As the 2010 Winter Olympiad begins in Vancouver, Im praying for the spirit of brotherhood, good sportsmanship and medal-winning performances by all participants as long as they are Americans. As a person who isnt crazy about war and constant flag-waving, my rabid patriotism rears its head during any Olympics competition.
In reverse order, the following are the most memorable moments by U.S. athletes in the Winter Olympics history - ever.
(5) Eddie Eagen bobsledding. After winning as a bobsledder for the U.S. in 1932, Eagen is still the only athlete in history to have won a gold medal in both the Winter and Summer Olympics. He had also won the gold in boxing, of all things, in the 1920 Summer Games.
(4) Bill Koch cross-country skiing. Kochs silver medal in the 1972 Games is actually more memorable now than it was then because most Americans hadnt even heard of cross-country skiing. I know Koch inspired me to see if skiing was actually possible while propelling ones self - I loved it immediately.
Koch eventually invented the skate-skiing method that has become its own Olympic event and the favored cross-country ski technique by most racers. And, oh yes, almost 40 years later Bill Koch is still the only American male to ever win an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing.
(3) Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan figure-skating. The biggest scandal in Winter Olympics history unfolded after Tonya Hardings boyfriend had Nancy Kerrigans knee clubbed before the 1994 Games. Kerrigan recovered and won the silver medal. Hardings big moment was just before the long-program. After her skate laces broke, her crying appeal to the judges to start her routine over is the only memory of Hardings performances we will ever carry.
(2) Dan Jansen speed-skating. His story is so inspirational; Hollywood couldnt have dreamed it up. On the day of his speed-skating event in the 1988 Olympics, Jansens sister Jane tragically passed away. Knowing Jane would have wanted it, Jansen skated anyway, but fell and finished last during the race. Four years later and a favorite to win in that competition, Jansen bombed again and finished out of medal contention. The next Olympics (his third) was Jansens last chance for a medal. In his best event of two he entered, he fell again finishing last, seemingly doomed to finish his career with a reputation for failing under pressure. A decided underdog in the 1,000-meter race, when Jansen won the gold medal and broke the world record, his wife almost passed out and even his rivals applauded him.
In film footage from 1994, the little girl that you see Dan Jansen holding while celebrating his gold medal victory is his baby daughter Jane.
(1) U.S. Hockey Team of 1980. Its hard to believe we are celebrating the 30th anniversary. Known today as simply the Miracle on Ice, our hockey teams stunning victory over the Soviet squad still ranks as the greatest moment in American sports history, Olympics and otherwise. This was the Cold War era when Eastern Bloc Olympians were virtual professionals with decades of experience playing together and the USSR hockey team was considered the best in the world. The American team was made up of mostly youngsters picked months before the Games from various colleges. Not surprisingly, in an exhibition hockey game before the Olympics, the USSR slaughtered the Americans 10-3.
You had to be there. When our boys beat the mighty Ruskies 4-3 and went on to win the gold, we hugged, we cried, we partied, and proved the American way to be superior to the Commies.