Winter Olympics Journal

February 19, 2010 3:03 AM

Swede's medal worth cheer

We were inside the big tent, the biathlon media center at Whistler Olympic Park waiting for the men's 20K to begin Thursday afternoon.

One of the great things about the Games is TVs are everywhere, and they're always tuned to the Olympics. When you're waiting for one event to start, you can watch another. For an Olympics junkie, it's a little bit of heaven.

Lindsey Vonn was about to push off in the combined slalom, skiing last, leading after the downhill portion. Maria Riesch, Julia Mancuso and Anja Paerson were done, awaiting their medal fate at the bottom of the hill.

Riesch was guaranteed a medal. So was Mancuso. Not Paerson, the gutsy Swede who had come back to ski after a scary, violent fall on the final jump of the women's downhill, on the same course, just one day earlier.

This was biathlon, but most eyes were glued to the TV. Vonn charged, and halfway down, hooked a gate and fell. Pockets of people around the press tent exploded into cheers and clapping.

Judging from his reaction, the guy sitting next to me had to be a Swede. He was yelling with joy. He saw me and stopped abruptly.

"Sorry. Sorry," he said. He patted me on the back.

"Anja, the accident," he explained.

He wasn't rooting for Vonn to fall. He was rooting for Paerson to medal. In a time when more fans seem to root for the other guy to fail more than their own to succeed, it was nice to hear.

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