History, Controversy and Solidarity Encompass 2002 Games
February 19, 2002
Filed under Sports
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Author: Bob Wainwright
With the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics drawing to a close this Sunday, there have been many memorable moments that will be etched in our memories.
The Opening Ceremonies were unforgetable as the tattered United States flag from ground-zero was cause for a moment of silence to remember the victims from Sept. 11.
United States athletes jumped out of the gates in the sport of snowboarding never looking back. Who can forget the controversy surrounding the pairs figure skating competition? And with many competitions yet to be completed, more memories are bound to be made. Here is a look at some that will remain with us.
In its first stint as an Olympic sport, snow boarding has really taken off. Vermont native Kelly Clark won America’s first gold medal of the Winter Olympics last week as she performed more dangerous tricks than any of her competitors in the halfpipe even last week. Her final mark of 47.9 was well above that of silver medalist Doriane Vidale of France, who scored a 43.0. With headphones on throughout the competition, Clark also became the first Olympic gold medalist to compete while listening to Guns ‘n’ Roses. Snowboarding remained a truly American event at these Games one day later, when Ross Powers led a U.S. sweep of the men’s halfpipe. Americans Danny Kass and Jarret Thomas came in second and third, respectively, giving the United States its first Winter Olympic sweep since men’s figure skating in 1956.
In one of the most bizarre stories of any Winter Olympics, the final decision in the pairs figure skating competition was to award gold medals to both the Russian team of Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berezhnaya and to the Canadian team of David Pelletier and Jamie Sale. Originally, the Russians had been awarded the gold and the Canadians the silver, but after the French judge admitted to being pressured into giving the Russians higher marks, the decision was changed to allow for two sets of gold medals. The International Skating Union is currently working on a massive overhaul of its scoring system. In the women’s competition that began last night, American favorite Michelle Kwan did not disappoint as she skated flawlessly, giving her a small lead after the short program over her Russian rival, Irena Slutskaya.
Derek Parra set a world record in the 1,500 meters to claim Olympic gold last night, becoming the first double-medalist for America. His time of 43.95 was more than a second lower than the pre-Olympic world record. Parra had already surprised many by winning silver in the 5,000. Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated cover boy and short track speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno was literally one turn away from his first Olympic gold when suddenly he found himself skidding into the boards, the hapless victim of a competitors tumble. Still, Ohno managed to crawl on his hands and knees the final few yards to take home the silver. Ohno is expected to be in great shape for his final three events.
A 46 year drought in Olympic bobsled competition for the United States has finally ended, and it took two women to get the job done. In the first-ever women’s bobsled competition, Americans Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers used a tremendous start to help propel them to Olympic gold. Their combined time of one minute, 37.76 seconds was just enough to place them ahead of Germans Sandra Prokoff and Ulrike Holzner.