24 February 2014

The candidate cities for the Winter Olympics 2022

Last night at the closing the ceremony we heard the call for the young people of the world to meet again in four years time in Pyeongchang, South Korea, but the process is already underway for the Games after that.

Last November 6 applicant cities were presented to the IOC, by the 14 march they must present their application file to the IOC and then in 8-9 July the IOC board will meet and select the candidate cities to then present their candidate files and guarantees. So who are the six that are in the running at this stage.

Stockholm, Sweden

The Swedish capital has hosted the 1912 Summer Games, this is one of two bids in the running to be  the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games. The ski resort of Åre 610km from Stockholm is looking to be the centre for the Alpine events. Åre together with nearby Östersund had considered putting in a bid to hold the 2014 Games, but failed to secure Government backing. Östersund with Åre had been ahead of Lillehammer in round 2 of the bidding in 1994 only to lose out in the final round. They combined to come third behind Nagano and Salt Lake City in 1998, and when the latter swept the first round four year later. But this time with the addition of Stockholm joining with Åre there is a metropolitan element to go with the trips to Swedish highlands.

Kraków, Poland

The Polish NOC have actually joined up with Slovakia to  put in a bid that would see the Olympics come to either country for the first time. It was a vision that the late Polish President Lech Kaczyński had for his nation shortly before he, the President of the Polish Olympic Committee and 94 others were killed in that horrific plane crash in April 2010. The cities bid teams up with the ski resort of Jasná to the south and across the border in Slovakia, with other resorts on the road to Jasná hosting the sliding events and cross country skiing. The furthest apart the venues will be is 175km. If this bid is successful it will be the first bid that sets out as being hosted in two nations.

Oslo, Norway

The Norwegian capital is looking to host their second Winter Games following on from 1952. This is the fifth time the city had bid for the Winter Games after unsuccessful bids in 1936, 1944 and 1968. The resort of Lillehammer 190km away, which hosted the Games in 1994, would hold the Alpine and sliding events. If the Games were awarded to Oslo the Holmenkollbakken ski jumping hill would celebrate the 130th year of it's existence by crowning Olympic champions again.

Almaty, Kazakhstan

The former Kazakh capital hosted the Asian Winter Games in 2011 and will be hosting the Winter Universiade in 2017. They had gone further than Åre for these 2014 Games and had been an applicant city then two. However, with structures in place now all within 40km of Almaty this is actually the most compact of all the bids.

Lviv, Ukraine

The Eastern Ukrainian city's bid would involve three locations with ice events being based in a compact Olympic area around Arena Lviv which hosted three of the group games of UEFA Euro 2012. There are also plans to building an inner city sliding venue would complete the ice zone being entirely within the city boundaries. However, the snow events are having to be hosted elsewhere to the South. The Nordic events, freestyle and snowboard will take place in the established resort of Tysovets 130km south. But the altitude does not meet the IOC criteria for Alpine events so about 185km south from Lviv lies Volovets, which once had a ski ramp that Austria-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph I used to visit when this was in the Empire.

Beijing, China

The hosts of the 2008 Summer Games are the other applicant city looking to be the first to host both Summer and Winter Games. Zhangjiakou which is 190km North West of the Chinese capital is the mountain region at an elevation of 716m that is liable to host the snow events having an average high temperature  close to or below freezing from December to February. One major factor that may be a disadvantage to Beijing is that it is only 700km away from Pyeongchang which will have hosted the previous Games.


7 February 2014

Flag bearers for the 2014 Winter Olympics: Part Four #Sochi2014

The final group of nations leading up to the hosts who as tradition dictates will be the last to enter the stadium.

Tajikistan - Таджикистан Alisher Kudratov is carrying the flag of his nation for the second Games in succession however this will be the first time that the Alpine skier will compete. He is taking part in just the men's slalom as his nation's only competitor in Sochi.

Thailand - Таиланд

Timor-Leste - Тимор-Лешти Yohan Goutt Goncalves born in France, the land of his father, the 19 year old Alpine Skiier will be representing the land of his mother. It is only the fourth time that the Timor-Leste flag will have been paraded at an Olympic Opening ceremony but the first time in the Winter Games. He will be taking part in the men's slalom.

Togo - Того Alessia Afi Dipol born in Italy and previously representing India, although she has no family connections she will be carrying the flag for one of only two African delegations with more than one competitor. She is an Alpine skier taking part in the woman's slalom and giant slalom, while her team mate Mathilde-Amivi Petitjean who was born in Niger to a Togolese mother takes part in the women's 15km classical cross country event.

Tonga - Тонга

Turkey -  Турция

Uzbekistan - Узбекистан

Ukraine - Украина Valentina Shevchenko is a veteran cross-country skier is appearing in her fifth consecutive Olympics since her debut at Nagano in 1998. Her best Olympic performance was 5th in the Mass Start at Salt Lake City in 2002, but in 2009 she secured bronze in the 30km freestyle. At 38 these will probably be her last Olympics.

Philippines - Филиппины Michael Christian Martinez wasn't even born the last time the flag of the Philippines entered a Winter Olympic stadium, that was 1992 and he was still 4 years away from entering the world. He is a figure skater who came 5th in the World Juniors last year.

Finland - Финляндия Enni Rukajärvi is a 23 year old snow boarder who has been world champion and Winter X Games champion in the new Olympic event of slopestyle.

France - Франция Jason Lamy-Chappuis the 27 year old ski-jumper and nordic skier is the defending champion in the men's 10km and normal hill. Born in Montana, USA where he lived until the age of five until the family moved to France the homeland of his father. He will not however be defending his title going instead in the large hill 10km combined. His cousin Ronan Lamy-Chappuis will be representing France in both the men's normal and large hill events.

Croatia - Хорватия Ivica Kostelić is an alpine skier who is taking part in his fourth Olympics. He has three silver medals in the combined in both Turin and Vancouver, adding another in the slalom four years ago. He will be taking part in all the men's Alpine events with the exception of the downhill this time.

Montenegro - Черногория Tarik Hadžić is the 19 year old alpine skier who will carry the flag for Montenegro's second Winter Olympics as an independent state.He is taking part in the men's slalom and giant slalom.

Czech Republic - Чешская Республика Šárka Strachová was the first Czech Republic Alpine skier to medal when she took bronze in the slalom in her second Games four years ago. She is only the second ever Czech Alpine skier to medal in the Olympics. She will turn 29 on Tuesday which is the day before the women's downhill. She is taking part in all the women's Alpine events.

Chile - Чили Dominique Ohaco is an 18-year-old slopestyle skier who although she has never won a medal in a world cup event has done well numerous times in qualification. Therefore if she does manage to gt the medal run going as some of her qualification runs she could be the first Chilean to win a Winter Games medal.

Switzerland -  Швейцария Simon Ammann has won the double double in ski-jumping winning both the normal and large hill events at Salt Lake City in 2002 and Vancouver in 2010, the only man to have acheived the feat at two different Games. This will be the 32 year old's fifth Olympics having made his debut as a 16 year old at Nagano in 1998.

Sweden - Швеция Anders Södergrenc will be taking part in his third Olympics and was part of the Swedish relay team that took bronze in the men's 4x10km in 2006 and gold in Vancouver 4 years ago. He has won medals in long distances, double pursuit and relays at world championships.

Estonia - Эстония Indrek Tobreluts is a biathlete from Tartu who is taking part in his fourth Olympics. He won silver in last year's European 6km pursuit but the Olympic distance for that event is 12.5km.

South Korea - Южная Корея Lee Kyou-Hyuk is taking part in his sixth Olympics having made his debut at Lillehammer in 1994 when he was only 15. He is a long track speed skater who specialises in the sprint events the 500m and 1000m the only events he is entered for in Sochi. His best Olympic performance was fourth in the 1000m at Salt Lake City. He was world champion at 500m in 2011

Jamaica - Ямайка Marvin Dixon is the driver of the first Jamaican bobsleigh to qualify for the Olympics in 12 years. The 30 year old from Kingston has been competing since 2007 and managed to qualify on the last weekend of qualification this season. He along with brakeman Winston Watt are competing in the two-man bobsleigh.

Japan - Япония Ayumi Ogasawara is the skip of the women's curling team, the position she also held in 2006 when although they came ninth secured a victory over Canada. After that season she and her third Yumie Hayashi both announced their retirement but in 2011 they formed a new rink which is the one that has qualified for Sochi.

Russia - Россия Aleksandr Zubkov is the veteran slider of four Olympics having made his debut in the men's single luge at Nagano in 1998. He switched to driving the Bobsleigh for Salt Lake City four years later picking up the silver in Turin in the four man and bronze in Vancouver in the two man. He will be looking to complete the set on home ice this year after having the honour of carrying the hosts flag to mark the end of the parade of athletes tonight.

That completes the parade of Athletes you can watch the opening ceremony in half an hour ready for them starting their parade.

Flag bearers for the 2014 Winter Olympics: Part Three #Sochi2014

So we have got over halfway through the list of flag bearers for this afternoon's opening ceremony. After covering the previous half of the parade it is time to carry on.

Malta - Мальта Elise Pellegrin French born Alpine skier with a Maltese grandfather the Mediterranean nation's first Winter Olympian will carry the Bandiera ta' Malta with pride. At 22 she is taking part in the women's slalom and giant slalom.

Macedonia - Македония Darko Damjanovski is a cross country skier who is taking part in his third Olympics. He goes off in the men's 15km classical.

Morocco - Марокко Adam Lamhamedi was the first African to win an Olympic related medal in the Youth Olympics in 2012. While that gold was in teh Super-G he is only taking part in the slalom and giant slalom here.

Mexico - Мексика Hubertus von Hohenlohe  is a descendent of the rulers of a German principality though he was born in Mexico. At 55 he is the oldest competitor in Sochi and will be competing at his sixth Winter Olympics since his debut at Sarejevo in 1984. He missed the 2002 and 2006 but will take part in the men's slalom. Whether he goes on another four years to overtake Carl August Kronlund a 58-year-old curler from the First Winter Olympics at Chamonix 1924 to become the oldest ever we will have to wait and see.

Moldova - Молдова Victor Pinzaru a 21-year-old biathlete whose birthday is four days way, is taking part in his second Olympics. However, he has not qualified in biathlon this time and is only taking part in the men's 15km classical cross country.

Monaco - Монако Olivier Jenot will turn 26 at the end of the month, but made his debut as an 18 year old at Turin in 2006. He missed out on Vancouver due to a dislocated shoulder injury after he had qualified. He has qualified for all five of the Alpine skiing events including the combined at which he won gold at the Winter Universiade last year.

Mongolia - Монголия Bold Byambadorj is a 22-year-old cross country skier who makes his Olympic debut in the men's 15km classical.

Nepal - Непал Dachhiri Sherpa

Netherlands - Нидерланды Jorien ter Mors is a speed skater who will taking part both in the traditional long track as well as the short track events. She is taking part in all the short track individual events as well as the relay, and in the long track she is going in the 1,500m as well as the team pursuit. At only 24 this is her second Olympics and she has already won two silvers and a bronze at world championships on short track.

New Zealand - Новая Зеландия Shane Dobbin is a speed skater who will take part in the longest disciplines on ice the men's 5,000m and 10,000m. he only took part in the former on his debut 4 years ago when he finished 17th.

Norway - Норвегия Aksel Lund Svindal is an Alpine skier who brought home three medals (one of each hue) from the 2010 Games in Vancouver. He is a hot favourite to add to that tally having brought back a gold in each world championships or Olympics since 2007 the year after he made his Olympic debut. The only event he is not taking part in is the slalom.

Pakistan - Пакистан

Paraguay - Парагвай Julia Marino was born in Paraguay but adopted by an American couple at six months old. Until last year she competed for her adopted nation but switched to compete for the nation of her birth giving them their first appearance at the Winter Games. The 21-year-old is a medal contender in the women's slopestyle skiing.

Peru - Перу Roberto Cancelen is a 43-year-old cross country skier who lives and owns a business in Seattle, USA. He was the first Peruvian to qualify and compete in the Winter Games in 2010 where he also had the honour of carrying his nations flag. he is taking part in the men's 15km traditional.

Poland - Польша Dawid Kupczyk at 36 will be driving the two and four man bobsleighs in his fifth Olympics. Although at Nagano and Salt Lake City he was in the second seat in the four-man before stepping up to drive from Turin. In vancouver he achieved his best ever Olympic result with 14th in the four-man.

Portugal - Португалия Arthur Hanse is the male half of Portugals's team who both go in Lapine skiing. He was born France almost 21 years ago, his birthday will be on Monday, to Portuguese parents. But he is the elder member of the Portuguese team by 3 and a half years.

Romania - Румыния Éva Tófalvi is carrying the Romanian flag for the second consecutive Winter Games. At 35 she will be taking part in the women's biathlon events for her fifth Games. She came 11th in the individual event in both her debut at Nagano and last time in Vancouver and she is the only Romanian to have won a World Cup event in biathlon.

San Marino - Сан Марино Vincenzo Michelotti at 17 and 86 days he may be the youngest flag bearer in the ceremony. He will take part in the men's giant slalom.

Serbia - Сербия Milanko Petrović is 25 and was the first Serb to take part for his independent nation in biathlon at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. He is also the first Serb to have won World Cup points in his discipline so has a outside chance of medals in the men;'s individual and sprint events.


Slovakia - Словакия Zdeno Chára the Boston Bruins defenseman will be captaining the Slovak men's ice hockey team in what is his third Olympics. He has two world silver medals in his possession from 2000 and and 2012 but he was also Captain for the bronze medal match four years ago which saw Finland score four unanswered goals in the final period to claim the medal 5-3.

Slovenia - Словения Tomaž Razingar is the 34-year-old left winger in the first Ice Hockey team to qualify for the independent Slovenia.

United States of America - Соединенные Штаты Америки Todd Lodwick is the 37 year old veteran of five previous Games starting in 1994 at Lillehammer. In 2009 he won the Nordic Combined 10km normal hill world championships along with the 10km mass start. He will be taking part in the normal and large hill individual events as well as the team event.

The largest team (only five more than the hosts) marks the end of the third segment of this run through the flag bearers of this afternoons Opening Ceremony. The final section will of course lead up to the arrival of the hosts.

Flag bearers for the 2014 Winter Olympics: Part Two #Sochi2014

As you will have seen from part one the nations are not walking into the stadium in the order that an English speaker would expect because of the Cyrillic spelling of their nations name. In this part I carry on from that near neighbour Georgia who finished the first quarter of the 88 nations in the parade this evening. As I said last time I'm hoping my knowledge of the Russian alphabet is up to the challenge though I apologise if  I have the name or order wrong.

So onwards with the second quarter of the parade of nations.

Denmark - Дания Lene Nielsen at 27 is returning to the Games eight years after her debut and only appearance. Then she played second on Dorthe Holm's rink in the curling this time she is the skip of her nations team. For the last three year's she has come 4th in the European Championships.

Dominica -  Доминика Gary di Silvestri the husband of the husband and wife team will be taking the honour of carrying the flag of this debutant Winter Olympic nation. At 47 the cross country skier is also one of the oldest athletes in Sochi. The philanthropist skis in the men's 15km classical, his wife in the women's 10km version.

Zimbabwe - Зимбабве Luke Steyn although born in his nation moved to Switzerland at the age of two where he got his bug for snow. He is the first person to represent Zimbabwe, a nation where it never snows, in the Winter Games and will take part in the men's slalom and giant slalom.

Israel - Израиль Vladislav Bykanov is like the rest of the team born outside Israel, in his case in Ukraine. He is a short track speed skater who is the first Israeli athlete in that event to have qualified for the Olympics, he will be taking part in all of the individual events 500m, 1,000m and 1,500m.

Iran - Иран Hossein Saveh-Shemshak from Tehran is a 28-year-old alpine skier who along with his younger brother Pouria formed their nations men's Alpine team in Vancouver in 2010. He is once again taking part in the slalom and giant slalom, but this time alongside Iran's first ever Asian Winter Games medalist Mohammad Kiadarbandsari.

Individual Olympic Athletes - Индивидуальные Олимпийские Спортсмены would far rather be carrying the Tiranga of India rather than the Olympic Rings into the stadium but elections for these three athlete's NOC are not taking place for another two days.


Ireland - Ирландия Conor Lyne will turn 21 the day after the Games finish. The Irish skier is currently based in Utah (there not being a lot of snow in Ireland). He will be taking part in the slalom and giant slalom.

Iceland - Исландия Saevar Birgisson is an Olympic debutant and will take part in the men's 15km classical cross country.

Spain - Испания Javier Fernández the 22 year old figure skater from Madrid is a real medal contender for Spain. He is the current men's European champion and took bronze in the World Championship last year. If he does stand on the podium on Valentine's night it will be only the third Winter Olympic medal for Spain and the first since 1992 the year that Barcelona hosted the Summer Games and the last before the Winter Games broke from the same four year cycle.

Italy - Италия Armin Zöggeler at forty is looking to break an Olympic record for most medals in one individual event. He currently shares the record with fellow luger Georg Heckl and speed skater Claudia Pechstein (both of Germany). If he stands on the podium at the conclusion of the men's single luge on Sunday he will have set a new record with six medals stretching back to his gold at Lillehammer. He currently has two golds, a silver and two bronzes in his event.

Kazakhstan -  Казахстан Yerdos Akhmadiyev is the 28-year-old cross country skier who was only starting to compete in his sport when the last Olympics took place.

Cayman Isles - Каймановы Oстрова Dow Travers is the only athlete from his nation to have represented them at the Winter Games having done so also in 2010. He also represents his nation in Rugby 7s so could dream of qualifying for that new Olympic sport in Rio. He takes part in the slalom and giant slalom.

Canada - Канада Hayley Wickenheiser was the captain of the gold medal winning women's ice hockey team on home ice in Vancouver four years ago. It was her third gold to add to a silver at Nagano 1998. The forward has twice been MVP of the Olympic tournament in the past and has the most goals for a female Olympian since the sport appeared in those 1998 Games. She also appears in the 2000 Summer Games in Softball.

Cyprus - Кипр Constantinos Papamichael is a 20-year-old Alpine skier. He will compete in the slalom and giant slalom.

Kyrgyzstan  - Киргизия Dmitry Trelevski is taking part in his second Games. He will be adding the Super-G to the slalom and giant slalom that he competed in at Vancouver.

China - Китай Tong Jian together with her pairs partner and finacé Pang Qing won silver in the Figure Skating four years ago. At 34 she will also be the eldest of the 66 athletes from China who will cross the border to the Games in Russia.

Chinese Taipei - Китайский Тайбэй Sung Ching-yang is actually an inline skater who has switched to long track speed skating. He is the first speed skater to represent his country in the Olympics and is taking part in the men's 500m and 1,000m.

Latvia - Латвия Sandis Ozoliņš announced his retirement from international Ice Hockey after his second Olympic appearance in 2006. But the former NHL defenceman annouced he was coming out of retirement to help Latvia qualify for Sochi. At 41 he is likely to announce his second and final retirement from international hockey at the conclusion of these Games.

Lebanon - Ливан Alexandre Mohbat is only 18-years-old. He is an Alpine skier and will take part in the men's slalom and giant slalom.

Lithuania - Литва Deividas Stagniūnas an American based figure skater is finally making his Olympic debut. Along with his former Ice Dance partner American Katherine Copely they had qualified in 2010, but the IOC require competitors to be nationals of the country they represent and Copely application was turned down. This time after an intial rejection his partner another American Isabella Tobias was granted citizenship in December last year.

Liechtenstein - Лихтенштейн Tina Weirather is competing in her second Games after a debut in Turin in 2006 she damaged her ACL weeks before Vancouver when she had qualified for all four Alpine disciplines. At 24 she is in form this season with 9 podiums in the World Cup and is hoping to emulate her mother Hanni Wenzel who won two Olympic golds at Lake Placid in 1980 and uncle Andreas Wenzel who won silver there and bronze four years later in Sarejevo. She has once again qualified in giant slalom, super-G, downhill and combined.

Luxembourg - Люксембург Kari Peters is the first ever cross-country skier to represent Luxembourg. Of course they are more famous for the adoptive son Marc Giardelli who won two silvers in Alpine in 1992.


That completes the first half of the nations entering the stadium, there are only another 44 delegations to come.

Flag bearers for the 2014 Winter Olympics: Part One #Sochi2014

So later on today we have the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony at the Fisht Olympic Stadium, one thing we do know is most of who the NOCs have nominated to carry their flag into the stadium ahead of their nation's competitors and coaches. The other thing is that this is the second Olympics in which the order of the nations will be determined by the Cyrillic alphabet.

So in my attempt to tell you who is coming in next I am having to test myself on a language I had a vague knowledge off when I was there in 1989. So in order of appearance (I hope) here are the first batch.

Greece - Греция Panagiota Tsakiri is 23 and from Drama. But despite her young age this is her third Winter Olympics and she is contesting the women's 10km classical cross-country, although unlike in previous Games she's not doubling up with the biathlon. Greece of course traditionally lead the way as the inventors of the Games and first hosts of the modern Olympiad.

Australia - Австралия Alex Pullin is the reigning snow boarder cross world champion. He took part in the 2010 Olympic but despite having the fastest time in qualification he failed to progress once the competition got underway proper. He fronts a reggae band Love Charli quite a character to be the second flag bearer into the Fisht Stadium.

Austria - Австрия Benjamin Raich turns 36 just after the Games finish and is appearing in what is his fourth Olympics. He won two gold medals in Turin in 2006 in men's slalom and giant slalom, to add to his two bronzes in slalom and combined. He is likely to take part in the slalom, giant slalom, super-g and super combined once again. Benny Raich has delayed his arrival in Sochi and Mario Stecher was named instead who is a Nordic combined competitor who has taken part in the five previous Olympics going back to Lillehammer. He has twice help Austria to the 4x5km relay gold in 2006 and 2010 as well as bronze in 2002


Azerbaijan - Азербайджан Fuad Guliyev is the Figure Skating Federation vice-President and will carry his nation's flag into the stadium. His nations competitors are in the alpine events and the ice dance, the latter of which starts in the morning.

Albania - Албания Enjon Tola aged 27 from Tirana, taking part  in his third Olympics in the slalom and giant slalom.

Andorra - Aндорра Mireia Gutierrez is an Apline skier who is taking part in her second Games, after Vancouver. She is entered in all the women's Alpine events.

Argentina - Аргентина Cristian Simari Birkner is a veteran from three previous Games and also carried the flag in 2010. The 33-year-old from  San Carlos de Bariloche is entered in all the Alpine disciplines including the men's combined.

Armenia - Армения Sergey Mikayelyan is the 21-year-old cross country skiier who will be taking part in his second Games. His events this time are the men's 15km classical, 30km skiathlon and 50km freestyle.

British Virgin Isles - Британские Виргинские Oстрова Peter Crook the Caribbean Island nation is sending their second ever competitor to the Winter Games and the 21 year old who has lived in the United States for the last 13 years will take part in the skiing halfpipe.

Belarus - Беларусь Darya Domracheva the 27 year old cross-country skier and biathlete who took bronze in the 2010 women's 15km individual cross-country race. This year she is only taking part in the biathlon.

Belgium - Бельгия Hanna Mariën is at her second Olympics but first Winter Games. She was part of the women's 4x100m relay in the athletics at Beijing in 2008 which won the silver medal. In 2012 she switched to bobsleigh and will be the brake woman for Elfje Willemsen.

Bermuda - Бермудские Oстрова Tucker Murphy is the sole Bermudan competitor. He is expected to appear in Bermuda shorts, but not when he is competing the men's 15km classical cross country skiing event.

Bulgaria - Болгария Maria Kirkova at 28 is taking part in her third Winter Games. The alpine skier will be taking part in the women's slalom and giant slalom.

Bosnia and Herzegovina - Босния и Герцеговина Žana Novaković the 28 year old will be carrying her nations flag for a second consecutive Games.  There is a little controversy that she was picked ahead of fellow Alpine skier Muslim-Croat Igor Laikert who had the better results. She will however be competing in slalom and giant slalom.

Brazil - Бразилия Jaqueline Mourão is a biathlete who will be carrying the flag of the host of the next Summer Games. At 38 she will taking part in her third Game since her debut at Turin 2006.

Great Britain - Великобритания Jon Eley the shot track speed skater from Solihull is taking part in his third Olympic Games. he came 5th in the 500m at Torino in 2006 and was part of the GB team that came 6th in the 5,000m relay in Vancouver 4 years ago. The 29-year-old is taking part in the men's 500m and 1,000m.

Hungary - Венгрия Bernadett Heidum the 25 year old short track speed skater from Budapest is making her Olympic debut. But she picked up two medals in the European championships earlier this year. She'll be competing in the 500m, 1,000m and the event she won silver at in Europe the 1,500m and joining the European bronze medal women's 3,000m relay team.

Venezuela - Венесуэла Antonio Jose Pardo Andretta is the first ever of the five Venezualan Winter Olympians to qualify in a snow event. He will be taking part in the men's giant slalom.

Virgin Islands - Виргинские Oстрова Jasmine Campbell is the daughter of Virgin Islands skier John Campbell who took park in 1992 at Albertville. Unlike her father she is only taking part in two events slalom and giant slalom, not adding the Super-G which he took part in.

Germany - Германия Maria Höfl-Riesch won double gold four years ago in her debut Games in the women's slalom and combined. Injury has forced the native of 1936 German Winter Olympic venue Garmisch-Partenkirchen to missed the Games in 2006. She is entered in all the Alpine discipline and with medals at worlds and Olympics in most of them is a contender every time she leaves the start gate.

Hong Kong - Гонконг Pan-To Barton Lui the first male Winter Olympian to represent Hog Kong will carry their flag on his debut. The short track speed skater follows his female predecessors and will skate in the 1,500m on Monday. 


Georgia - Грузия Nino Tsiklauri the Alpine skier is stepping up to the plate as figure skater Elene Gedevanishvili was originally names as the flag bearer, but her training schedule means she is not arriving until after the ceremony. So the 20-year-old who will ski in the women's slalom and giant slalom will carry her nation's flag into the stadium.



This is the first installment. As you can see the order will not be what you expect from an English language nation opening ceremony so pay attention if you want to see your nation arrive.

29 January 2014

Smaller Winter Olympic delegations: 2 Asia #Sochi2014

After looking at the debut Winter Olympic nations it is time to look at some of the smaller delegations, those with 5 or less athletics so I am looking at them continent by continent. Second up is Asia.

Azerbaijan
 Four athletes will represent Azerbaijan in two sports, but not one of them is born in Azerbaijan.

Russians Julia Zlobina and Alexei Sitnikov will be taking part in the Ice Dancing for their adopted nation they were 6th in this season's European Championships an improvement on 7th last season. They were also the silver medalists in last year's Winter Universiade. At 24 and 27 it is possible that they may continue for another Olympic cycle but having finished 16th in the world's last year they will be looking for any improvement on that position and a top 10 finish would be exceptional.

Patrick Brachner originally from Austria will take part in the men's giant slalom and slalom. He injured his left knee earlier on in the season but was back on the slopes ahead of the initial schedule determined to be in Sochi.

Gaia Bassani Antivari was born in Italy and first tried to compete in the 2002 Winter Olympics for Grenada, but they failed to compete the necessary paperwork. She did however take part under the Azerbaijan flag in 2010 finishing 57th in the Giant Slalom but skied out of the course in the first run of the slalom. She is only selected for the women's slalom this time.

Hong Kong

Only one sport has ever had Hong Kong representation in the Winter Games since they first appeared in 2002, and only three athletes before have ever competed in Short Track Speed Skating. So the fourth competitor but in that sport is Pan-To Barton Lui who will be the first man to represent Hong Kong in the Winter Games.

He qualified in November last year at the World Cup series events in Turin, Italy and Kolomna, Russia. He has traveled to be able to train, while still at school moving to Vancouver and now basing himself in Korea to train alongside the best Asian short track stars.

India

Himanshu Thakur
There will not be the Indian flag at the Opening ceremony of the 2014 Games due to the suspension of the nations National Olympic Committee in December 2012. Elections to replace the NOC committee take place 2 days after the opening ceremony so the Indian athletes will take part under the Olympic flag as Independent Olympic Athletes.


There will be three athletes across three disciplines.

Twenty-year-old Himanshu Thakur was up for the one Alpine slot against 2006 men's giant slalom competitor Hira Lal but the 34-year-old took his own name out of contention so that his younger first cousin who had the better performances over the qualifying period finishing ahead of his cousin on 8 of the 12 occasions that they both finished an event over the last 20 in the qualifying period. To qualify an athlete the men had to have a score of under 140 points on the FIS system, Thakur was on 111.20, Lal slightly worse on 111.43.So Thakur will compete in the men's slalom.

In cross-country skiing will see Nadeem Iqbal who serves with the High Altitude Warfare School of the Indian Army at Gulmarg take part in the men's 15km classical. He took part in the Nordic World Championships in 2013 and sealed his qualification after a race in France in December.

The final Indian participant is a veteran at the age of 32 he will be taking part in his fifth Winter Olympics. Shiva Keshavan first took part in the luge in 1998 at Nagano when he was the youngest ever luge competitor. His mother is Italian and he was approached to represent Italy in 2002 but insisted on retaining his Indian nationality for competition. Ironically then his best performance in the Olympics came in 2006 in Turino when he finished 25th.

Iran

Iran secured a quota of five athletes for the 2014 Games three spots in Alpine and two in Nordic skiing.

Kiadarbandsari in action
Hossein Saveh-Shemshaki will be taking part in his second Olympics coming 41st in the men's slalom and 70th in the Giant Slalom in Vancouver, where he was part of a team that included his brother Pouria. He will take part in the same two events in Sochi.

He is joined this time by 24-year-old Mohammad Kiadarbandsari who took a bronze medal at the 2011 Winter Asian Games in the Super-G. This is the first medal won by Iran at that level.

There is a spot available in the women's slalom and although at the time of writing it has yet to be awarded. Although it is likely to go to Marjan Kalhor who was the flag bearer and first woman to compete at the Winter Games for Iran in 2010.

There are two skiers going in the Nordic events, first there is Sattar Seid who also took part in 2010 where he came 89th in the men's 15km freestyle cross-country. The following year he was a key part in the Iranian relay team in the Winter Asian Games that brought home a silver medal. He will be lining up in the men's 15km classical in Sochi.

For the women there is Farzaneh Rezasoltani who will be taking part in the 10km classical. She has dominated the domestic racing schedule this season with a week at Val de Fiemme her only international competition last February with her best result being 36th in the 5km.

Israel
Will take part in three sports with a total of 5 athletes, three born in Ukraine, one in the USA and the other in Luxembourg.

Their best performers are likely to come in the figure skating the pairs will see Andrea Davidovich and Evegeni Krasnopolski. American born Davidovich only teamed up with Krasnopolski, born in Kiev, Ukraine, last year after his partner Danielle Montalbano had an injury that ruined their 2012-13 season. It is the first time Israel will be represented in the pairs having previously only had competitors in Ice Dance and men's singles. So far this year they have managed a 7th place finish in the European Championships which is 4 places higher than Krasnopolski and Davidovich managed in 2012. They are tipped for a top 16 finish in Sochi.

Another Ukrainian born competitor is Alexei Bychenko also from Kiev who had competed for Ukraine until 2010 in the men's individual figure skating. He was only third in the Ukraine national championships in 2010 having been a silver medalist on two previous occasions, but there was only one spot open to the Ukraine that year. He came 10th in this year's European championship his best ever finish.

Vladislav Bykanov is the third Ukrainian born competitor on this team, although his family moved to Israel when he was five. He is the first Israeli male to qualify in short track speed skating and came 12th overall in the European Championships this season. He will be competing in the 500m, 1000m and 1500m. He is hoping to do better than Olga Danilov who failed to advance in two of the same three disciplines in the women's events in 2002.

The final member of the Israeli team is a 19-year-old born in Luzembourg, Virgile Vandeput. Although Israel have a quota of two spots for the Alpine Skiing events they have chosen to only fill one of them an that is for the men's slalom and giant slalom. But the 19-year-old who trains in France is a veteran on the circuit having first appeared in the 2010-11 season as a mere 16-year old. In the world championships last season he managed 48th in the slalom.


Kyrgyzstan

Once again Kyrgyzstan will send Dmitry Trelevski to the Winter Games, but this time he is the sole qualifier from the Central Asian republic. He came 76th in the men's giant slalom but had failed to complete the first run of the slalom. At 28 he is taking part in his second Games and adding the Super-G to his itinerary. He is not a regular on the World Cup circuit and his best performance in the World Championships was in 2007 when he finished 45th in the slalom and 55th in the Giant Slalom.

He proudly carried his nations flag into the Opening ceremony in Vancouver four years ago and as the only representative this time will be doing so once again in Sochi.

Lebanon

There will be two competitors for Lebanon in Sochi a single competitor in both the men's and women's slalom.

Jacky Chamoun at 22 is returning for her second Winter Games. She placed 54th in the women's slalom four years ago.

She will be joined by Tarek Fenianos who is 13 months older than the veteran Olympian. He finished 46th in the slalom at last year's World Championships.

Mongolia

Chinbat Otgontsetseg
With the exception of 1976 when they sent no team and 1994 when there was only a short track speed skater Mongolia has been represented in the Cross-Country skiing every Olympics since 1964. This year they are no different.


In the shortest women's classical race the 10km they will be represented by 22-year old Chinbat Otgontsetseg. She was 91st in last season's World Championships at 10km Freestyle. Although she hasn't competed on the World Cup stage since she made two appearances in the 2009-10 season.

In the men's 15km classical she is joined by Bold Byambadorj. The 22-year-old has been based in Europe this season after coming 138th in the 15km Freestyle World Championships last year, to gain more international experience.

Both of them took part in the Universiade in Trentino in November last year as part of a four strong. Otgontsetseg had a best of 52nd in her Olympic discipline, Byambadorj came 61st in the 30km classical.

Nepal

Nepal are only competing in their fourth Winter Olympics and for two of the previous Games their representative this year, Dachhiri Sherpa, was also their sole representative. Now aged 44 the man who holds the Ultra Marathon record for the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc is taking part in his third Winter Games. He was 92nd in 2010 better than, his 94th from 2006 in the men's 15km classical cross country.

At his age he is bound to be one of, if not the oldest competitor at this year's Winter Olympics. But as well as being a recognied trail runner around Europe in 2003 he decided he wanted to show off his country and to do that he took up cross country skiing. He is still superbly fit and do not rule him out of appearing in the next Games at an incredible 48.

Karim with Air Marshal Khan head of the Ski federation
Pakistan



Having sorted out the dispute between the Pakistan Olympic Committee and the Pakistan Government Mohammad Karim and teenage skier will be able to take his place in the men's slalom and giant slalom. He is only 18 and already leaps and bounds ahead of Pakistan's only previous Winter Olympian Mohammad Abbas. He is one of the growing number of young people from the Naltar region who the Pakistan Air Force are taking from the wooden skis that they start on to progress through international competition to enhance the nation's ski programme.

Philippines 

The sole representative for the Philippines wasn't even born when they last took part in their last Winter Games, the last time they were held in the same year as the Summer Games at Albertville in 1992. Indeed it would be almost five years before Michael Christian Martinez came into the world. At 17 it is only last year that he landed his first triple Axel. But last year he was 5th in the World Juniors, two of those above him were in the top four of this year's USA Championships and another won the Chinese Men's but has not been selected this time. The year before he was 7th in the Youth Olympic Games.

He is the first figure skater to ever represent his nation, as the only previous competitors have been in Alpine skiing or luge.

Chinese Taipei
There are two 21-year-old athletes from different backgrounds representing Chinese Taipei in both the speed skating disciplines.

The elder but just over 3 weeks is native born Sung Ching-yang who started out as an inline skater in which he won 2 gold medals in the 2010 Asian games in the 300m time trial and 500m sprint. He converted to long track speed skating and had success in last year's Universiade taking bronze in the 1000m. He will be competing in the two sprint disciplines 500m and 1000m at the Adler Arena Skating Centre. He is the first competitor from his nation to take part in the long track speed skating

The other is Canadian born Mackenzie Blackburn whose mother hails from the island. He grew up in Quebec surrounded by ice and snow in winter and coached by his parents in the short track version of speed skating. Like Sung Ching-yang he is a speed merchant and will only be taking part in the sprint events over 500m and 1000m. When he was only 16 he managed to come 14th in the 500m at the World Junior Championships. In an event where sometimes chance can have and impact he is capable of semi-final and quarter final results so anything could happen.

Tajikstan

For the fourth Winter Games in a row Tajikstan are sending one man to the Games and that man is Andrei Drygin. He is the only person to have represented his adopted nation in the Winter Olympics, he was born in Russia. His best performance was when he came 44th in the Super-G in Vancouver 4 years ago., but he also has a best of 51st the Downhill in 2006 and 57th in Giant Slalom in 2010. He will be 36 this year when he arrives in Sochi to take part in the Super-G and Giant Slalom.



Thailand


Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn
With two competitors it will no doubt be Kanes Sucharitakul who is taking part in the men's giant slalom and slalom who will be overlooked. The French based 21 year old student will pale in comparison to the media interest of the woman competing in the giant slalom. Although she is competing as Vanessa Vanakorn she is best known as Vanessa Mae the violinist. She will be making her Olympic debut at 35 after securing the Olympic qualifying standards on the last eligible day 19 January. They will follow in the ski tracks of Prawat Nagvajara who competed at Salt Lake City in 2002 and Turin in 2006.

Uzbekistan

There will be three athletes representing Uzbekistan in Sochi.

The first the eldest at 26 is also the only woman Kseniya Grigoreva who is appearing in her second Games. She unfortunately did not finish the first run of the women's slalom four years ago but came 58th in the Giant Slalom. This year she is doubling up adding Giant Slalom to her itinerary. She did not finish in either event in last year's world championships but two years earlier she was 44th in the slalom and 72nd in the Giant Slalom. 

Joining her in the Alpine disciplines in 20-year-old Artem Voronov who in last year's world championships came 44th in the men's slalom. In the world juniors the year before that he came 16th in the combined which suggests that in the future he may do more than simply the slalom and giant slalom which is all he has qualified for this time around.

The final member of the Uzbek team is yet another Russian born skater, Misha Ge. He is 22 years old but for most of his life has been training away from his homeland. At the age of ten he moved to China to start training and since 2009 has been training in the USA.

This explains why he was 6th in the Chinese national championship in 2009 before winning the Uzbek national title the following two years. However, in the 2011 Asian Games he finished 6th the last continental wide event he took part in. But in the last three Four Continents Tournaments (bring together the non-European skaters) he has been in the top 12 on each occasion. In last year's World Championships he recorded his best ever finish of 16th. But earlier this season he recorded his second silver medal performance in the Asian Cup only being beaten by Japan's Tatsuki Machida who secured Japan's second slot for the Olympics and Worlds this season.


 Timor-Leste appears in my blog post about debut nations.

28 January 2014

Smaller Winter Olympic delegations: 1 Africa #Sochi2014

After looking at the debut Winter Olympic nations it is time to look at some of the smaller delegations, those with 5 or less athletics so I am looking at them continent by continent. First alphabetically is Africa.

Khelfi in action
Algeria

Twenty one year old Mehdi-Sélim Khelfi will enter the stadium as the first Algerian to take part in two Winter Olympics. He will once again take part in the 15km cross-country skiing. Though this time he will be taking part in the classical rather than freestyle version. He finished 84th in Vancouver 4 years ago, but has a career best finish from that year of 26th in an individual sprint event from Germany in 2010 .

Born in France he made his debut on the world cup circuit last season having qualified in 2010 from the lower ranking events. He of course carried the flag into the stadium four years ago with only Greece and Albania going before and will most likely be repeating that honour when the Games come to Sochi, so he will be one of the first athletes to be seen on TV screens once again.

Morocco 

Lamhamedi winning gold in the Winter Youth Olympics
Neighbouring Algeria to the west is Morocco is sending two teenage skiers to take part in the Alpine events. The first is 17-yeare-old Kenza Tazi who is currently at high school in Albertville doing a sports studies course. It was here that she developed her interest in skiing and she will take part in the women's slalom and giant slalom.

The other Moroccan competitors is Adam Lamhamedi who was born to Canada to an Algerian father. In 2012 at the Youth Winter Olympics he won the boy's Super-G. This made his the first African athlete to win a winter related Olympic medal. He has largely been competing on the junior men's circuit in Canada this season but raking in the top six in all but one of the races he has taken part in against the best of Canada and the USA's young skiers. At eighteen he is already shown a natural ability for the sport and may well be one to look out for in Pyeongchangfour years from now.

Togo and Zimbabwe are also sending small delegations from Africa but they are featured in the debut nations blog post from earlier this month.


25 January 2014

South Africa not sending athlete to Sochi

For the first time since they returned to the Olympics at the 1992 Summer Games South Africa will not be sending an athlete to Sochi. This is despite the fact that when the quota allocation was finalised on Monday they were allocated one spot in Alpine Skiing.

However, Sive Speelman who was the skier whose performances that quota spot was based on will not be packing his bags from the ski slopes of Europe where he has been gaining points to head to the Black Sea city that is hosting the 2014 Winter Games.

The last quota from the IOC is to award the unused positions based on countries who had yet to fill a position or those who were not using their full criteria, when they were awarded multiple spots, freeing up spots. The standard for the quota list released in December was based on skiers achieving a average score of less than 140 points based on five FIS events. As of earlier this week Speelman had a score of 140.126 only just missing out on achieving the B standard as of right. However, as explained above the IOC were filling up the spots for the men's slalom which will take place on the 22nd February and this was good enough to be part of that day.

Yesterday the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) said that they would not be taking up the spot saying they would only be sending their best athletes to the Olympics.

However, a quick look at Sive's FIS page indicates that the earlier of these five races used to get that average was on 9 April 2013. There is a race three days earlier which he also picked up points which if used as a average of his best five scores over the last 12 months actually comes to 134.97.

So you can understand the disappointment of the 18 year old from Barkly East with his local Olympic Committee. However, looking at every South African Winter Olympic team since 1994 they have one thing in common that Sive Speelman cannot provide. There is at least one white South African in each of their previous five Winter Games teams.

With the refusal to send Speelman as a one man team there will be international scrutiny on the subject of race on this decision denying the one invitee from the IOC for South Africa to send to the Games in a fortnight's time.

14 January 2014

US Skating Federation break their selection criteria for the sponsors dollar

Anyone who is anyone in sport will tell you that US Olympic selection is rigid. If you want to take one of the three spots your nation has in that sport you have to be in one of the top three spaces in that sport's trial or national championship.

With winter sport and the threat of injury for most of them there have been the odd exception made, but only for the issue of injury. For figure skating there have only ever been four exceptions, the first was in 1992 when Todd Eldredge the two time US Champion and bronze from the previous year's worlds was unable to compete due to a back injury, he was selected but came a lowly 10th. In 1998 it was pairs skaters Jenni Meno and Todd Sand who benefited by an ankle injury to Meno forced them to withdraw during the nationals, they were 8th in the Olympics but unlike Eldredge recovered to take silver in the Worlds. Michelle Kwan was selected for the 2006 Games after chronic injuries had forced her to miss the entire season but in the end she had to withdraw from the Games and normality was resumed.

The only other time was the infamous 1994 when Nancy Kerrigan replaced Kwan after the incident involving her rival Tonya Harding's ex-partner and a police paton on the eve of the championships. Kerrigan alone of the replacement pics medaled.

Podium from the US Championships with Wagner on 4th step
This year there was no injury issues and the third place finisher in the Ladies was the only of the top four who had previous Olympic experience coming 4th in Vancouver four years ago. She stayed on her feet, with a substantial lead and a harder programme then the skater in fourth, who actually feel twice in the free programme. She is also coming back from a tough season last year, she is the sort of story of American grit that sponsors would love. But the sponsors have already investing in advertising in Ashley Wagner who came fourth who is signed with Nike, Pandora Jewelry and Cover Girl for her blond hair and blue eyes. The women who came third and is now only the alternate for the Games is Mirai Nagasu the daughter of Japanese immigrants who run a sushi bar in California. In 2008 she was the second youngest ever US national champion.

In another twist to the who story Wagner was born in Heidelberg, Germany while Nagasu is Californian born. Although to be be fair Wagner was born on the US Army Base in Heidelberg.

Here's the routine that everyone thought at the time earned Mirai her return to the Olympic stage.

10 January 2014

Dukurs brothers reign supreme at home of Skeleton

The sliders of Winter sport have moved to the last hand made track this weekend and that means St. Moritz. First up up? What else but the men's skeleton the event that before 2002 had only appeared when the Olympics of 1928 and 1948 were held in this high altitude Swiss resort.

In the first of two men's events here this weekend it was this seasons top four in the standing who were the four fastest after heat 1. For the Lativian Dukurs brothers younger brother Thomass had the better of the four time world cup winner, looking for his fifth in a row, older brother Martins on the first run. Behind them Matthew Antoine USA had the edge over Alexander Tretiakov RUS but there was only 0.17 seconds covering the top 4 and only 0.03 separating 2nd from 4th. So it was all to play for on the second run.

Before the contest at the fast end of the first run, German Frank Rommel put in a great performance the first man to record a time of over 101 km/h in the last speed trap all day which saw him rise into the top 10. Britain's former World Champion Kristan Bromley also but in a good run, recording one of the fastest times at the speed guns and indeed his time of 1:10.21 was only to be beaten by those top 4 sliders as well as thew unfortunate USA slider Eric Neilson who had a big hit near the end which saw he drop down to 9th having been 5th at the end of the first run. Bromley's run would eventually see him climb to 7th overall.

Martins Dukurs Picture captured from Bobsleigh and Skeleton TV
Tretiakov didn't manage to be the first man to go under 1:10 twice, so when Antoine did he was able to retain at least a podium spot, but he then had the pair who were one-two last weekend in Winterberg and in last year's World Cup to come after him.

Martins Dukurs set a new track record of 1:09.30 while his brother was preparing in the start gate. Thomass came down in the second fastest time of the day, but it was only 0.04 seconds faster than his previous run, a full 0.4 seconds down on the track record set moments before and 0.26 second behind his brother, who win took him back to the top of the world cup standings.

Result

1. Martins Dukurs LAT 1:09.88 + 1:09.30 (TR) = 2:19.18
2. Thomass Dukurs LAT 1:09.74 + 1:09.70 = 2:19.44 +0.26
3. Matthew Antoine USA 1:09.90 + 1:09.97 = 2:19.87 +0.69
4. Alexander Tretiakov RUS 1:09.91 + 1:10.07 = 2:19.98 +0.80
5. Kyle Tress USA 1:10.22 + 1:10.28 = 2:20.50 +1.32
6. John Fairburn CAN 1:10.28 + 1:10.31 = 2:20.59 +1.41
7. Kristan Bromley GBR 1:10.39 + 1:10.21 = 2:20.60 +1.42
8. Alexander Kroeckel RUS 1:10.37 + 1:10.25 = 2:20.62 +1.44
9. Eric Neilson USA 1:10.18 + 1:10.46 = 2:20.64 +1.46
10. Eric Rommel GER 1:10.58 + 1:10.24 = 2:20.82 +1.64

World Cup Standings

1. Martins Dukurs LAT 1045
2. Alexander Tretiakov RUS 1037
3. Thomass Dukurs LAT 988
4. Matthew Antoine USA 985
5. Frank Rommel GER 816