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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Vancouver Vantage Point

The Sap From St. Petersburg

February 19, 2010  #9

Mike Moran Vancouver Vantage Point

 

 

By Mike Moran


The Stunning Performance To Date by Team USA in Vancouver is apparently not going over well with some athletes from other nations, the biggest whiner and poor sport poster boy being Russia’s over-inflated figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko………….following last evening‘s gold medal performance by America’s Evan Lysacek, the arrogant runnerup had nothing good to say about his rival…………”I was positive that I won,” Plushenko said. “But I saw that Evan needs a medal more than I do. Maybe because I already have one.”…………not content to stop there, the Sap From St. Petersburg added, “If the Olympic champion doesn’t know how to jump a quad, I don’t know,” Plushenko said. “Now it’s not men’s figure skating. It’s dancing. Maybe figure skating needs a new name.”………………Yo,Yevgeny, it has one, 2010 Olympic Men’s Champion Evan Lysacek of the United States of America and Naperville, Illinois…………..the murmurs coming from somewhere about the quality of the women’s ice hockey field at the Games is disquieting for a number of reasons…………some of it sounds like the rhetoric that was used ahead of the terrible decision by the IOC to eliminate softball from the Summer Games………….women’s ice hockey is growing globally, more young girls are playing in many nations, and while the overall quality is not what it will be, the IOC needs to remind itself of its commitment to the advancement of women’s sports and opportunities, which it rejected when it killed softball……….Canada and the United States are clearly superior in Vancouver, but there are many players from other nations in the Games who are attending NCAA colleges and playing top-level hockey in the process……..it will only get better, like the great reaction and buzz that our Team USA got here in Colorado Springs on February 4 when over 5,000 saw them beat Finland in their final pre-Games exhibition………….Colorado Springs skater Rachael Flatt is on her way back to Vancouver for her competition next week, with a huge, surprise sendoff from her schoolmates at Cheyenne Mountain High on Wednesday………….she left after the Opening Ceremony to return to town to resume her classes, thanking her teachers for allowing her, if you can believe this, the time off and support to compete in the Olympic Games and represent the USA……………she did not, I would guess, need a note from her mom and dad, or Broadmoor Skating Club coach Tom Zakrajsek to miss some classes……………..Assuming that the USOC continues the longstanding tradition of taking the Olympic Team to the White House following the Games for a reception with the President and First Lady, this should be one of the best because of the incredibly positive reaction by the nation to our athletes, their stories, and their pride, constantly spoken, of representing the United States, their families and their home towns……….these visits, which are much more in substance than the photo-ops with NCAA championship teams or NBA, NFL or other pro title teams, are some of my favorite memories of my time with the USOC, which included visits hosted by Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43……………….we have had barbeques on the South Lawn, cake and ice cream in the East Wing, and in 1980, Carter sent the Air Force planes to Plattsburgh Airport near Lake Placid to bring our entire team to the White House right after the Games…………when we arrived by bus in Washington, the streets near the White House were lined three-deep with people shouting and holding up signs, one which read “The U.S. Olympic Hockey Team- Best Thing On Ice Since Scotch.”………………It was not so much fun in the summer of 1980 when the USOC itself created a week in Washington, special medals, concerts, tours and a night at the Kennedy Center for the Olympic Team that was denied the chance to compete in Moscow by the maladroit Carter advisors and the Congress……….there was an uncomfortable address to the Olympians by the President on the steps of the Capitol, followed by a picnic on the lawn of the White House during which several athletes spoke directly and harshly about the boycott to Carter while posing with him for pictures………….229 of those athletes never got another chance at making an Olympic team, and to this day, the IOC does not recognize this team as an Olympic Team………….competing quietly in the shadow created by the massive media attention paid to the fabulous skier Lindsey Vonn, and arriving with no fanfare, Julia Mancuso has had a great Olympics, and is now maybe the most accomplished U.S. skier in Olympic history………….her two silver medals here and a gold in Torino has tied her with Bode Miller for most Alpine medals in the Games, and she has three events left…………..the 25-year-old Lake Tahoe skier has a great story to tell………when she was just 11, she drew a picture of herself on the back of a poster of downhill champion Tommy Moe which described her as a winner of three Olympic gold medals…………the Games brought back personal memories last night of the 1984 Sarajevo magic created by Bill Johnson, a brash downhiller who had come to the Games winning nothing of significance but openly taunting the Europeans  (1976 gold medal winner Franz Klammer   called Johnson a “nose picker.”)……….and at a memorable press conference we staged, compared himself to Joe Namath and Muhammad Ali………… “I don’t even know why everyone else is here,” he said to reporters in the packed room…………”Everyone else is here to fight for second place.”……….at the time, after the media scrum that ensued, I felt sorry for the 23-year-old kid, but then he went out and did what he said he was going to do on the icy slope at Bjelašnica , whipping favored Peter Müller of Switzerland by 0.27 seconds for the gold medal, the first ever in the event by an American………….Downhill Bill never found that glory again, injured horribly in a 2001 crash while trying to make a comeback for the Salt Lake Games, with severe brain damage and permanent disability………….but in Salt Lake at the Opening Ceremony in 2002, I was choked up when I saw him again for the first time since the Sarajevo Games, in a wheelchair, with the Olympic Torch in his hand, as part of the runup to the lighting of the flame by all 20 members of the 1980 Miracle On Ice hockey team………..Bill Johnson had, at last, come back home.


Mike Moran was the chief spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee through thirteen Games, 1980-2002. The Omaha,Nebraska native was the Sports Information Director at the University of Colorado for a decade before joining the USOC in 1978 as it left New York City for Colorado Springs. He was the Senior Communications Counselor for NYC2012, New York City’s Olympic bid group from 2003-2005 and is now a media consultant. Reach him at: mike@thesportscorp.org

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