Aileen Gallagher is writing about the Winter Olympics every weekday for The Sports Section. She is smart.
As children, it was possible to see ourselves in so many varied, disparate scenarios: detective, president, superhero, figure skater. Children watch athletic achievement and envision themselves. As adults we know too well the limitations of our bodies and temperaments, giving us the sharper perspective through which to view the exceptional performances of the Olympic Games.
We are in awe of the sheer brute mental and physical effort required to complete a 10-kilometer cross-country ski, like America's Bill Demong did in 24 minutes, 46.9 seconds. Johnny Spillane, who should fight crime in his off hours with a name like that, won silver in the same Nordic Combined event after 25.02 minutes.
Jeret "Speedy" Peterson wowed us with something called a hurricane, even though repeat slow-motion analysis did little to elucidate the three twists and five flips he did in three and a half seconds. We saw the potential for tangled skis and mangled limbs, but Peterson found a sky canvas on which to paint. He won the silver in the Freestyle Men's Aerials for his efforts.
The women's free skate resolved just as the short program did: gold for Yu-Na Kim of South Korea, silver for Japan's Mao Asada, and a bronze for Joannie Rochette of Canada, who again drove Scott Hamilton to tears. It is near impossible for the casual viewer to differentiate between performances at this level, and yet each skater left us with a distinct impression. Kim was buoyant and engaging, responding to the crowd with magnetism so great we thought she was smiling at us. Asada skated with such intensity we feared she could summon fire. Rochette's routine lacked the raw emotion of the short program, but every move was executed with a surety attainable only after years of training. You're the best! Around!
What to Watch This Weekend
Short Track Speed Skating: Men's 500-meters, Women's 1,000-meters
Snowboarding: Parallel Giant Slalom
Ice Hockey: Medal Games