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The Sports Illustrated Olympic Daily is published in Salt Lake City and available in event venues and on newsstands for 16 straight days during the 2002 Winter Games. Here are some sights and scenes from today’s edition.

A convert to short track sets out to spread the gospel to nonbelievers

By Michael Farber

There are unbelievers here in Salt Lake City, heathens who have refused to become members of our Church of the Short Track. These sinners dismiss short track as Roller Derby on ice, make blasphemous references to the Daytona 500 and kneel at the altar of traditional speed skating as if the path to salvation were one long glide on a Dutch canal. They mock 1,000-meter winner Steven Bradbury of Australia as a serendipitous surfer unfit to carry the boots of Apolo Anton Ohno, even though Bradbury made them.

We of the Church of the Short Track, who worship each quadrennial at the Temple of Apolo, pray for their lost souls. We do not believe ours is the one true sport of the Winter Olympics, just the best. As Dan Weinstein of the U.S. men's 5,000-meter relay said, quoting Chapter 1, Verse 1 of The Book of Short Track, "In our sport, you don't tell someone to break a leg. You tell them to turn left and go fast." Amen.

That men's 1,000-meter race -- to be remembered forever by our people as Saturday Night at the Apolo -- is not the unmitigated disaster the heathens would make it but the very crux of our belief. The medals were won by those who knew how to temper their speed and skill with strategy and courage. Bradbury stayed out of traffic and slipped by the wreckage in the final corner, but Ohno and Canada's Mathieu Turcotte crawled and clambered their way to the finish line. There was something primal to that race, stripping these Olympics of frilly skating costumes and rock music blaring at the halfpipe and returning it to the essence of sport: head-to-head competition.

This is our article of faith.

Follow your false figure skating or Alpine skiing gods if you must, but grant us this: When you watch a short-track race, you immediately know who won. You don't have to glance at a scoreboard to see if a giant slalom racer's time was the fastest or check the scores to see if a French judge was filing her nails at the time. (At moguls you have to do both.) The central problem with the Winter Games, as opposed to its brawny short-sleeved cousin, the Summer Games, is that too many events are shrouded in the subjectivity of judging or dependent on time rather than first-one-across-the-line or team-with-the-most-points wins. There are 78 medal events in Salt Lake City. Only 27 are contested directly, which is why we in the Church of the Short Track also have an abiding admiration for hockey, curling, biathlon and cross-country skiing pursuits and relays. Of course, eight of the events that harken to the genesis of sporting life -- "Hey, Eve, race you to the serpent's tree" -- are short track.

One other thing. In the relays, men and women are allowed to give their teammates a shove in the bottom -- the so-called tush push -- to speed their journey to the finish. This might be the only place in Salt Lake City you can see that.

 


 
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