Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Did you watch the stories unfold in Sochi?




Were you watching when the fanfare started and the athletes from all over the world come together to compete in the Winter Games in Sochi? For me, it isn't the athletic performances themselves that draw me in, it's the stories behind the stories, the individual journeys that led these competitors to a worldwide stage. I remember watching Apolo Anton Ohno's amazing story unfold over the years. His career faltered, sputtered and nearly died until his single parent father took him to a remote cabin and left him, still a teen, to decide if he wanted to compete or quit. Fortunately for the sport and fans, he decided to grit it out and went on to become the most decorated winter athlete of all time.

Going further back in time, I remember watching speed skater Dan Jansen's heartbreaking ups and downs. At the Calgary Olympics, he was the favorite, but his sister died just hours before his race and he failed to finish any of his heats. Four years later in Albertville, he stumbled and again, did not medal. At the 1994 games in Norway, it seemed he was doomed to fail once more. Another stumble and he was out of his best race, the 500 meters. His last race was the 1000 meters and I remember gasping aloud when he staggered, but this time, he recovered and won, earning a gold medal and carrying his daughter Jane, named after his late sister, for the victory lap. You couldn't write a better ending to his story.

 Like most Americans, I remember stories like Jansen's and Ohno's not because of their speed or skill, but because their triumphs underscore the amazing power of the human spirit. Did I watch this year? Absolutely!

Who are some Olympians that stood out for you in the Sochi games? What about them did you find appealing?


16 comments:

  1. Hi Dana! Alas, I didn't watch the Olympics this time around--for various reasons, but I will say hearing the Americans FINALLY won the ice dancing competition did my heart good. I still remember back when Torvill and Dean won for the UK back in the day...gave me chills and I couldn't wait for the Americans to win one day. And now they have! :) Nice post!

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    1. OH! I remember Torvill and Dean! What a pair they were!

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  2. I always think back to the 1976 winter Olympic games in my neck of the woods- Lake Placid, New York. I was too young to remember it, but my aunt worked and met many of the USA hockey team. I've watched movies and documentaries and it's truly amazing how these young men pulled off a gold medal while in their own country!

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    1. Yes, that was an Olympics to remember!

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  3. I liked Bode Miller's story. He's struggled, been a bad boy, and recovered. But even though this year he only got a bronze, the fact he skied after his younger bother's death and his own tough custody battle I think does speak to the strength it takes to compete. The woman who came out of retirement to medal in the skeleton after quitting, having a miscarriage that left her devastated and needing something to fill her time. How can we not cheer for people like that.

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  4. Did anyone watch the special about Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan? It was just as uncomfortable to watch now as it was back 20 years ago. I did enjoy Bode Miller's storyline after years of him being a bad boy, he's apparently found the right woman. Isn't that what romance is all about?

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    1. The Harding/Kerrigan thing was like a soap opera. That's why I say the truth is far stranger than fiction!

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  5. I apologize that her name didn't stay with me, but the young woman from the Ukraine who felt that she couldn't compete when her homeland was in revolution really touched me. Imagine all her training and yearning having to be put aside because her heart was with her people.

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    1. Amazing. Reminds me of Erid Lidell who refused to run on Sunday!

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  6. I watched when I could, but didn't see every event. I remember watching Torvill and Dean skate for gold and got just as emotional watching Meryl Davis and Charlie White's gold ice dance. Truly amazing. Ohno's was another story I loved following. I too watch for the stories and not just for the sport. I find them so inspiring and I love seeing how supportive the athletes' families are.

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    1. I agree. Lovely to see Meryl and Charlie win. They seem like such down to earth people.

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  7. I, too, watched when I could. What stayed with me was watching one of the skiing events where competitor after competitor failed to finish. I'd never seen that before. It left me wondering was it the snow?

    Yes, I'm typical. I love the figure skating. I had a Dorothy Hamil haircut in the day.

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    1. I am a Dorothy fan too. She was classy, which is a rare thing these days.

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  8. Thanks to insomnia, I saw quite a few events. I don't think I ever realized before how dangerous the winter Olympics are. Love snowboarding--scary crash with the girl whose helmet broke, and then a guy crashed similarly. I was really disappointed in the way people spoke about Shaun White after his event. It isn't a cliche to say that guy has been the face of snowboarding. He's worked so hard, and he had a few bad days. (Plus--I would not enjoy having a rejection on television in front of the world. People who do things like that--leave all their stuff out in public--I don't know where they find the courage.)

    Loved all the skiing, but I agree--was it the snow going soft? Great to see the Canadian team member bring a ski out to a competitor whose ski had broken.

    I also enjoyed Apollo Ohno's commentary, as well as Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir. They explained things I couldn't see, and their friendship made them fun to hang out with!

    But my favorite story was Noelle Pikus-Pace, whom Roz mentioned above. I loved that her husband urged her to come back, and that she wouldn't do it unless her family came with her. I was a little weepy by the time she reached them in the stands, and her happiness was infectious. Felt as if her whole family was on that skeleton with her.

    Dana, I had a hard time choosing a best moment or story. Thanks for the chance to remember all these! :-)

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    1. I loved her Noelle's story too. A triumph!

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