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FINALLY, WE'RE RID OF THIS MONSTER.

Byline: PAUL OBERJUERGE

SALT LAKE CITY _ It was the beast devouring the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Games.

With each passing day, the monster got bigger and more ravenous. And every day, another gutty performance, another heart-warming story, another golden moment slipped down its black maw and into oblivion.

Bode Miller, remember him? Casey FitzRandolph? Travis Mayer? Just barely? American medalists, all.

How about Kjetil Andre Aamodt? Janica Kostelic? Simon Ammann? Blanking out, probably. Those are gold medalists.

Each of the aforementioned Olympians had the distinct misfortune of turning in splendid performances ... while ``Skategate'' was the only story in town. They starred in anonymity while the ruckus over the pairs skate judging was playing King Kong to Salt Lake's Faye Wray.

Finally, Friday, after nearly a week of the 2002 Olympics was consigned to the dust bin of history, we got resolution. The International Olympic Committee stopped the bleeding and awarded a second set of gold medals in pairs skating.

It was the correct solution. The only possible solution. And the only way to make this monster go away.

It was Monday night that Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were a surprise second to Russia's Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze in the pairs free skate, and from nearly the moment the Canadian pair's scores went up, the rest of the Olympics went into eclipse.

The next morning dawned, and it was Rumor Tuesday. The prodigious gossip machinery of the skate planet was churning and the flower of North American sports journalism was on the case. Snowboarding, ski jumping, luge, get out of the way. We have allegations of corruption in figure skating, and everything else is a sidebar.

Wednesday was the Day of a Hundred News Conferences, where people with titles paraded through the big room and took hostile questions from indignant reporters chasing malefactors when they could have been pursuing skiers and skaters. Wednesday ended, memorably, with a French official saying the French pairs judge had acted improperly in voting for the Russians, and from the hubbub in the media center you'd have thought a man had landed on Mars.

Thursday was Don't Lean on Me Day, when the International Skating Union said it would check out the pairs situation when it was good and ready, maybe next Monday, at its regularly scheduled meeting, and the tetchy Canadians amped up their threatening behavior by promising to go to an international sports arbiter to get to the bottom of this corruption thing, darn it.

By then, IOC president Jacques Rogge was picking up on the fact that everybody's best sports reporter was writing about judging corruption day after wintry day, and if he waited for the ISU to act, closing ceremonies would be pre-empted on NBC by a Sale and Pelletier news conference.

So, Rogge went to ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta and told him, in the nicest possible way, we're sure, ``fix this thing now or we'll put a skate boot where the sun don't shine.''

That didn't happen in time to head off another cycle of heated ``something

must be done'' journalism, nor did it keep NBC's ``Nightly News'' from leading off its Thursday broadcast with Tom Brokaw bringing us up to date on Skategate. But at least the end was in sight.

That set up Friday, The Night of Ten-Thousand Columns. That morning, after Cinquanta had wrung a confession out of French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne (perhaps by threatening her with watching ice-dance compulsories until the end of time), Cinquanta and Rogge held a news conference to announce Sale and Pelletier would Get Their Dumb Medal, and can we please all move on now?

An hour later, half of Canada crowded into the same room, and Sale and Pelletier gloried in redemption and the world heaved a collective sigh of relief that this injustice had been righted.

And Sale and Pelletier, who have received more face time on NBC the past four days than Bob Costas and Katie Couric combined, verbalized what Rogge and 2,500 other Olympians must have been thinking for four long days.

Said Sale: ``Other athletes are setting personal bests and winning medals and this is what everyone is talking about, and that's not what the Olympics are all about.''
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 16, 2002
Words:706
Previous Article:MEN'S LUGE: THORPE GETS HIS MEDAL, WITH HELP U.S. PAIR WIN SILVER, BRONZE IN LUGE; GERMANS CAPTURE GOLD.
Next Article:RE-PAIRED OLYMPIC OFFICIALS DO THE RIGHT THING.


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