TO REMEMBER: SALT LAKE CITY
While this is my fifth Olympic Games, it is only
my second time at the winter version. Growing up in New England, I
always preferred watching the Winter Games, because it meant that some of
my favorite sports were going to be on television. Working in Salt
Lake in 2002 confirmed this: the Winter Games are a lot of fun.
They are far more intimate than the Summer Games, with less than half the
number of countries participating, and they stir up some amazing moments
in sports. My favorite moments, in order:
The Luck of Steven Bradbury:
With things in the Research Room under control, I took a stroll one evening
down Olympic Plaza and stopped in
the skating venue to see American Apolo
Anton Ohno in the
1,000-meter short track skating final. What happened in those brief
minutes sent me running back to the IBC to untangle the mess that left Australian
with a gold medal and everyone else sprawled across the ice. Mere luck?
Not according to Bradbury. His strategy was to play it safe, knowing
that at age 28 he couldn’t best the world’s best, so he needed to simply
try and avoid them in case of a crash. It worked in the semi-finals,
when three skaters fell, giving him a berth in the finals. And then
it happened again in the final: four skaters went down, including Ohno,
leaving Bradbury clear to skate for gold, and Ohno left to crawl for silver.
Ohno, prone, crawled his way to silver. As I sprinted back to the Research
Room, the booing thundered out of the arena and into the Plaza.
The Harry Potter of Ski
Jumping: Switzerland’s Simon
Ammann took two gold medals away from Salt Lake, despite never having
done much of anything in international competition on the road there.
He is only the second jumper in history to catch two individual gold medals
in a single Winter Games, but it is his coke-bottle glasses and spiky hair
that people will undoubtedly remember him for. His celebrity brought
him to New York City for a visit with David Letterman, and has made him a
hometown hero in Unterwasser.
3. The Drama
of Ice Dancing: We thought it was over. But then the protest:
Canadian pair Jamie Sale
and David Pelletier,
who recently wed, felt that they had been robbed. And it turned out
they had been. While initially the judges awarded the gold medal in
pairs figure skating to the Russian team of Yelena Berezhnava and Anton Sikharuldize, the decision was overturned
when it came out that there had been bribery involved. In the end,
both pairs were granted gold in a bizarre medal ceremony that involved both
couples on the ice, and cast an even larger shadow on the behind-the-scenes
verdicts of the figure skating world. Now that I think about it, this
wasn’t one of my favorite moments at all.