This is your daily infusion of information and news that you might have missed. The really big stuff you’ll find in other stories.
It was a scene played out in packed arenas throughout the United States. Nikolai Volkoff, said to be a professional wrestler from Russia, would have the ring announcer ask everyone to stand as he sang the Russian national anthem.
The crowd would go wild in protest, often throwing things into the ring. Volkoff, whose real name is Josip Nikolai Peruzovic from Croatia, would then belt out some version of that song, and then his frequent tag-team partner, the Iron Sheik from Iran, would say: “Russia, No. 1! Iran, No. 1! U.S.A … ,“ and then he would spit on the mat.
Their manager, “Classy” Freddie Blassie, claimed that Volkoff had won an Olympic gold in “prize fighting.” No such medal or Olympic sport exists.
It was the early 1980s and wrestling had tapped into the jingoism that is the foundation of the Olympic movement. The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Faster, Higher, Stronger) but it should be “Quam multas nobis vincere hoc gestet insignia?” (How many medals did we win?) Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, though.
Four years after Sochi, where the Russians clearly won the gold, silver and bronze in systematic drug cheating, there has been no Russian national anthem or Russian flag or Russian anything in Pyeongchang. It’s not as if its national anthem would have been played very often anyway, with only one gold in women’s figure skating won by a Russian athlete so far.
The International Olympic Committee banned Russia from these Olympic Games, but not its athletes. They are competing under the flag of the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR). That will sure show them and make a point.
The athletes that competed were thoroughly vetted as nondopers. OAR had won 15 medals through Friday, but had to give one back because of a positive drug test in mixed curling. And now, a woman bobsledder has tested positive for trimetazdine, which is used by people who have angina but is a banned substance.
So, what does Russian Bobsled Federation president Alexander Zubkov have to say?
“She confirms she took no such medication and the team confirms she was not issued any medication,” Zubkov said.
Zubkov was stripped of two gold medals in bobsledding in Sochi for doping. So, surely, you can take his comments to the bank. Zubkov recently appealed the decision to strip him of his medals but the retested samples had high levels of salt, likely meaning his sample was switched in the Sochi testing laboratory with previously stored clean urine. The appeal was denied.
The IOC is mulling whether to let the OAR athletes walk under the Russian flag during the closing ceremony. The decision will partially be based on how they have conducted themselves at these Games. In fairness, only 1.18% of the OAR athletes tested positive. Sounds like progress from here.
A final decision will, presumably, be made by Sunday morning. It will be too late for the playing of the national anthem — be it the traditional or the Nikolai Volkoff version — should OAR win the men’s hockey gold.
Fun fact: The Russians just paid a $15-million fine to the IOC as a condition of lifting their suspension.
It just doesn’t seem to be in a Canadian’s DNA to be mean, so it should come as no surprise that the women’s hockey player, Jocelyne Larocque, who took off her silver medal during the ceremony has already apologized. Team Canada issued a statement, which she might have even read, saying she meant no disrespect. “Please understand this was a moment in time that I truly wish I could take back,” she was quoted as saying. It’s Canada, all is forgiven. Move along.
Here’s a cardio routine
Ever wonder why the Scandinavian countries do so well in sports such as cross-country skiing and biathlon? Here’s the training routine of the Swedish team. Up at 5 a.m., bike four hours to Austria’s highest mountain, 90 minutes uphill on roller skis, then downhill for 75 miles on mountain bikes. From there, shooting practice and, if you don’t hit enough targets, there is more running.
It paid off on Friday, when Sweden won the men’s biathlon relay gold, followed by Norway. Germany got the bronze. The U.S. was sixth. On Thursday, Sweden got the silver in the women’s version of his event.
More on Canada
Our neighbors to the north finished one-two in women’s ski cross, their second straight daily double in this event. Kelsey Serwa took the gold and Brittany Phelan the silver. Canada has had an exceptional Olympics with 10 golds and 27 medals, its most ever, even beating the 26 it had when it hosted in Vancouver. The surprise, though, is no gold in hockey or even a medal in curling. In the ski cross, the U.S. did not advance anyone to the final rounds.
And finally …
As the world awaits the U.S. and Sweden in the gold medal men’s curling match, Switzerland beat Canada in the bronze game 7-5. On the women’s side, South Korea beat Japan 8-7 and Sweden beat Britain 10-5 to advance to the gold-medal game.