By Scottie Bricker
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 25, 1998

Nagano: Thanks for the memories


Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Scottie Bricker

Unbeknownst to most "Americans", the Winter Olympics have come and gone, disappearing into the unexpected Nagano snowstorms until they return from hibernation in 2002 in Salt Lake City.

Welcoming the games back to the United States will most certainly help the economy, but what average, everyday person gives two bobsleds about Olympic revenue for the state of Utah, anyway. The games will make for a speed-skating good time for fanatics of the Olympiad, but there has to be a way to increase interest in the games and make it more a part of our culture, whether Americans come home with two medals or 200.

Because the good-old US of A struggles to dominate in February, the Armchair Lugers of America would rather sit and watch "Rockford Files" reruns or late-night showings of "The Jerry Springer Show."

Plus, our laid-back society is much more comfortable in flower print shorts and tank tops than bundled up like Eskimos.

Maybe the time difference had a little something to do with it. After all, who wants to stay up until three in the morning to watch the conclusion of a hockey game between Canada and the Czech Republic for the right to play in the gold medal game. For those of you who missed it.....slap yourselves with the blade of a hockey stick now.

Or, better yet, maybe Americans just don't think the games mean as much because not enough of them understand the rules of curling (see below).

Here are three reasons to have watched this year's games.

And, if you missed any of these people, places or events listed below, you missed out.

Lu Chen--I am willing to place a wager saying nine-and-a-half out of 10 of you can't tell me who this athlete is (no, it is not the name of the Nagano Olympic mascot).

A figure skating bronze medalist in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway, Chen came back from a grueling four years of preparation to repeat her Olympic-bronze performance. What's the big deal, she took third again, right? Well, this is the same skater who placed 25th at last year's World Championships and stood in the parking lot following the aforementioned event in tears, wondering if her successful career as an Olympian was gone forever.

After finishing her free skating program Friday night, Chen stood at center ice in front of thousands of international fans and millions of television viewers, and she cried. She sobbed, not because she was disappointed in finishing third, but because she was overcome with the joy of pulling off the performance of a lifetime. The Olympics are not about the hardware athletes bring back to collect dust on their mantlepieces, but rather they are about representing your country in sport and overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds.

Dominik Hasek-Proof that grossly overpaid professional athletes still understand what it's like to play for the name on the front of your jersey and not the name on back.

Hasek single handedly carried his team through the tournament, pitching shutouts in both the semifinal, sudden-death shoot-out against Canada and the 1-0 gold medal win over Russia.

After closing out the game versus the Canadians with sprawling saves and cat-like quickness, Hasek leapt into the air like he'd just pitched a no-hitter in the final game of the Little League World Series. In a way, he did that one better.

Now if he could only help to restore that sort of excitement and energy into the National Hockey League, wouldn't that be nice?

Curling-No this is not done in the weight room with free weights while pony-tail clad groupies stare at men's attempts at masculinity. Curling is the '90s version of lawn darts, only much, much better.

A friendly competition of sliding stones across freshly swept ice, curling will someday become the world's most successful demonstration-turned-medal sport. The object is to have your team's stone nearest the center of the bull's eye. Points are awarded according to which team has more stones near the center and the game is played with 10 "frames," referred to as ends. Aside from all the rules and technical wahoo, the best part of it all is that the two teams embrace after the game and head out for a night on the town...together. Too bad the U.S. men's hockey team couldn't have followed along those same lines instead of acting like spoiled brats and trashing the rooms in which they were staying.

All in all, the games were a success...although judging by CBS' lackluster ratings, nobody in the U.S. noticed. And that is a damn shame.

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