Ice problems in Canada, of all places

February 16, 2010


Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) – Canada may be the land of bacon, but it’s also the land of ice — as in hockey ice, pond ice, Molson Ice.

So when the men’s 500-meter speedskating race was delayed for more than an hour Monday while they figured out a technical problem with the ice resurfacing machine, there were more than a few rolled eyes.

It was the second time in as many days that one of the machines caused a delay at Richmond Olympic Oval.

“This was a drama. This was definitely not at an Olympic level. It’s laughable,” said Dutch skater Jan Bos, who also wasn’t impressed with the ice machine four years ago at the Turin Olympics.

Bos, who finished 29th, put his drink bottle down on the Richmond ice. On a normal surface, he said, the bottle will slide for 10 meters. On Monday, it immediately fell over.

“It’s a shame,” he said.

It was the second time in as many days that one of the machines caused a delay at Richmond Olympic Oval.
Some skaters complained, most didn’t. A few of them lost their balance — like top American hope Tucker Fredricks, who couldn’t recover after placing 15th in the first of two races.

Fredricks skated in the second half of the draw during the first race (competitors skate twice in the 500, and their times are combined). Which meant that he was among those who waited more than an hour for the problem to be sorted out.

The USOC said American coaches were concerned that the long delay would lead to unfair conditions. Fredricks wasn’t bothered by the wait, but did agree that the ice was in unusual shape.

“It was consistent with being inconsistent,” he said.

Two skaters wiped out, although not because of the ice.

Germany’s Samuel Schwarz went spinning into the wall after sticking his toes across the finish line in customary fashion. Later, silver medalist Keiichiro Nagashima of Japan was felled by a Herculean high-five from one of his coaches.

Gold medalist Mo Tae-Bum, meanwhile, managed to stay on his skates.

American star Shani Davis, using the 500 as a tune-up, withdrew after the first race to focus on two longer distances he has a better chance of winning. He said ice problems are part of the game.

“Bad ice is bad ice,” Davis said.

Sweden’s Magnus Enfeldt, the Vancouver organizing committee’s general manager for the arena, said the machines being used at the Richmond oval have been in operation for a year and a half. They have only recently started experiencing problems with them.

Enfeldt said a solution is in the works.

“We’re bringing in a Zamboni from Calgary.”

What, they don’t have a bunch of those in Vancouver?

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