Rings and rinks: Silliest moments from Vancouver

A look at the crazier side of the Olympics

We're sure these costumes seemed like a good idea at one point, but...really?
We're sure these costumes seemed like a good idea at one point, but...really? (Getty Images)


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By Linda Przygodski, Lynn Rutherford and Amy Rosewater, special to
(03/02/2010) -'s team on the ground in Vancouver, Linda Przygodski, Amy Rosewater and Lynn Rutherford, pen all the tidbits from the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

"You can't make this stuff up"

We've never quite understood that term; you can make stuff up all day long, but one of the beauties of figure skating is you usually don't have to. Now that the 2010 Olympics are in the books, here's a look back at some of the moments of temporary insanity.

Blanketed in controversy
This summer, Natalia Linichuk took a look at the ISU's list of possible folk genres for this season's original dance. In a burst of inspiration we're sure she regrets, the ice dance diva selected an Aboriginal theme for Russian world champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin.

At first, the outcry was limited to a few hardy souls who saw the team perform at Russian nationals. But when the couple showed up at the European Championships in Tallinn in January -- sporting dark body stockings, white markings and greenery -- the eucalyptus leaves really hit the fan.

Australian Aboriginal leaders -- surprisingly well-informed about the goings-on in the Eastern European ice dance world -- complained that the Russians were usurping their culture with poorly researched costumes and movements. Once in Vancouver, a nonplussed Linichuk showed the media photos of Aboriginal dancers, with attire and paint markings looking very much like her skaters.'

The coach claimed her team didn't mind the criticism, which included coverage everywhere from Yahoo! Sports splash page to the high-falutin' New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

"We say thank you for the huge attention," she said.

Blanketed in controversy II
Short of Adelaide, the Russians could not have found a worse city to display their dance; Vancouver has a large indigenous Canadian population, and with protests such as "No Olympics on Aboriginal Land!" already on the march, they stood as ready to be offended as the Australians.

Thinking quickly, Linichuk arranged a meeting with leaders of Canada's First Nations. The two groups exchanged traditional gifts, and the Russians came away with traditional white, red and black blankets, which Linichuk and her skaters -- we're guessing Linichuk's husband and coaching partner, Gennadi Karponossov, just said "Nyet" -- draped across themselves in the kiss-and-cry and mixed zone after their OD.

"They said [the blankets] should cover our hearts and keep us from any bad things," Shabalin said.

The blankets worked, to a point. Domnina and Shabalin did come away with a bronze medal but were unable to match the performances of two younger North American teams, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Meryl Davis and Charlie White

Belbin and Weir are roommates, oh my!
The days leading up to the Games must have been a slow news cycle. One of the most searched stories on the Internet was Tanith Belbin's revelation that she and Johnny Weir were Olympic roommates.

"It's beautiful; there are aromatic candles, and he had Audrey Hepburn posters and motivational quotes on the wall," Belbin said. "And in the bedroom, he put away all my clothes. ... He told me he didn't have time to find Cher [posters]. But he hoped to be able to get out and shop for those later."

Late-to-the-party reporters couldn't get enough of this tidbit. By the time the ice dance event rolled around, we were so tired of questions about the roomies, we felt like snuffing out Tanith's candles.

We're sorry, so sorry
Despite the best efforts of Mr. Takeuchi of Kyodo News, who acted as press attaché here for the Japanese Skating Federation, the press conference with Japanese contenders Mao Asada, Miki Ando and Akiko Suzuki, held a few days before the ladies' short program, started one hour late. A thick crowd of fans, with a dash of protesters thrown in, delayed the skaters' motorcade.

"I am very sorry; the cars are still five miles away," Mr. Takeuchi said, followed at five-minute intervals by:

"They are coming up to the press center."

"They have turned the corner."

"The cars have arrived in the garage."

"Miss Asada is here, but the other two skaters are still on they way."

When the press conference finally began, many of the North American reporters were missing; they had left to cover some big short track events that evening. And all three skaters used half of their opening remarks to apologize for the delay.

Stop that woman!
Frank Carroll, a veteran coach of 10 Olympics, finally won gold here with Evan Lysacek. But, according to him, a friendly volunteer almost scuppered his skater's chances.

"Evan really got his skates nicked," he said. "Because he was [in the mixed zone] so long, he took his skates off and some woman took them, and said: 'I'll hold them.' She . . . banged the blades together. This was after the short program, and they had a huge, big burr and dent in the left [skate]. . . what if he couldn't fix them?"

The venerable, 70-something coach cringed at the memory, perhaps imagining his last best chance at Olympic gold being clanked away.

"Coaches, we're not allowed to walk through here with the skaters. We're not allowed to come back here. And, I'm thinking, okay, I'm not allowed to take my kid's skates and hold them but some woman can bang the blades together and ruin his chances of winning the Olympic championship?"

One wag -- okay, it was Jere Longman of The New York Times -- asked, "Was she Russian?"

Any more hockey questions?
We know the Olympics were in Canada, and we know hockey rules. But the press conference after the OD took things to a ridiculous height.

Questions about scores? Bollywood? Aboriginal dances? Nope. What everyone wanted to talk about was Moir and White's reaction to the U.S.A. v. Canada hockey game, which ended (that night) with an American victory.

"Hearing the NBC announcers yell was kind of like hearing Charlie White's OD score before I stepped on to the ice; it was, 'Oh crap,'" Moir said.

"Does anyone have any more hockey questions?"

A platinum champion
Evgeni Plushenko did a quadruple jump in his short program and free skate; Lysacek did not. Nevertheless, Lysacek won gold, for a variety of reasons, including his spins, steps and, of course, those all-elusive "transitions."

Members of Plushenko's camp decided to take winning a silver medal as a personal affront. The skater himself was so upset by his loss that during the awards ceremony, he briefly climbed to the gold medal spot on the podium. Wife Yana Rudkovskaya, perhaps seeing a little less gold in her future, pitched a fit in the mixed zone. Russian premier Vladimir Putin called for an investigation. And the webmasters running Plushenko's web site announced that while he didn't win gold in 2010, he did win platinum.

Don't take Rosewater and Rutherford to the track
Before landing in Vancouver, Amy and Lynn decided to impress readers with their knowledge of skating by offering podium prediction for the four events.

Both correctly picked a whopping 4 out of 12 medals, for an average of about 33 percent. Lynn managed to get the entire pairs' and men's podiums wrong, while Amy returned the favor with the ladies'.

That's one dedicated photographer
The always-fierce competition for the best photography spots for the ladies' free skate reached new heights in Vancouver.

Volunteers arriving at the Pacific Coliseum's press center in the wee hours the morning of the final were startled to find one Asian photographer asleep on the floor. Seems he hid in a locker before the press center was cleared and locked up for the night, in order to emerge and claim the first spot in line.

NBC rocks the tassel
NBC camera and production crews borrowed a little bit of cheer from skater Johnny Weir at the Olympics.

The team sported pink tassels attached to their credentials and used Weir's term "rock the tassel" as their rallying cry throughout the Games.