Winter Olympic Games

13 July 2012

The XXI Winter Olympic Games were held on February 12-28, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. Several hours before starting of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games, a 21-year old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died tragically during a training run. The accident shocked not only Georgian delegation and Georgia, but also the entire Olympic world. Actually, thewhite Olympics got dressed into dark and the name of Nodar Kumaritashvili was mentioned more frequently than those of the champions of the Games. Nodari was one of those eight Georgian athletes who obtained the Olympic license; and it happened in the last moment, when there was almost no time left. Despite the great tragedy the Georgian delegation made a difficult, but correct decision and stayed in Vancouver, thus remained faithful to the principles of the Olympics and honored the memory of Nodari.

It was Georgia's fifth participation in the winter Olympic Games as an independent country with its own team and flag. The debut took place in Lillehammer in 1994. Olympics in Nagano, Salt Lake City and Turin came afterwards. Georgia was represented by 5 athletes in Lillehammer,while fourOlympians became eligible for the Olympic Games in Nagano and Salt Lake City, and only 3 athletes represented Georgia in Turin. From this standpoint the Vancouver Olympics turned out to be a record-breaking tournament but fateful. Due to obvious reasons Nodar Kumaritashvili's closest friend Levan Gureshidze, also a luger, did not come to the starting line.

During the year of independence Elene Gedevanishvili, the figure skater, was the best so far at Winter Olympic Games who ended up 10th in Turin. It was obvious that Gedevanishvili was the one who was mostly expected to win, especially after she started training with the American coach Robin Wagner and obtained the bronze medal in the European Championship in January. The pre-Olympic achievements, Elene's experience and growing mastership could have been considered as a precondition to expect that the Georgian skater would have ended up within top 10 if not hopefully within the medalists. Apparently this was to happen: at the very start of the Vancouver Games Elene received her personal record (61,92) points (35,80 - skating skills, 26,12 - program component) and finished 9th. However, figure skating certainly is full of surprises and even a very little mistake strongly affects the final results. While performing a free-style program Gedevanishvili made several slight and one serious error - she fell on the ice and the adequate evaluation followed- 93,32 points which turned out 17th, and the Georgian skater moved to the 14th place with the total 155,24 points.

Before leaving for Vancouver Irakli Japaridze the President of the Figure Skating Federation of Georgia said that Elene Gedevanishvili was undoubtedly the main hope:"Elene improved significantly, her jumps and skating skills are getting perfect, she acquired great experience and if everything goes well, we should think about the top six". Thinking about top six seemed quite realistic by then, however hopefully there was something wrong about in Vancouver and Elene stepped down by 4 places compared to her performance at the previous games. Incidentally the Vancouver ice turned out unlucky for many favorite skaters. For example, a three-fold European Champion, Carolina Kostner from Italy fell quite behind Elene Gedevanishvili and ended up 19th.

Being favorite means that the fans expect the best results, however,for someone, obtaining license for the Olympics might already mean a serious achievement. That is exactly how Otar Japaridze's and her Georgified American partner Elisson Reed's 12th place taken at the International Skaters Tournament in Obersdorf, Germany was assessed. The newly created duet of Japaridze and Reed obtained the pass to the Vancouver Olympics based on these very results, however at the Olympics they were 22nd, the penultimate place, with 132,32 points. That was the first case, when an ice dance couple from Georgia participated in winter Olympics, meaning that, to some extent, the results of Japaridze and Reed will become areference for future skaters from Georgia.

Such a reference lately was set in 1998 in alpine skiing during the Nagano Olympics, when Zurab Jijishvili took quite a high place - the 14th in alpine combined. Georgian skiers were not able to improve Jijishvili's achievements during the next Olympics. So happened in Vancouver as well: the double Olympian Iason Abramishvili finished 46th among 103 participants in giant slalom, and the competition debutant Jaba Gelashvili was only 50th. As for the slalom, Abramishvili made 34th after the first try, but afterward was unable to finish the track and stayed unranked. Gelashvili failed at the very start. As for Nino Tsiklauri, the 17-year old participant of the women's alpine skiing tournament, she finished 50th in slalom, but did not reach the finish line in giant slalom.