CNNSI.com Winter Olympics 2002 Winter Olympics 2002


 

Winter Games top 10

Posted: Tuesday February 26, 2002 1:00 PM

 
SALT LAKE CITY -- For those who have had enough of the pairs figure skating controversy, here, in no particular order, is a very unofficial Jamie Salé -and- David Pelletier -free list of the top 10 moments/sports/athletes, good and bad, from the just-completed Winter Games:

Jim Shea. Shea paid the perfect tribute to his late grandfather not only by winning the skeleton competition, but also by conducting himself with class throughout the Games. At the Olympic Village, Shea often went from place to place to thank volunteers. After crossing the finish line with his gold-medal time, the third-generation Olympian removed his helmet and took out a picture of his granddad, Jack, a gold medalist in speed skating at the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid.

Derek Parra. As recently as a few weeks ago, Parra was struggling both with his technique and with the time he had to spend away from his wife, Tiffany, who had given birth to their daughter in December. He pulled it together in time to set two world records and take a gold and a silver medal in speed skating. Parra was a great story even before the Games. He works at Home Depot and is a converted inline skater who once won a gold medal at the Pan-Am Games in marathon skating -- despite having been hit by a car during the race.

Men's hockey tournament. Memo to NHL, NHLPA and IIHF officials: Make this happen in Turin. The level of hockey at the Olympics was phenomenal. No NHL game this season can match in skill or intensity the type of hockey we saw in the two U.S.-Russia games or even the Canada-Czech Republic and Sweden-Czech Republic preliminary-round games. It is no given that the people who govern the game will stop the NHL season to bring the league's players to Europe in 2006. But if you want to market your game, why would you pass up a chance to have it played at this level on a world stage?

Canada-U.S. women's hockey final. This game lived up to its hype and added to the lore of a great rivalry. Canada has beaten the U.S. in the finals of every women's world championship ever contested. But in 1998, the U.S. team went into the first Olympic final as a prohibitive underdog and won. This time the roles were reversed. Canada topped the States at the worlds last April in Minneapolis but didn't beat its southern neighbor again, through several exhibition tours, until the Olympic final. It is a shame that there are only two teams in the world good enough to win a major tournament such as the Olympics, but when those teams play it is a terrific contest.

Women's figure skating final. Sarah Hughes proved that a skater the public -- and especially the judges -- didn't anticipate winning could actually pull off a huge upset with a superior performance. The competition belonged first to Michelle Kwan and then to Irina Slutskaya, but neither stood up to the pressure the way Hughes did.

Ole-Einar Bjorndalen. The Norwegian biathlete brought some attention to an often-overlooked Winter Olympic sport, becoming the only athlete to win four gold medals at the Salt Lake Games. How big was this feat back home? The King of Norway, Harald V, told Bjorndalen after he anchored the 4x7.5-kilometer relay team to gold that there were now two kings in the country.

Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers. With all the attention paid to Jean Racine and Jen Davidson in the 18 months leading up to the Games -- the breakup of a pairing that had been the world No. 1 and Racine's choice to pair up with heptathlete Gea Johnson, who had served a four-year suspension for doping -- the USA II bobsled duo went almost unnoticed. But Bakken and Flowers' surprise victory made Flowers the first black athlete to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

Janica Kostelic. The Croatian ski star had suffered from knee problems ever since wrapping up the World Cup overall crown last year. At 19, she'd already been named her country's most popular athlete four times. Oddly enough, Kostelic, who already had been featured on a Croatian postage stamp before the Olympics, was upstaged earlier this year by her brother Ivica when he won a World Cup race from a start position in the 60s. In Salt Lake, Kostelic was back in form, becoming the first Alpine skier ever to win four medals at a single Games.

Simon Ammann. With all the focus on Poland's Adam Malysz and Germany's Sven Hannawald, this unheralded, 20-year-old Swiss ski jumper outleaped the field in Salt Lake, winning gold medals on both the normal and large hills. Ammann would have been a longshot for a medal even if he hadn't suffered a head injury from a fall back in January. He was off the radar screen until he began celebrating his victories with delirious rolls in the snow.

Short-track pileup. Most memorable doesn't always mean best. Give Australian Steven Bradbury credit for having the best strategy for winning the men's 1,000-meter final: wait for the train wreck to dissolve in front of you, then cruise past the spill and collect your gold medal. This was the race Apolo Anton Ohno should have won, but Ohno got tangled up with two other skaters and was only able to crawl across the finish line in second place behind Bradbury, who was the slowest, but luckiest, man in the field. If anyone doubted that short track was roller derby on ice, this was proof.

Sports Illustrated staff writer Brian Cazeneuve covers Olympic sports for the magazine and is a regular contributor to CNNSI.com.

 
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