Sunday, February 26, 2006
Olympics: The Final Take 5
With the close of the Winter Olympics, we take a look at some athletes whose fortunes have changed from just a few weeks ago:
We heard so much about the influx of Japanese skaters, a powerhouse in the making, in the sport of figure skating. Well, the foundation was laid at the Winter Olympics with Arakawa's historic gold-medal win in the ladies' event. Her graceful, nearly flawless program gave Japan its first Olympic figure skating gold.
In a sports world dominated by agents and big-time sponsorship deals, Cheek did something rarely seen on such a big stage. He donated his $45,000 medal bonuses to "Right to Play," then challenged corporations to match it. Through those matches, he's raised nearly $400,000 so far. Additionally, Chinese short-tracker Yang Yang said Sunday she'll donate her $10,000 bronze-medal bonus to a charity that helps children in areas ravaged by conflict. Bravo, Joey! Will you be on the ticket in 2008?
Paired with partner Ben Agosto, Belbin capped a whirlwind year with a silver medal in ice dancing. It was the United States' first ice dancing medal since 1976. Now you can't help but see Belbin, recently sworn in as a U.S. citizen, everywhere. She's even been deemed one of the most sexiest female athletes around.
From his goofy grin at the Opening Ceremony to his admission of wanting to ask figure skater Sasha Cohen on a date, many fell in love with White at these Games. Building on his Winter X Games fame, White came back after a rough first run to win gold in the men's halfpipe. He's been everywhere since, signing a video game deal to attending Knicks games. And you can't beat the nickname "The Flying Tomato!"
Apolo Anton Ohno
The soul-patched speedskater made up for a slow start by winning gold in the 500 meters Saturday night. He also won bronze in the 5,000-meter relay and 1,000 meters. He's only 23, but Ohno still hasn't decided whether he'll come back for a third Olympics in 2010. Said Ohno: "I've got to figure out what the next part of my journey is going to be."
Yes, it's easy to pick on Bode, but the man didn't reach a medal podium, period. He might not have been the spin doctor behind all of the media hype, but it was hard to believe him when he told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap that he wasn't disappointed with his 0-for-5 performance. It's Bode just being himself, but we wanted him to be an Olympic champion.
We fell in love with the frank and candid Weir, and we even loved Camille, but we couldn't buy his reasoning into his poor Olympic performance. Missing a bus, losing his aura and feeling black inside? We just don't get it. Olympic champions overcome adversity and variables to win medals. We hope Weir will be back for another go in 2010.
Two hockey powers with great tradition, the United States men's and women's teams fell short in Torino. Sweden edged the U.S. women in a semifinals shootout, while the men couldn't make it past Finland in the quarters. One thing's for sure, both programs will be seeing some changes before 2010 in Vancouver.
We all knew the Olympics were just a pit stop before the NFL scouting combine. Bloom, who was a gold-medal favorite and a darling for NBC, ESPN and other media outlets, finished sixth overall in the men's moguls final, failing again to win a medal. Bloom said he wasn't disappointed, but it is a hole in an impressive skiing résumé.
She helped produce one of the few "that didn't just happen!" moments in Torino. Jacobellis, one of the poster athletes for Visa and Dunkin' Donuts among others, was on her way to gold in the snowboardcross final. As she was just about to cross the finish line, she turned a trick, fell and watched her gold medal depreciate to silver.