The Kiwis' Olympic Debut
(My weekend readership is different from my weekday readership, so if you're checking in for the first time, this is a blog about cheese, the New Zealand curling team, ketchup-flavored salty snacks and possibly biathlon. And if that seems odd to you, imagine what my editors must be thinking.)
I assume most of you were getting live scoring updates on the New Zealand-Sweden match this morning, especially those of you who chose Sean Becker as the skip of your fantasy curling team. If not, a summary will follow in an hour or two. The sad truth is, the Kiwis were bested, 6-3, done in by a disastrous fifth end. But bear in mind that Peja "Peter" Lindholm's Swedish rink has won three world championships and is a likely semifinalist here. The Swedish skip and his front end--lead Peter Narup and second Magnus Swartling--have been together since their teenage years. The most recent addition to the team, third Tomas Nordin, arrived in 1991. That was 15 years ago. So a loss to Sweden bears no shame. (Scarily, I think everything written in the above paragraph is actually true.)
Anyhow, a quick backtrack. I made it home from the soccer festivities last night around 1:30 a.m. (more on that in a bit). I woke up at 6:30 a.m. this morning to grab a bus to the curling venue, the Pinerolo Palaghiaccio.
"All I can say is, if you're doing this voluntarily, you're an idiot," said my loving roommate, Les.
The curling buzz was greater in the breakfast room, where I met another fellow from New Zealand's One Sport. (If, for some reason, you weren't checking this site constantly over the weekend, please go back and read yesterday's entries. Thanks.) This chap, of course, knew of me and my blog. I asked what my chances were of riding this train to fame and celebrity in New Zealand.
"Based on curling and Mainland cheese?" he replied. "Dodgy."
The matches started at 9 a.m. local time, and with a 45-minute ride to the venue, I figured the big media crush would arrive for the 8 a.m. bus. I was wrong. There were six of us in total. The bus seated 49.
Luckily, a Brit from Reuters had a manual that explained some curling terms and rules, and I'm now virtually an expert. Many of the terms have real world applications. For example, The "Hack" is both the rubber starting point on a curling sheet and the name of a collection of hotshot Syracuse journalism graduates. The "Hog Line" is both the point by which a curling stone must be released and the buffet scene in most college football press boxes.
At the venue I met Jim Henderson, the managing partner of "Sweep! Curling's Magazine." (The only subscriber-based magazine devoted to covering the news, views and insights about the sport of curling in the world.) I asked about the Kiwis' chances.
"They're subscribers to my magazine," he said, reluctant to comment. But he eventually opened up. He said our boys have "a very outside chance" of making the playoffs. (There are 10 men's teams here; they all play each other, and the top four then make the playoffs.) He said Canada, the U.S., Norway, Switzerland, Great Britain and Sweden were all clearly better than the underdog Kiwis. Even Finland, he said, was likely better. He said the Kiwis would do well to finish eighth. Seventh would be a triumph.
"They live all over the island, they don't practice together, and this is the summer there," Henderson explained. "They've got everything going against them. How do they make the playoffs? If they do, someone else played terrible. Hell, they're happy to be here."
As am I, Jim, as am I.
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Posted by: Lorenzo | February 13, 2006 08:02 AM