what I remember from Torino. I was on the edge of my seat through every round.

Canada's great medal chance for Day 4 is in women's snowboard cross. Of course, if today proved anything, it's that anything can happen in snowboard cross. It should be exciting!

Sport Event Athlete Category Result Impact
Initial Prediction         27.05
Day 1         -0.75
Day 2         +0.45
Alpine Ski Downhill - M Osborn-Paradis, Manual Strong 17th -0.65
Alpine Ski Downhill - M Guay, Erik Outside 5th -0.10
Alpine Ski Downhill - M Dixon, Robbie Outside 60th -0.10
Cross Country Ski 15 km Free - M Kershaw, Devon Outside DNS -0.10
Snowboard Snowboard Cross - M Robertson, Mike None SILVER +1.00
Snowboard Snowboard Cross - M Fagan, Rob Outside 5th -0.10
Speedskating - LT 500 m - M Gregg, Jamie Outside 8th -0.10
Figure Skating Pairs Davison and Dubé Possibility 6th -0.35
Day 3         -0.50
Current         26.25

February 14, 2010

2010 Olympics Day 2

Svein Tuft for Day 2: Jean Philippe Le Guellec

Jean Philippe Le Guellec, ranked 33rd in the World Cup sprint standings in biathlon, finished sixth in today's 10 km sprint event. The previous best-ever for Canada at the Olympics was an eighth-place finish by Steve Cyr in 1992.

It seems that Le Guellec was considerably smarter about his chances in this event than most of the pundits. Here's his take on the Whistler course, taken from an interview in the Province that ran this morning:

Just the trail here and the whole way the system is set up is that anything can happen. When you look at results, even on the World Cup, you can see the top 60 athletes and if three-quarters had shot one more target, they'd be on the podium or in the top 10. It's that drastic.

Le Guellec missed one of ten targets today. The order of finish in the sprint now determines the start order and interval in the 12.5 km pursuit event, which runs on Tuesday. In the pursuit event, racers are assigned staggered start times — in this case, based on the results of today's sprint — and the first competitor past the finish line is the winner. If you've never seen this, its very dramatic. Le Guellec will start in sixth position, 50 seconds behind the leader. Many of the event's biggest names will be starting behind him.

Honourable Mention: Sam Edney

When I first heard about Jean Philippe Le Guellec's result today, I thought the Svein Tuft for today would be a no-brainer. But luger Sam Edney had a great day, too.

Edney was 11th after run 1, 10th after run 2, and 8th after run 3. On run 4, he had the third-best time, behind only the powerhouse Germans, to vault into seventh place. That's a best-ever Olympic result for Canada in men's luge.

Medal Prediction

Of course Canada had a good day today overall. Kristina Groves picked up a bronze medal in the women's 3,000 m, and Clara Hughes finished 5th. And it was a super night at Cypress, with Alexandre Bilodeau winning Canada's first gold medal of these Games — or of any "home" Olympic games. Joining Bilodeau in the top 5 were Vincent Marquis and Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau, who were sitting 1-2 with four skiers to go.

The medal prediction has shifted upward since yesterday, and is still down slightly overall. The data are in the table and figure below.

Sport Event Athlete Category Result Impact
Initial Prediction         27.05
Day 1         -0.75
Freestyle Ski Moguls - M Bilodeau, Alexandre Strong GOLD +0.35
Freestyle Ski Moguls - M Marquis, Vincent Possibility 4th -0.35
Freestyle Ski Moguls - M Rousseau, Pierre-Alexandre Outside 5th -0.10
Speed Skating - LT 3,000m - W Groves, Kristina Possibility BRONZE +0.65
Speed Skating - LT 3,000m - W Hughes, Clara Outside 5th -0.10
Day 2         +0.45
Current         26.75