Winter Olympics So Far

With the Winter Olympics in full swing, DAILY GUIDE SPORTS takes a retrospective view of the first six days of the most significant winter-based

competition in the world and looks forward to the rest of the event.

Fireworks exploded over the dazzling Olympic flame at the opening ceremony at the 55,000 seat BC Place Stadium, Vancouver last Friday to set the tone for the historic event.

The XXI Winter Olympics will continue till next Sunday and considering the ups and downs of the competition, it is amazing to think that it is only half way through.

Currently leading the medals table is Germany with nine medals, three of which are gold. However, the US and France are hot on their heels with eight and seven respectively.

Eighty-two (82) countries and almost 3000 athletes are taking part in 15 sporting disciplines. One of those is Ghana’s debut entrant, Kwame Nkrumah Acheampong.

Last month, DAILY GUIDE SPORTS brought readers an exclusive interview with Ghana’s first ever representative to the highest level of winter sports in history.

He has unsurprisingly caused quite a stir in international sporting circles.

Also known as the ‘Snow Leopard’, Nkrumah-Acheampong is currently training hard for his event, the climactic ‘Men’s Slalom’, which will take place on the 27th February, one day before the closing ceremony.

He is currently commanding a cult following in Vancouver and one Canadian newspaper, ‘The Montreal Gazette’, described the excitement surrounding Ghana’s appearance as “eclipsing all other countries”.

Ghana’s qualification was a welcome surprise to the sporting community. Other unexpected successes have also awed sports fans and emphasised the brilliant human aspect that adversity and merit in sport can offer.  

Chinese competitors and Figure Skaters, Zhao Hongbo and Shen Xue, came out of retirement at the ages of 36 and 31 respectively to give Olympic glory one last try.

They won gold yesterday and have instantly become an inspiration to older athletes worldwide. In a physically demanding sport where agility is key and 25 years is considered ‘over the hill’, their graceful success is astonishing.

They also ended the 46-year domination that Russia has commanded over the sport.

Vincent Jay, a French soldier and a first-time Olympic underdog also shocked fans with his win in the 10 km Biathlon Sprint.

On a different note, The XXI Winter Olympic Games, like many a previous game, has been subject to tragedy, with the death of 21-year-old luger and Georgian competitor Nodar Kumaritashvilli.

The luge is a sport whereby competitors hurtle down an iced track on a one-person sled, reaching speeds of up to 100 mph. Lying down feet-first for streamline and speed, athletes steer using the muscles in their back.

Kumaritashvilli died after losing control of his luge during training last week. He flew off the track and smashed into a track-side pole at the high-speed last-turn known as the ‘thunderbird’.

Following Kumaritashvilli’s death, doubts were expressed over the safety of the track and words of cancelling the entire luge event were uttered.

In response, the men’s start, which is higher up the track, has been moved down to the same starting point for the women competition to reduce the speeds reached.

There is still ten days worth of Winter Olympics left. At this mid-point stage, excitement is possibly at its peak. A closing ceremony will take place on the 28th February.

The Winter Paralympics will start soon after, as is the case with the summer event and then the responsibility will be handed via the torch to Sochi, Russia for the next games, in 2014.  

By Adam Coe