Olympics bring out good, bad

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 2, 2006

With the closing ceremonies Sunday night the Winter Olympics came to a close.

Numerous articles and commentators have made remarks regarding the United States’ failure in these Olympic games.

It’s true that many of the Olympians played up prior to the games came away without a medal.

Take Bode Miller.

The world champion in his sport, he apparently spent more time partying Olympic style than he did actually participating in Olympic events.

Michelle Kwan ended her quest for the elusive gold medal by withdrawing from the games after one practice.

After missing nationals (the prerequisite for making the team) Kwan petitioned for a spot citing her injury.

In granting her petition, the Olympic committee bumped third place finisher Emily Hughes.

While most of the commentary I heard or read regarding Kwan agreed that she was not in shape and did not have a gold medal program, she certainly was the darling of the games.

Advertisers placed a lot of money on the fact that Kwan would be competing in her fourth shot at gold.

Unfortunately for NBC, Kwan was too much of a lady to continue her quest when even she had to admit she was not a contender.

Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick both had the opportunity to make history and they both did.

Davis became the first African-American athlete to win an individual gold medal (Vonetta Flowers did it in two-man bobsledding in Salt Lake City) and Hedrick became one of only five athletes to win three medals in a single games.

Will they be remembered for these accomplishments?

Probably not.

What people will be talking about for years to come is the childish feud these two athletes engaged in.

The media may have played up the feud for ratings sake, but Davis and Hedrick certainly didn’t help their cause.

Perhaps Newsweek and Time magazines and NBC should have picked better athletes to represent their marketing of the Olympics.

Instead of focusing on Jeremy Bloom and his continued struggle to play NCAA football for Colorado while accepting sponsorship money to pay for his skiing let’s focus on Ted Ligety.

Instead of Bode Miller, whose accomplishments on the snow are almost outweighed by his antics off it, let’s make Joey Cheek an athlete to look up to.

In case you didn’t know, Cheek donated his $40,000 winnings to a charity that serves children in war-torn areas.

What about Tannith Belbin and Ben Agosto, who brought home the first US Ice Dancing medal since the 70’s?

Julia Mancuso who ended the US drought in the Super G?

Lindsey Kildow, who had a horrific skiing crash on the Italian slopes but returned to try and medal in several other events.

If you haven’t figured it out, I love the winter Olympics.

First of all, I admire anyone who can put on ice skates and stand up, much less do a triple axel.

Second, I think the games embody what sports should be.

These athletes (excluding hokey) are amateurs.

They are not paid millions of dollars to compete and many hold down full time jobs in addition to their training obligations.

These athletes didn’t have the benefit of youth leagues (anyone heard of peewee curling?) or travel teams or college scholarships to help develop their skills.

Some, like Hedrick, excelled in other sports (rollerblading in Hedrick’s case) and were able to make a successful transition to winter events.

They have a shot once every four years to make their dreams come true.

Some, like Lindsey Jacobellis, blew their shot at gold trying to show off.

Others made the most of their Olympic experience.

It’s a shame that shows like American Idol pulled better ratings while the Olympics, true reality television (with all due respect to Simon Cowell the Olympic commentators didn’t hold their opinions back), showed the best (and the worst) of American athletes.

Heather Odom can be reached by emailing sports@r-cnews.com.