Is Anni Another Anna?
Germany's Friesinger has two shots left to live up to the hypeLong before photographs of her Amazonian hindquarters were helping to sell German tabloids, Anni Friesinger was just a small-town rink rat in the Bavarian hamlet of Inzell. The daughter of Georg and Janina, both world-class speed skaters in the 1970s, Anni learned to skate when she stuffed cotton in the toes of the too-large skates she received at the age of four. Since then, she says, "my dreams grew with me."
Plenty of her countrymen are prepared to worship. The scantily clad subject of several magazine spreads, she is speed skating's answer to Anna Kournikova. "She's very free and open," says manager Klaus Karcher of Friesinger, who gets more press for the Celtic flame tattoo on her belly than the rest of her teammates do for their skating. "Sometimes, [her openness] gets her in trouble."
Take last year, when Friesinger publicly dismissed the methods of national training centers in Berlin and Erfurt as "no fun." Friesinger trains almost exclusively on an outdoor oval in Inzell with younger brother Jan, 21, who yesterday placed 41st in the 1,500 meters. "I go my own way," says Friesinger.
With Pechstein back for the 5,000 along with Jennifer Rodriguez of the U.S., who took bronze in the 1,000 on Sunday, Friesinger hopes her way finally leads to the medal stand. She is running out of races. "I've never been a patient person," she said last Friday. "I want all of my wishes to come true."
Olé, Olé, Ole!
What biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen needs is just a little more dedication. A bit more practice. A tad more commitment. According to Team Norway coach Erlend Slokvik, that is all that is separating Bjoerndalen from being one of the best in the world.
Of course, he's already the best in the world in the biathlon. With his blowout victories in the individual, sprint and pursuit, Bjoerndalen is the only triple gold medalist at these Olympics, an achievement Slokvik once considered "impossible."
While Bjoerndalen's normally erratic shooting has been excellent here, his skiing has made the difference. On Feb. 9 in the 30-km cross-country event, Bjoerndalen finished sixth, less than 13 seconds from the rare feat of winning a medal in a second sport at a Winter Games. The 28-year-old shoots for his fourth gold today in the 4x7.5-km cross-country relay. (He would join speed skaters Eric Heiden of the U.S., in 1980, and Lydia Skoblikova of the U.S.S.R., in 1964, as the only athletes to win four or more golds in one Winter Games.) "If he tried only cross-country for one to two years," says Slokvik, "he'd be one of the best."
When Bjoerndalen dedicates himself, even the impossible is possible.