Winter Olympics Journal

March 2, 2010 4:51 PM

2010 Games from the rear-view mirror


We rolled out of Canada yesterday, and people were still talking about where they were when Sid the Kid helped Canada win hockey gold. Everyone had a story.

Athletes are returning home. I was struck by the differences in skiing and the cult of celebrity when I read about the post-Games whereabouts of Lindsey Vonn (alpine gold and bronze) and Billy Demong (Nordic combined gold and silver).

Vonn went on Leno and will cameo on her favorite TV show, "Law and Order."

Flag-bearer Demong, at home in Park City, Utah, went to a kids' Nordic ski practice.

"Sixty 5- to 15-year-olds playing with some Olympic medals is fun to watch!" he wrote on Facebook.

After a day of unsuccessfully trying to shake the post-Olympic blues, here are some Olympic honors from my Whistler perspective.

Courage Award: To Petra Madjic and Joannie Rochette. Madjic managed Slovenia's first cross-country Olympic medal (bronze) despite racing four rounds of 1.4-kilometer sprints with broken ribs and a collapsed lung after falling 10 feet down a gully during pre-race training. Rochette kept it together for a bronze-medal finish, skating just two days after her mother died suddenly soon after arriving in Vancouver. I don't know where that grit comes from, but most of us don't have it.

Cover Your Ass Award: To luge officials who blamed Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili's death during training on the slider, rather than the track. Bobsledders proved how insulting this logic was, after several of the world's top drivers crashed during competition.

Top jig, gold medalist: Steve Holcomb, driver of U.S. I bobsled "Night Train" sled, who has done the "Holcy Dance," on just about every track in the world. Google it. It's silly, but worth it.

Best day: Nordic combined gold-medalist Demong. We watched, in person, as he turned the grueling, difficult sport into something cool. Later that night, we saw him drop to one knee and propose to his girlfriend of two years. Then the guy gets a call that he'll be the U.S. flag bearer. All in the space of eight hours. Next stop, Vegas?

Best turnaround: Bode Miller. From Torino insult to Whistler success story. Guy skied for the cycle -- gold (super-combined); silver (super-G); bronze (downhill). The bigger surprise was he actually seemed happy and grateful. That's a long way from about a year ago when he said a gold medal would mean "less than nothing" to him.

Best ending: Host Canada, winning hockey gold, with a Sidney Crosby goal in overtime against the U.S.? Come on. It was perfect.

Wistful award: Someone made the right call in having Neil Young sing "Long May You Run" in this closing ceremony short on poignant moments.

Sensitivity award: To whoever's idea it was to move a memorial to the deceased luger from the huge Olympic rings to a quiet, dignified spot nearby. Every page of a memory book placed there had handwritten notes. All Olympics long, including Sunday, people were placing pins, candles and fresh flowers there, including an athlete's medal-ceremony bouquet. Here's hoping they make it a permanent memorial.

Oops award: To Canadian Nordic ski team officials, who never made it clear that Brian McKeever's spot in the cross-country 50-kilometer race was provisional. Many assumed it wasn't, and wrote stories about the inspiring vision-impaired skier who would be the first Paralympian to compete in the Winter Games. The day before the race, he was crushed to find out that coaches were entering another skier they thought was stronger. Ouch.

Best spontaneous moment: At a key time during the 10th end of a tense curling match, the crowd broke into the Canadian national anthem. It was so loud, Canada star John Morris stopped and smiled, savoring the moment before returning to business.

Best quiet moment: Before USA I's bobsled team pushed off for the final time en route to the gold medal. Said "Night Train" crew member Steve Mesler: "...(T)here was a moment where the four of us were standing there and everyone else had gone inside and we were the last ones there and it's a moment that I kind of stopped for a half a second and took it in. The four of us in an empty parking lot getting ready to go down the hill. I'll never forget that." (The Olympics ended Sunday, but Whistler still remembered slain luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. Photo/Meri-Jo Borzilleri)

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