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Another women’s figure skating final will be behind us soon, with all the requisite drama that follows the Winter Games’ marquee event.
What do you expect from a sport in which the participants don’t go to the clubhouse or locker room but to a place called “Kiss and Cry.”
No matter how good or how exciting this year’s version of the women’s competition was, it will never top 1994 and what is still the top-rated Olympics program in history. It was watched by 48.5 million people. This year’s short program drew 29.7 million, which was up from the Sochi Games’ 21.4 million.
The reason was the you-couldn’t-make-it-up backstory that could have been straight out of the pages of Donald E. Westlake. It achieved such acclaim that only first names are necessary: Tonya and Nancy.
The short version is that Nancy Kerrigan was favored to make the U.S. Olympic figure skating team and was the chief rival of Tonya Harding. Kerrigan was kneecapped at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in an attack planned by Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly.
Both Kerrigan and Harding went to Lillehammer, Norway, and competed against each other. Kerrigan won the silver; Harding did not even come close to medaling.
The spat even created a journalism kerfuffle when New York Newsday photoshopped a cover of Harding and Kerrigan skating in warmups at the Olympics at the same time. It never happened but it sure made for a good cover.
A few months ago, a mockumentary-styled movie, “I, Tonya,” hit the screens to great reviews as one of the best sports movies ever, although admittedly that’s a pretty low bar. It’s even going to win an Oscar, probably: Allison Janney, playing Tonya Harding’s mother, is up for best supporting actress. Harding’s mother, LaVona Golden, was known to have a pet bird on her shoulder and Janney auditioned three different birds for that part. Wonder how she told the losers? Janney even wore a fake bird on her shoulder at the Golden Globes ceremony. If you hadn’t seen the movie, it looked mighty strange.
One thing the movie is a little fuzzy about is if Harding knew of the attack beforehand. She has said she was aware that something was up but has otherwise always professed her innocence. Gillooly, who legally changed his name to Jeff Stone (can’t make this stuff up), said she definitely knew about the attack. Gillooly served six months of a two-year prison sentence, and Harding pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hinder an investigation and was banned from figure skating for life.
It’s not exactly a movie for your young daughter who wants to be a figure skater, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.
Truth can be stranger than fiction, but today’s truths in skating are much less interesting.
Leaving something behind
Lindsey Vonn was likely, but not publicly, hoping for more than the bronze medal she won in the women’s downhill. But one thing she did accomplish was scattering some of the ashes of her grandfather, who died in November, on a rock near the start of the men’s downhill course. No doubt the winds had subsided or it would have been quite the mess. Vonn told the Associated Press that she did it a few days ago. Don Kildow, Vonn’s grandfather, was a veteran of the Korean War, and she had dedicated these Games to him.
Would you believe?
The U.S. men’s curling team was the subject of derision — besides the normal derision hurled at curlers — as it started off 2-4. Since then, they’ve won four in a row and find themselves in Saturday’s gold-medal game against Sweden. If they had lost any of their three matches prior to a 5-3 semifinal win over Canada, they wouldn’t have even been in the medal round. What makes it even more impressive is that Canada is the three-time defending champion. The U.S. hasn’t medaled since a bronze in 2006 in Turin, Italy, and has never played for the gold.
Amid all the success of the U.S. women in the last few days, Jamie Anderson slipped in with another medal, her third lifetime and second of these Games — a silver in the debut of the women’s snowboard big air competition. (Anna Gasser of Austria won the gold.) Anderson won gold and defended her medal from Sochi in the slopestyle earlier in these Games.
At last, another controversy
It seems the South Koreans are serious about their chivalry. On Monday, in the women’s team pursuit speedskating quarterfinals, Kim Bo-Reum and Park Ji Woo walked away from their slower teammate after her she finished almost four seconds behind, costing them advancement. Noh Seon-yeong was seen crying in the infield being consoled only by her coach. The two other skaters just left. (What’s that expression: There’s no crying in women’s team pursuit speedskating?) Now, a petition with well over 500,000 signatures has been posted online calling for the two skaters to be expelled from the Games for showing such a lack of compassion. No word on what will happen.
And the rest …
South Korea picked up two more medals in short-track speedskating, a silver and bronze in the men’s 500, to up its total to six in this sport. Dajing Wu of China got the gold. Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands won gold in the women’s 1,000, and Hungary won its first gold in the Winter Games and first-ever medal in short track by taking the men’s 5,000 relay. The U.S. did not advance anyone to the two individual finals on Thursday, but did win the B Final of the 5,000 relay. It doesn’t get you anything. … Belarus won the won the women’s biathlon 4X6-kilometer relay. The U.S. finished 13th out of 18 teams.
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