DFL

Celebrating last-place finishes at the Olympics. Because they're there, and you're not.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Holy Crap, I'm Podcasting!

Because I haven't fully explored all the ways I can make a total ass of myself, I've decided to do a daily podcast of the last-place results. Allow me to present the DFL Daily Podcast, featuring yours truly. I've uploaded two episodes so far, and I'll try to post a new one each evening over the course of the Torino Winter Games. Each episode is five or six minutes long.

While you can listen to the podcast via the podcast home page, most people will probably want to subscribe to it in iTunes; you can subscribe to it in other podcasting services (such as Odeo) as well. You'll probably need QuickTime 7 to listen to it, because the files are in AAC format; if you're on Windows and you've got a recent version of iTunes, you're fine. (If you're not sure what the hell all this podcasting nonsense is, see .)

Hope this works; hope you like.

Update, Feb. 15: Holy crap, I seriously underestimated how much time it would take to create a five-minute podcast every day. To preserve my sanity, and prevent podcasting from squeezing out my other projects (like this blog), I've decided to stop the DFL podcast. An interesting experience, to say the least, but I just don't have enough hours in the day to pull it off at this point.

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Qualifying Rules: Biathlon and Cross-Country Skiing

As I mentioned earlier, one of the things I'm interested in exploring this time around is what it takes to actually qualify for the Olympics.

Though last-place novelty acts have frequently left the impression that it can be spectacularly easy to participate in some events (especially if you're from certain countries), this is not the case. Or at least it's no longer the case: I was aware, dimly, that the IOC et al. cracked down on such participation so that there will be no future iterations of Eddie the Eagle or Eric the Eel. And that sort of thing certainly didn't happen in Athens, much, I think, to the disappointment of some.

But this time I want to quantify it a bit. What does an athlete need to do to get to the Olympics, specifically? Over the course of the Torino Games, I'm going to take a look at the qualifying rules for the winter sports. In this post, I'm going to look at the biathlon and cross-country skiing.

The biathlon has a quota of 220 participating athletes; to qualify, competitors must have posted a good result in the European World Cup or the Junior World Championships, or have participated in a previous World Cup, World Championship, or Winter Olympics.

In cross-country skiing, there are no such caps on participation. It's a bit more open, but it's not open to all. Receiving 100 points in a FIS cross-country skiing competition is sufficient to qualify an individual athlete. In addition, each country can send one male and one female athlete under the basic quota system -- provided that athletes under the quota have obtained at least some FIS points (but not more than 200; presumably they'd qualify under the other rule) and have participated in at least five FIS competitions. So you don't have to be a top skier to participate under the basic quota, but you do have to be a legitimate competitive skier.

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Late Results for Sunday, February 12

Speed Skating: 24-year-old Nataliya Rybakova of Kazakhstan finished 28th in the event. Her time of 4:38.76 was 36½ seconds behind the gold medallist and 12 seconds behind the next-to-last-place finisher.

Mark HattonLuge: An extremely slow third run put
Mark Hatton, 32, of Great Britain in 35th place in the competition. Compare his combined time of 4:12.899 (after four runs) with the gold medallist's time of 3:26.088. Two other competitors had runs in excess of a minute. It turns out that you need to complete all four runs to finish; a spill on the fourth run created the event's lone DNF despite three clean previous runs.

Ski Jumping: Estonian ski jumper
Jaan Jüris, 28, received a score of 88.5 in the preliminary round of the individual normal hill event and, like everyone else not in the top 30, did not advance to the final round. He finished 50th overall; the gold medallist's score after two rounds was 266.5, or 131.0 and 135.5 on each jump, respectively. [I made an error in these results; see correction.]

Jean-Charles MatteiShort Track Speed Skating is a little trickier to report on because it's based on heats rather than times: it frequently occurs that a winning time in one heat is slower than the slowest time in another. Your time, in other words, doesn't matter insofar as the standings are concerned. So I'm making an executive decision to post the slowest time overall, whether it comes in the heats, semis or finals. (If nothing else, they record world-record times in this sport, don't they?) Anyway, that's a long enough prologue to some actual results, to wit, those from the men's 1,500-metre individual event (results: heats, semis, finals), where 23-year-old French skater Jean-Charles Mattei had the slowest time -- 2:43.543, well back of other results. Though I didn't see his race, that time suggests to me that he crashed, got up and finished, or something along those lines -- I've seen that sort of thing happen often enough in short track.

Standings to date: Nothing earth-shattering to report; just a bunch of countries putting their first last-place finishes on the board. South Korea still leads for the moment.

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Chinese Figure Skating Coach: DFL in 1984

Nancy Toby points to the story of Chinese figure skating coach Yao Bin. Right now he coaches powerhouse figure skaters Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, but in the early 1980s he was one half of the China's first-ever pairs figure skating team. As might be expected, it didn't go very well for Yao. From the NBC Olympics site's bio of Shen Xue:
Shen and Zhao's coach, Yao Bin, was a member of the first-ever pair that China entered in international competition. Bin and his partner, Luan Bo, made their international debut at the 1980 World Championships, where they finished 15th and last, and Yao says he remembers the audience laughing at their performance. Luan and Yao were also last at the 1981 and 1982 World Championships, and last at the 1984 Sarajevo Games. Since then, however, Yao has developed a powerhouse Chinese pairs program.
Laughing at the performance -- good Lord, how bad was it?

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Early Results for Sunday, February 12

Florentin-Daniel NicolaeAlpine Skiing: Romanian skier Florentin-Daniel Nicolae, 25, finished 53rd in the this morning. With a time of 2:00.93, he was 12 seconds behind the gold medallist and a bit more than a second behind the next-to-last finisher. There were two DNFs.

Cross-country Skiing: Two pursuit races ran this morning. The
explanatory book for cross-country skiing at Torino (1.5 MB PDF file) explains how pursuit works:
The pursuit competition comprises two parts for which one medal is awarded (in the past there were two medals for each part of the pursuit). The first part of the men’s pursuit competition will be a 15 km mass start Classical Technique race. After the 15 km, the athletes come to the stadium, change their skis and the ski poles in allocated boxes as quickly as possible whilst the clock is still running and continue the competition with 15 km in Free Technique. The first athlete to cross the finish line after the second part of competition is the winner. The first part of the ladies' pursuit competition will be a 7.5 km mass start Classical Technique race. After the 7.5 km, the athletes come to the stadium, change their skis and the ski poles in allocated boxes as quickly as possible whilst the clock is still running and continue the competition with 7.5 km in Free Technique. The first athlete to cross the finish line in the second part of the competition is the winner.
Maja KezeleIn the , 26-year-old Maja Kezele of Croatia finished 64th with a total time of 51:36.3, which was 8:47.6 behind the gold medallist and nearly 20 seconds behind the skiier finishing 63rd. There were three DNFs. Later, in the , Turkish skier Sabahattin Oglago, 22, finished 66th with a total time of 1:28:03.8 -- more than 11 minutes behind the gold medallist and 45 seconds behind the next-to-last skier. There was one DNS and a whopping 10 DNFs.

Snowboarding: In the (not the water pipe, silly), Polish snowboarder Mateusz Ligocki, 24, finished 44th in the preliminary round and did not advance. I don't know what happened; his score of 4.0 is quite low compared with the 30s and 40s in the final round.

Standings to date: Turkey's small Olympic delegation (seven athletes by the numbers available to me) means that their single last-place finish puts them in third place.

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Site Outage

A server issue at my suddenly less-wonderful hosting company, DreamHost, rendered all my web sites, including DFL, unavailable since, I think, about 8 AM UTC -- about 3 AM for me and midnight for DreamHost. (The issue was similar to this one.) I'm glad to have this site back up and running, but boy was I spitting nails in the meantime.

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