Column: Olympic moments

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 9, 2006

Jon Laging, Sports Columnist

Soon it will be spring with Major League Baseball just around the corner. However, our son recently shoveled 4 inches of snow off our sidewalk. That brings home no matter what we wish for, this is still Minnesota and winter isn’t over yet. And, we are not all that far away from the past Winter Olympics.

Every four years I approach the Winter Games with a certain lack of interest, but seem to get caught up in it and watch almost every night. I start out thinking tonight &8216;I&8217;ll watch Boston Legal, American Idol or read a book, but wind up tuned to NBC’s Olympic programming. I’m hooked by the opening ceremonies and seeing all the athletes from all over the world walk in showing togetherness. North and South Korea came in as one, which could only happen in the Olympics.

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Still, some of the events are not all that interesting especially if you are not a skier or skater. If you haven’t participated in these sports, they are hard to get in to. I had a skier friend who attempted to go off a ski jump. He broke his leg on his first and only try. This seemed to be an indicator to me that my life would be complete without skis.

However, there is an artistry in many events and one can admire the skill and courage shown by the athletes, especially figure skating. Beautiful girls in little outfits. What’s not to like? There is also tension involved, as the skaters go from the short program to the long program.

This year the United States&8217; Sasha Cohen was one of the favorites. A very pretty girl with a lyrical skating style. She had the reputation of messing up somewhere along the way and not receiving the gold in many of her previous contests. In fact,

she was nicknamed the Silver Belle for finishing second in many world class events. This was not to change. Sasha took care of the suspense immediately by falling on her first flip. She went on to skate beautifully and living up to her reputation received the silver medal. One wonders if the pressure is overwhelming for Sasha and she relieves it by making a mistake and then is free to skate well. We’ll never know and I don’t think Sasha knows. I do know I liked her a lot better after she was interviewed following the medals ceremony. She offered no excuses even when given the perfect opening. Did the thigh wrap and a possible injury affect her? No, she just missed the jump and was going to try to compete in the next Olympics. She was caught on camera by the Today Show eating a large ice cream and was there for the closing ceremony. I liked her much better after the Olympics than before.

By the way, that harping critical voice you heard during the figure skating commentary belonged to Dick Button. I researched him on the Internet and found he won his first of two men’s figure skating gold medals as a Harvard freshman at the 1948 St. Moritz, Switzerland Winter Olympics. So I guess he’s entitled.

Looking back over the Winter Olympic years, I enjoyed watching the Sarajevo games a great deal. It seemed like a neat friendly city. The camera took you on a pub crawl and it was almost as if you were participating with the citizens&8217; smoke, laughter and friendliness. Sarajevo is now war torn and the memories of the Olympics are mostly gone.

Perhaps my favorite Winter Olympic city and country was Lillehammer, Norway. They did a marvelous job of presenting themselves and their city to the world and my Norwegian blooded wife. I had no desire to go to Turino after these past games, but I wanted to at the time and still want to visit Norway.