CNR AT THE WINTER GAMES INDEX PHOTOS - WOMENS' SPORTS AT CNR - CNR MAIN INDEX




QUESTION:
Dear Dr. Bass:
The Games always produces an "odd ball" character or incident. What would you consider the most amusing or weird incident of these Games in Italy?  - John, Pelham, NY

ANSWER:
Despite the fact that I keep defending her right to a silver medal, the strangest thing I have seen here was Lindsey Jacobellis's decision to throw a method air on her second to the last jump of the Snowboard Cross. Watching the monitors of the race, we all cheered as her lead continued to increase as she went down the mountain.  And then one of us (not me) said it:  "It's in the bag!"  We all said, 'NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO' and then Lindsey went down.  So while Lindsey herself is not someone I would characterize as an "oddball," her Olympic moment was without question the strangest I have ever seen, no doubt about it.


QUESTION:
Dear Dr. Bass:
Who is the most interesting athlete at these games that we've never heard of?  - Elissa, Stonington, CT

ANSWER:
There are lots of interesting people here that you've never heard of, particularly those who are the only ones representing their countries. The Thai cross-country skier. The Turkish figure skater. But I think my favorite thus far is Italy's Enrico Fabris, the speed skater who is tearing up the ice over at Oval Lingotto. While America wondered who would win, Shani or Chad, Fabris proved the spoiler, capturing his third medal of these Games. He's from the town of Roana, which is about 50 miles from Venice, and at 6-2 he's easy to spot, especially during his victory laps with the Italian flag.


QUESTION:
Dear Dr. Bass:
Is the much publicized ballyhood spat between Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis of the US Speed Skating Team a new thing or is there a history between these men? Thanks.  - Tom M., Sarasota, FL

ANSWER:
Competitions are between competitors, and Chad and Shani are among the best in the world.  While they battle each other -- and many others -- on the ice, and they work their stories through the media, lots can happen.  But when it comes down to starting time, it's all about skating, regardless of the problems within the US Speed Skating team or with their comments about each other in the media.


QUESTION:
Dear Dr. Bass:
How many languages do you speak, and how many languages are spoken by research room staff?  Do most countries have an English-speaking representative to communicate with NBC people?
- Ruth Mary, Richmond, MA

ANSWER:
I speak English very well, and still have good conversational and reading fluency in French.  In terms of the room, we're pretty well covered:  German, French, Italian, Korean, Chinese, Russian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Spanish.  While not every country has an English-speaking representative, we can usually use one of our languages to speak with someone, because a lot of people in this world speak more than one language.  It's an eye-opening thing -- many people in this room alone speak three or four languages, something that I really envy.


QUESTION:
Dear Dr. Bass:
How is this Olympic experience different from all the others?
 
ANSWER:
All of my Olympic experiences have similarities and differences.  This one is my first Winter Games abroad, which makes it different.  The Europeans like very different events from Americans.  Example:  when I was in Salt Lake four years ago, the local television showed a lot of skating and skiing.  Here, in my hotel room, it's lots of biathlon and cross-country skiing.  But other than location, the rhythm of the Games is always familiar -- lots of work, lots of pressure, and very little sleep!


QUESTION:
Dear Dr. Bass:
How do you feel about the Bode Miller? Is he setting a bad example by admitting to taking part in a world event still drunk from the night before or should we applaud his honesty? What makes a better role model - honesty, even if it's something we don't want to hear or presenting the image society wants to see, even if it's fraudulent?
- Jordan Ellis, Queens, NY

ANSWER:
Here's the thing about athletes: we see them as role models, but quite often they have not chosen this role for themselves. Bottom line? He's interesting. His upbringing, his training regimen, his interviews, his candor -- all of it speaks to a very independent spirit, and I never think that is a bad thing. Why isn't being outspoken a good thing to project to others?  He is also an incredible skier -- and whether or not he gets his gold, he certainly has accomplished a tremendous amount. 

Think of it:  he's the first American in over two decades to win an overall World Cup title. He already has two silver medals from Salt Lake. And without question he has raised the profile of his sport to a new level in terms of media attention-- magazine covers, television interviews, headlines. Yep--I like him.


QUESTION:
Dear Dr. Bass:
What Olympian do you find the most interesting to watch and why?
- Ruth Santiago

ANSWER:
There are many athletes here that I find interesting, but in terms of watching an athlete, the first one that comes to mind is short track skater Apolo Anton Ohno, largely because of the MTV-infused spirit he brings to the sport.  Born in Seattle, the birthplace of grunge, he is one of those rock-n-roll stars that emerge in every Olympic Games, and his was Salt Lake, where he brought home a gold and a silver.  But it went beyond the medals – how his races went down are just as important.  In the 1000, his signature event, a four-way pile-up – one of the more spectacular crashes in Olympic history – allowed Steven Bradbury to bring home Australia’s first gold medal in a Winter Games because he was so far out of contention that he was the only one who didn’t fall down.  Ohno slid across on finish line on his back to grab silver, his thigh bleeding profusely from a skate blade.  A few days later in the 1500m, South Korean skater Kim Dong-Sung cross-tracked Ohno, an illegal move that involves cutting across another skater’s path, and while Kim crossed the line first, Ohno got gold, with Kim disqualified for interference.  He became vilified in South Korea, to the point that when South Korea scored against the United States at the World Cup in 2002, the players simulated short track skating motions in what they dubbed an “Ohno Celebration.”  Ohno avoided competing in South Korea because of death threats he received, and South Korea failed to show up at World Cup events held in both the U.S. and Canada, although no official reason was given.  Things heightened even further in Athens after U.S. gymnast Paul Hamm won gold over Yang Tae-Young in a controversial scoring call.  However, things have somewhat settled down:  Ohno competed in South Korea last fall, and now he comes to Torino ready to race.  He had a bad race in the 1500m, but hopefully he'll pull it out in the 1000m.  Of course, anything can happen in a sport where athletes are hunched perpendicular to the ground, scrambling across the finish line in roller derby fashion.  But I'll be rooting for him.


QUESTION:
Dear Dr. Bass:
I loved the back story NBC did on snowboarder Shaun White. Have you met "The Flying Tomato?" Is he as down to earth as he seems?
- Kathleen, Ledyard, CT 

ANSWER:
How great is "The Flying Tomato?" Such a beautiful performance -- thing didn't go well for him in his first qualifying round, and then he pulled it together and absolutely soared. And that hair -- that red, red hair.

Did I meet him?  No, I didn't, but I snapped a sly photo of him when he walked by me (I learned to keep a camera on me at all times in the IBC). He is, however, by reputation, quite cool.  His story is, well, Olympic: when he was a baby, he had a heart defect that required surgery, and his family used to follow him around on the snowboarding circuit, living in a van to save money.  Now he's the poster boy for his sport, making money, driving big cars, and getting followed by fans.  Watch MTV -- you'll see a re-run of him getting "punk'd" by Ashton Kutcher -- and you'll see just how genuine he can be.


QUESTION:
Dear Dr. Bass:
Have you seen the  Shroud of  Turin? - Michael, New York, NY
 
 ANSWER:
Well, the answer isn't simple.  I visited the chapel where the shroud is held, but it is in a box behind bulletproof glass, so no, haven't really seen the Shroud.  It won't be available for public viewing until 2025.  But I saw the replica! (see January 31 entry)


QUESTION:
Dear Dr. Bass:
Out of all the Olympic moments you have seen, what is the most inspiring to you? - Ruth Santiago

 ANSWER:
They happen all the time, making this a very difficult one to answer.
In terms of television, I think the most moving thing I've ever seen was when Brit Derrick Redman tore a hamstring during the 400m semi-final in Barcelona.  It was a devastating injury but he got up and began to hobble towards the finish.  The officials tried to help him, but he didn't want them to interfere:  he wanted to finish, but he could barely move.  Then a man came running out of the stands -- his father.  He helped his son cross the line, holding him up.  Not a dry eye in the house.  I don't even know anyone in the Olympic world who can talk about it without tearing up.

In terms of here in Torino, one just happened.  Croatian skier Ivica
Kostelic
, after enduring an impovershed childhood in a wartorn country and numerous injuries, finally had his Olympic breakthrough and took silver in the men's combined.  At the bottom of the hill was his sister, Janica, one of the most accomplished skiers around, a multiple medalist from Salt Lake and a medal contender in just about everything here.  She didn't practice yesterday because she hasn't been feeling well, but it didn't stop her from standing at the bottom of the mountain, waiting to give her brother a hug.


QUESTION:
Dear Dr. Bass:
What is it like to live away from home in a strange city for so long?
- Jack Hanson

ANSWER:
It takes some getting used to, I'll admit.  You are living only with
what you brought, including reading materials in English and, of course, clothing.  With a Winter Games, the luggage thing is crazy because you need to be warm, so it's all about sweaters and jackets and scarves and hats.  The food, too, is always an adjustment, even when in places like Greece and Italy, where the food is so wonderful.  But mostly it's about routine:  I usually start my days in New York at the gym, but here, I would rather start my day with a long walk if I can, so that I'm not wasting my time not seeing the city.  And once I'm in the broadcast center, I'm inside for 15 or 18 hours, with no windows, so that's a little strange.  But mostly I feel really lucky to be able to fully immerse myself in another place -- while I miss New York, it is such an incredible experience to live in an Olympic city, which for a few weeks is the most international place in the world.


QUESTION:
Dear Dr. Bass:
What do you think of the racial differences between Summer Games, which are very diverse, and Winter Games, which are predominantly Caucasian?  - Elissa, Stonington, CT

ANSWER:
Sports is never black and white, and different sports have different traditions in terms of culture, heritage, geography, and, well, access. Skiing is expensive, needs snow, and needs mountains, which means that people that have particular economic resources and live in cold climates at high elevations are going to be more likely to ski.  Of course, not all of it is as easy as that -- because of the racial segregation historically found at institutions like country clubs, where many sports are played, only a particular segment of society has access.  But this doesn't mean that there isn't diversity at a Winter Games. While no African American man has won a gold medal at the Winter Games, in 2002 in Salt Lake city, Vonetta Flower won a gold in bobsled.  Also in Salt Lake, bobsledders Garret Hines, Randy Jones, and Bill Schaffenhauer won silver medals. On the speed skating oval in Salt Lake, athletes such as Derek Parra and Jennifer Rodriguez had much success, and represente the Latino community on the medal stand for the first time for the United States. And here in Torino, Shani Davis, who competed in short track in 2002, will mark the debut of an African American speed skater. The Chicago native hopes to emulate his hero, Bonnie Blair, and bring home gold, with many calling him the favorite in the 1500m.


QUESTION:
Dear Dr. Bass:
What are the major differences between running the research room at the Winter Olympics and the Summer Olympics?  Obviously the sports are different, as would the feel be of the Games, but does your approach change at all in terms of coverage, themes, and trends?
- Michael Berger

ANSWER:
The approach doesn't really change as much as you might think.  While the sports in the Winter Games feel different for some reason, you have to remember that Olympic basketball and baseball and have very specific international rules, so it isn't just a replication of the American versions of the sport.  While I certainly have a better feel for basketball, for example, than I do for curling -- or used to anyway -- I still have to study the rules and the "what ifs" for both.  What is different, and has a lot of impact, I think, on all of us at any Games, is the weather.  Some people love snow and cold, and some don't.  But in terms of my approach to any Olympics, it is about making it interesting, and getting it right.


QUESTION:
Dear Dr. Bass:
Which kind of Olympics do you like better?  The summer or the winter?  - Roxy Jenkins

ANSWER:
Summer is warmer!  But seriously, I like the Olympics in general, and both summer and winter have their own unique features.  In the summer, there are over 200 delegations from around the globe, with thousands of athletes and hundreds of events, making it very busy and interesting.  But in winter, there are sports that you don't often get a chance to see, like short track skating -- which is so exciting -- and curling.  And either way, it's about people from all over the world coming together for two weeks, so whether it is winter or summer, it's a great spectacle to both watch and be a part of. 


QUESTION:
Dear Dr. Bass:
I enjoyed reading your brief history of Turin / Torino, which leads to my question.  NBC has said it will go with the Italian pronunciation of the city, "Torino," rather than the traditional English translation of "Turin." As a research supervisor, how do you feel about this decision?
- Ian, New York, NY

ANSWER
I know that much has been made about the Turin/Torino question. I think it is a good idea to call the city whatever the city calls itself at such an international event. Since the organizing committee of these Olympics is calling it "Torino 2006," going with Torino is the right thing to do. It's respectful, it acknowledges directly where we are in the world, and it creates a very important sense of internationalism, which I think we could always use more of.





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