Anne Delaney

Monday, February 22, 2010

Delaney: Three semifinal teams for TVL

Back in Utica today after my Olympic adventure.

I was surprised to see three Tri Valley League teams in this weekend's Section III girls basketball semifinals. I probably should not have been shocked. Camden, Clinton and Whitesboro were competitive all season for top-dog honors, and Notre Dame was one of the surprise teams in the area.

Camden and Whitesboro are both finished for the year, and New Hartford lives. Earlier this month New Hartford coach Mike Callan told me his Spartans were a year away. From what I'm not sure but it looks like New Hartford quicker than Callan expected.

New Hartford joins Clinton and Notre Dame in sectional semifinals this weekend. Of the three, New Hartford might have the best chance to reach the finals. Class B Clinton and Class C Notre Dame both meet undefeated opponents on Saturday. Clinton (15-5) plays state No. 1 South Jefferson (19-0) at 4 p.m. at South Lewis. Notre Dame (15-5) plays state No. 2 Bishop Grimes (19-0) at 1 p.m. at Chittenango.

On paper, Class A New Hartford (13-7) has an even match-up with Carthage (13-6) at 6 p.m. Saturday at South Lewis.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Delaney: The Valley to Bellingham, area native reaches out

We have a joke around the office that there is a Utica-area connection to nearly everything that happens in the world. I would not have been surprised if one of Tiger Woods' mistresses attended a local high school.

I should've believed in such strong coincidences by now.

Fourteen months into my O-D tenure I had shoulder surgery in Maryland. The physical therapist who walked into my room the day after the operation was from Oriskany. Small world, right.

The world got even smaller for me last week during the world's biggest sporting event. While covering luge last week in Whistler, I logged into my e-mail and found a message from Ron Buchinski, Herkimer High School class of 1970.

"My wife and I were born and raised near Utica and now live just south of Vancouver. If you need anything give us a call," Buchinski wrote.

Who says people there aren't nice people in the world?

Buchinski's wife is Patricia Nestle Buchinski, Ilion class of '71. The Buchinskis live in Bellingham, Washington about 10 minutes south of the Canadian border, 90 miles north of Seattle and 40 miles from Vancouver.

They saw a story on Whistler on the Observer-Dispatch web site and wanted me to know they were there.

"I had some friends out here years ago, and a friend of a friend had car trouble or something," Buchinski told me Wednesday evening. "I'm glad we could help."

The Buchinski's business is helping people. Ron is a the director of the Lighthouse Mission in Bellingham where Pat runs the women's program. He was the executive director of a Lincoln, Neb. rescue mission for a decade before moving to Bellingham six years ago.

"There was no reason to leave other than to make a difference out here," said Buchinski in our phone call. "It's a beautiful area."

The Buchinskis have three daughters, Melissa, 35, Michelle, 32 and Mary, 28, who live in Lincoln and Denver. They also have eight grandchildren.

The northwest is also very different from Central New York, a region Buchinski considers to be blue collar. The cost of living in the northwest is higher, and especially to buy property. But Seattle and Vancouver offer diversity and are "international places."

With high tech industries such as Microsoft and Adobe software nearby, the region is more white collar. Sort of.

"Out here nobody wears white collars," Buchinski joked. "You don't see a difference in quality of work. It's more of laid-back lifestyle. It was an adjustment for me. Nobody wears a suit and tie."

Pat Buchinski just returned from a trip to CNY a few weeks. Ron's father, Walt, and Pat's father, also Walt, both live in Herkimer.

Ron has not been back in a couple of years, but he's planning on a trip this summer for his 40th high school reunion. He's not completely cut off from New York in the northwest. He gets to Seattle a couple of times a year for Yankees games.

"I wore a Yankees hat to a game and I heard about it," he said of Seattle fans.

There is something he's missing. "Utica has the best Italian food," Buchinski said.

"I can't wait."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Delaney: On my last day, Whistler more alive

Wouldn't you know it.

On my last full day in Whistler, the village was more alive than at anytime since I arrived nine days ago.

I did some work in the Whistler Media Centre and walked around the village on my way up to the luge track. It's beautiful here today. The sun is shining and it's about 45 degrees. This weather may not be winter enough for Winter Olympic fans, but for a winter-phob such as myself this is grand.

My quest for additional pairs of Vancouver 2010 red mittens has intensified. I went back to The Olympic Store in the Whistler Medals Plaza, but no luck. I have one more chance Thursday morning before I get on the bus to the Vancouver airport.

What I did find in the medals plaza was a wonderful, festival-type atmosphere enhanced by the music of local band Spy vs. Spy. They play at the Brew House in the medals plaza once a week but during the Olympics the duo is there daily at 3 p.m. On Wednesday, they played a compelling rendition of Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve. I forgot about that song. I could've stayed there all day listening to them and watching Whistler go by. A popular activity for the passers by was posing for pictures on the Olympic rings in the plaza.

I miss Whistler already.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Delaney: Whistler party

I just came from the Whistler luge track back to the media centre. There's a party going on up at that track. And it's not just Team Hamlin. They put up signs on one fence, though the signs might have to come down because they're not official Ron Hamlin was told.

Next to the Hamlins is a party supporting German slider Tatyana Huefner, the No. 1 ranked slider in the world. On the other side is Megan Sweeney's crew, all in bright pink hats. They're easier to spot than the Hamlins.

Upbeat music is blasting from a sound system and there is a disc jockey, of sorts, getting everyone pumped up. It's working. A couple of women walked by me mouthing the words to a song from The Rolling Stones - 'I Can't Get No Satisfaction.'

Let's hope that is not the case for the lugers.

Delaney: Maybe Georgian luger not prepared

The father of the Georgian luger who died Friday while training on the Whistler Olympic track told the The Wall Street Journal his son was afraid of one of the turns on the track known as the fastest in the world.

I wonder if this is telling about the ability of 21-year-old Nodar Kumarithashvili to slide on the Whistler track that is hosting Olympic racing this week. Lugers don't admit fear. A crash shakes up any luge athlete, but if they don't get back on the sled they are done.

The Georgian luge federation said through the FIL Saturday that Kumaritashvili, ranked 44th in the world, had a sufficient number of runs to race Whistler.

Then why was he afraid?

USA Luge CEO Ron Rossi expressed some doubt Saturday that Kumaritashvili was experienced enough to handle the track. Kumaritashvili had 26 runs at Whistler and competed in the minimum number of World Cup events (5) during the season.

"This track is unforgiving for the best athletes but for athletes not at that skill level, they can die on this track," said Rossi Saturday.

Remsen's Erin Hamlin said Saturday she was not afraid of the track, even after Kumaritashvili's accident.

"No fear," Hamlin said.

Rossi said after the Games he plans to propose a change in the rules governing track access. There is a culture in luge where Olympic host countries protect track access leading up to the Winter Olympics. This is not an issue for stronger luge nations such as Germany, Italy and the U.S. But athletes in a nation like Georgia might need more time and increasing the number of runs could help them.

"I think (access rules) were based on an old-style thinking that you have the hometown advantage," Rossi said. "The hometown team already has the advantage. What's the difference in allowing other nations 50 more runs?'

USA Luge and Canada had a disagreement over an equal number of runs at tracks in the two countries. Rossi said he wondered if Canada was overzealous in protecting its track, and a rule increasing the minimum number of runs could control that.

Rossi said "a slew of things" need to be looked by the International Luge Federation and organizing committees as a result of Kumaritashvili's death. One of these is speed calculations of a track. A track designer presents speed calculations and then they are approved. What happens if speeds are then higher than anticipated, Rossi asked.

In December, the Whistler track was projected to be 85 miles per hour. Now it's more than 90 and U.S. men's slider Tony Benshoof said last week he expected speeds to go over 100 during Olympic racing.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Delaney: The Winter Olympic's friendly Smurfs

We are big on volunteering in Utica. We all know the Boilermaker and America's Greatest Heart Run & Walk would be sunk without volunteers.

Those generous and dedicated souls have met their match at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. All over the games - in parking lots, venues and media centres - are more than 25,000 in bright blue coats, shirts, vests or hats.

The Smurfs as someone called them. The Vancouver 2010 Smurfs are not as scary. They are very helpful and very polite group willing to help an at-times clueless Olympic first timer find his - or her - way around.

All around the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics are VANOC employees and volunteers in bright blue coats, vests or hats. They also have dark-colored wind pants.

Krista Cattapan, a 27-year-old volunteer from Ontario, said the bright green and blue colors of the Games was chosen based on natural colors of the ocean, trees and mountains in British Columbia. Cattapan, a nurse in Sault Ste. Marie is a volunteer at the Vancouver Cultural Olympiad which is a celebration of different cultures, theater and the arts from all over the world.

"I am very proud to be Canadian right now," said Cattapan, leaving the men's luge competition Sunday with her husband Brian. "Right from the get-go I've never stopped smiling. It's awesome. I get shivers just talking about it."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Delaney: Whistler death leads to questions

The death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili after a training run Friday has raised issues about luge, luge tracks and track safety.

Before the Vancouver Winter Olympics, much of the discussion about luge centered on the Whistler track. The track is the fastest in the world because of an approximately 500-foot drop - the equivalent of 49 stories - at the the top of the course. This feature is most noticeable on the men's track which is slightly longer than the starts where the women's and doubles sliders enter the course.

There are more than two sides to this story, and it is too soon for clarity. There are more questions than answers.

Is the Whistler track too fast? Were proper safety precautions taken? Did Kumaritashvili, seemingly an inexperienced slider, have a sufficient number of runs at Whistler to compete in the Olympic Games?

The Georgian federation said he did through the International Luge Federation on Saturday morning. USA Luge CEO Ron Rossi questioned the ability of inexperienced sliders to navigate Whistler more than six months ago. Rossi, a former doubles slider for the U.S., said the most difficult thing to teach a luge athlete is to keep his or her head back when they are sliding down a track at 90 mph.

There is a tendency, Rossi said, for young sliders to lift the head for perspective. When an athlete does this, it alters the way the sled sits on the ice and steering is compromised. It can lead to accidents because of the sled's speed.

"That is the fear realized," said Rossi Saturday.

Kumaritashvili was ranked 44th in the world and raced in the minimum five World Cup events to quality for the Olympics.

We don't know what happened with Kumaritashvili's run on Friday beyond he lost control and flew helplessly through the air. An FIL official said Saturday the run was routine leading into curve 15. The unknown might be solved with a change in track access.

It is tradition or practice in the sport for Olympic host countries to be stingy with track times for other countries. Perhaps the Canadians took this practice too far but why wouldn't they?

Before the 2002 Winter Olympics, USA Luge restricted additional track access for two key competitors: Austria and Italy. Rossi said the Germans knew their request for more time at Park City would be denied and so did not bother to ask.

A new Olympic track opens about a year before the Games. There is testing and two weeks of training time, but beyond that host countries can pick and choose the level of access for other nations.

A nation such as Georgia, considered in the luge community to be a weaker country in the sport, might require more time on a track than traditional powers such as Germany or Italy.

Three American athletes shared the view that the changes to track start locations for the Olympics were an unfortunate reaction to Kumaritashvili's accident. Luge is a fast and dangerous sport. They are part of the attraction for athletes such as Erin Hamlin, Megan Sweeney and Tony Benshoof.

So how does luge maintain its extreme-sport appeal, ensure safety and regulate access?

In time answers may come. For now, there are only questions.