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Lopsided Women's Ice Hockey Games Open Olympic Tournament

  • Parke Brewer

China's Goalie dives to make a save against the US team in Olympic Women's hockey in Vancouver

China's Goalie dives to make a save against the US team in Olympic Women's hockey in Vancouver

On Saturday, Canada broke record for biggest margin of victory in Olympic women's ice hockey with an 18-0 trouncing of Slovakia

The world's two dominant women's ice hockey teams - Canada and the United States - opened group round-robin play at the Winter Olympics with lopsided victories. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer is in Vancouver and takes a look at how the big margins are being viewed.

Skiing, speed skating, luge and bobsled are all Winter Olympics sports usually decided by fractions of a second. The fast-paced sport of ice hockey is thrilling when there is a tightly-played contest, but that is not what spectators observed in each of the opening women's games contested by Canada and the United States.

On Saturday, Canada broke the record for the biggest margin of victory in Olympic women's ice hockey with an 18-0 trouncing of Slovakia. That exceeded the Canadians 16-0 win over host Italy four years ago in Turin.

On Sunday, the United States overpowered China, 12-1, with the only Chinese goal coming on a power play against the U.S. team's back-up goaltender in the final three minutes.

China's Finnish coach Hannu Juhani Saintula acknowledged that his team will have to get a lot better to compete with the likes of the strong U.S. squad, but he added the experience of playing the Americans can only help.

U.S. coach Mark Johnson said that fans need to be patient with teams that are trying to develop in a sport where they do not have a strong tradition. But he admitted he feels uncomfortable when the scores become so lopsided.

Comparisons can certainly be made to the U.S. "Dream Team" basketball squad when NBA players made their Olympics debut in 1992 in Barcelona. Since then, basketball teams across the globe have closed the gap.

One fan at the U.S.-China game, American Margaret Byrd, told VOA Sports she enjoyed the contest and that no matter what the score, the players need to go all out.

"The others will come on, and they'll get it together," she said. "They'll work it out. I mean, these Chinese girls, there's some skill out there. They just have to keep at it, you know, see what they can do."

American fan Peggy Whitney agreed.

"Hopefully the other countries will get stronger as the years progress, bring their level of play up to the Canadians and the Americans," she said.

International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said he watched the big win by Canada over Slovakia, but he did not seem concerned for the tournament here.

"Clearly if you're on the losing side of a rout, it's never much fun," he explained. "But I'm sure they had a great experience, and I'm sure they are thankful to be Olympians. You know, these things happen in all sports at all levels."

Spokeswoman for the Vancouver Organizing Committee Rene Smith-Valade shared the same opinion.

"The young women competing for Slovakia I think had a great game," she said. "Would they have loved to beat the Canadian team? I'm sure they would have, but it's all about being an Olympian. And for all the women who have come to play in the Olympic hockey tournament and for any athlete who is here it's about being an Olympian and coming to and Olympic Games, so we hope they had a great experience."

The other two women's ice hockey games played thus far were much closer. Sweden beat Switzerland, 3-0, and in Sunday's late game, Finland topped Russia, 5-1.

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