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Talk of the Games

The medal standings tell only part of the sports story of what's happening at the Games. For the rest, check out the latest dispatches from The Seattle Times' sports crew of columnists, reporters and producers.

February 15, 2010 at 9:25 PM

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Return of the Zambonis

Posted by Bob Condotta

After two events that featured problems with electric-powered Olympia ice resurfacing machines, the Vancouver Organizing Committee gave in --- they will bring in a propane-powered Zamboni tomorrow for use at the Richmond Ice Oval. (It will be transported in from Calgary).

Using the electric-powered machines was part of VANOC's efforts to make these the "Green Olympics.''

And the venue director at the ROO, Magnus Enfeldt, insisted Monday night there had been few previous issues with the Olympia machines.

But Sunday's women's 3,000 and today's men's 500 each featured problems with the two large ice resurfacing machines, today causing a roughly 70-minute delay in the competition following the first half of the first flight that some coaches thought made the event unfair.

Some felt it should have been postponed, with American coach Derek Parra saying officials made a quick decision to go on so the race could get done by 8 p.m. and clear the way for a later TV broadcast of the pairs figure skating.

"They had to get it on (TV) or they were going to cancel the event,'' Parra said.

Enfeldt said later international skating officials declared the ice good to go and that was the reason the decision was made to go on.

The American skaters I spoke with said the ice wasn't a factor in why none of them came close to winning --- the highest US finisher was Tucker Fredricks at 12th and he said he just had a bad day.

Shani Davis, a favorite to win the 1,000 but not a contender in this one, was 18th after the first round then pulled out. But while his spokesman said the delay was a factor, he also said Davis was competing mostly to stay sharp for the 1,000 and thought the one race served its purpose.

Still, in a brief comment to reporters as he left the arena, Davis said "bad ice is bad ice.''

Enfeldt insisted it will be better in the future, issuing an apology to skaters, coaches and spectators (though curiously, not to reporters who suddenly had tough deadlines to meet). He defended using the Olympia machines but said the Zamboni would assure there would be a machine that could get the job done correctly.

The problematic machine tonight created some slush that Parra said left ridges in the ice, comparing it to trying to in-line skate on pebbles.

Fredericks reiterated that the ice and the delay weren't factors in his poor performance --- he's rated No. 4 in the world and had hoped to medal. He said his shins have been hurting and just didn't race well --- he stumbled a little at the start and again in the first turn.

This is his only event here, and the 25-year-old had vowed to do better after finishing 25th in 2006. He is the epitome of the Olympic athlete who toils in anonymity for four years hoping for that one shot at real glory and the failure hit him hard.

"I might start crying, so don't make fun of me,'' he said good-naturedly but obviously downcast as he came out to greet reporters.

"It's tough,'' he said. "Four more years, oh gosh, that's going to be a long time. But I've got to suck it up.''

Asked if that meant he would be back in four years for another shot at the Olympics, he said yes.

"I'll be back,'' he said. "I've got nothing else to do.''

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