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Which is just fine with Jewell. Like most U.S. Olympians, he does not earn much money from his sport. Jewell has one sponsor; his sponsorship pays so little of his bills that he lived in a tent last summer so he could afford to train. He and his brother, Myles, also shared rooms in budget hotels when they traveled together for the winter season.
|Tyler Jewell had to feel good to have some support over in Italy.|
"The frustrating thing is we're capable of so much more," Kristina Koznick says as clouds sweep over the slalom course following the first of the two scheduled runs. "Sometimes things fall into place and sometimes, things fall to pieces."
|Lindsey Kildow has shown a lot of grit in continuing to compete. (AP Photo/Claudio Scaccini)|
"I'm such a firm believer that things happen for a reason, which makes this so hard to understand," Koznick says. "I don't have any answer for what happened. Maybe I never will. I definitely spent a lot of time crying and asking 'Why?' but there is no answer, and at some point, you have to get back up."
So she did. She traveled to Switzerland, where doctors fitted her with a knee brace that Edgar Martinez would have rejected as too bulky and involved. But Koznick wears it everywhere, and pulled down her racing suit in the starting house to tighten the brace just before the first run. "Everybody up on the top of the hill has seen me in my underwear."
She skied the run in 45.72, more than three seconds behind eventual gold medalist Anja Paerson of Sweden. She will undergo surgery on the knee next week.
"I don't know if this is the end of my career, but I'll have plenty of time to think it over," she says after her first run. "I just have to figure out what I want for the rest of my life. It would be a shame to walk away now, but I can't really make a rational decision now."
Koznick walks off the course with a pronounced limp, and decides not to risk the knee with a second run in the evening race. She is among the world's best skiers, yet she has never finished an Olympic event. But that doesn't seem terribly important right now, nor does her slow time in the first run. She has skied in three Olympics, and that's far more than than most can say.
"I don't know if I'm lucky that I'm here, but I'm here," she says.
6:45 p.m., Torino Oval Lingotto, women's speedskating, 1,500 meters
I fall asleep in a light snow flurry in the mountains, and wake an hour later to a light drizzle falling over rush-hour Torino, the aging industrial city of one million. I've come to appreciate Torino's charms, but I also appreciate a colleague's assessment that there is such a lack of overall energy, he deemed Torino "the city that ate the Olympics."
"It's totally different from Salt Lake and even from Nagano," speedskater Catherine Raney says of the atmosphere. "At times, it doesn't feel like the Olympics. At times, it's almost dead. The men's 1,500 had a great atmosphere, but overall, it just doesn't seem to have the same zip and vibe."
Thank God for the Dutch.
If it weren't for them, the speedskating oval might be empty. They are everywhere, filling the arena with a sea of orange. The Dutch love speedskating, and a race is their answer to American tailgaters. They shout and whistle and blow horns and drink and dance to the music of an oompah band, called Kilntje Pils.
We've seen three American skaters win gold medals on this oval, heard Joey Cheek donate his Olympic bonus to charity and watched Enrico Fabris delight the Italian fans by beating both Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick in the 1,500. But perhaps the finest performance in Torino was by the Dutch fans, who booed the lame official Torino cheerleaders out of the building one day because their dance music was drowning out the oompah band.
"I'm just happy they got the band in here. God, they needed Kleintje Pils [little beers] in here," Raney says after the 1,500. "It's a good thing the Dutch fans are here. It gets a little quiet when there's not a Dutch skater going, but that's OK. They still respect all the athletes. They love the sport of speedskating, and they want to see good times on the board."
8:17 p.m., Piazza Castello, nightly medals presentation
It isn't exactly "Brokeback Mountain," but when Davis and Hedrick receive their silver and bronze medals for the men's 1,500 in front of hundreds of cheering fans, Chad leans over and finally shakes Shani's hand to congratulate him on his performances. Shani's reaction is a little like Judi Dench's in "Shakespeare in Love," when, as Queen Elizabeth, she comes to a mud puddle outside of the theater. Dench looks around in anticipation, while the various lords and dukes do nothing. After an awkward moment, they all begin to lay their cloaks over the puddle, only to have Dench brush them aside and step into the puddle with a disgusted look.
"Too late," she says. "Too late."
The Schoch brothers show a little more enthusiasm when they receive their medals for the snowboard giant slalom, repeatedly grinning at each other with smiles nearly as bright as the fireworks that light up the night sky. "We enjoy the race," Philipp says. "We talk and say, 'The best will win' and today I won -- sorry, Simon."
8:57 p.m., Palavela ice arena, Torino
|Apolo Ohno is trying to savor the last few days of these Games. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)|
This is Ohno's second Olympics, and he has one day of racing left in his quest to cross the finish line first in an Olympic final (his 2002 gold medal was the result of a Korean disqualification). Asked in the mixed zone why he seemed a little wistful, Ohno says, with a hint of sadness, "It's the last week of the Olympics. Basically, I just want to enjoy every race I have. I don't know [whether I'll try for another Olympics]. This is my last week, you know? That's how I'm thinking about it. I love sports so much."
I've been living in a spartan dorm for two weeks, working 16-hour days and getting as little as three hours sleep a night, but I know just how he feels.
11 p.m., Torino Esposizioni, men's hockey, Canada vs. Russia
Quick. Someone take the sharp blades away from Don Cherry. Like the United States, its opponent in the gold medal game in Salt Lake, Canada is out of the Olympic tournament following a 2-0 loss to Russia in a terrific, emotionally-charged game.
"We did it, and we beat a great team," Russia's splendid young forward Alexander Ovechkin says to reporters in the mixed zone. "Everybody in my country is jumping up and down and drinking lots of vodka."
Undoubtedly, the reaction will be somewhat different in Canada. "Nobody could make me feel worse that I do right now," Canadian coach Pat Quinn says at a postgame press conference.
The Canadian media and fans will try, though.
"I'm sure the reaction won't be good," Chris Pronger, a Canadian defenseman, says. "But people have to realize that there are a lot of good teams out there and a lot of good young talent."
It's a different world since Lake Placid. Everyone on the American and Canadian teams play in the NHL. And so do all but seven on the Russian team. Herb Brooks coached the French team in Nagano.
Whether you like NHL players in the Olympics depends on whether you want to watch the world's best athletes in each sport or you prefer to root for amateurs untainted by million-dollar salaries and shoe contracts. Most of us want it both ways. We want to see the best, and we also want the feel-good moment of the 1980 U.S. hockey team.
Unfortunately, under the current setup, we will never see another Miracle on Ice, or snow, or any other surface for that matter. We are such a dominant force in so many sports that we can never play the underdog again. In fact, to many countries, we represent the big bad evil empire -- in the same way many fans regard the Yankees, Notre Dame and Duke.
Like it or not, from now on, the only announcer shouting "Do you believe in miracles?" at a U.S. Olympic hockey game will speak those words in a different language. And now that the Soviet Union is no more, there isn't even a decent villain we can root against. Perhaps that accounts for some of NBC's poor ratings.
We need to look for something else.
Midnight, Polytechnico Media Village dining room
My day is done. I've covered seven events in one Olympian day, logging 6½ hours on buses. I have chased after buses through snow and mud, argued my way past guards, and set off alarms dashing through exits to catch buses. I am so exhausted, my head almost falls into a plate of spaghetti.
|Eat up Jim. You've got to keep up your strength!|
After 17 hours and seven events, I realize that despite my universal credential, it is impossible to touch all that the Olympics offer as a reporter. I can't do it unless I'm actually one of the 2,500 athletes. I can't completely feel it unless I compete like Jewell and Koznick and Raney.
And Neha Ahuja. She is India's first-ever female Winter Olympic athlete.
Ahuja grew up in New Delhi and learned to ski at Himalayan resorts where the slopes were so gradual that, she says, "You could walk down them faster than you could ski." A lack of chair lifts meant, "After two runs, that was it. You were exhausted," she says.
During high school, Ahuja was a foreign exchange student in Vail, Colo., where she honed her skiing skills. She even skied for the University of Colorado's team.
And on Wednesday, she finished 53rd in the slalom. Dead last among all finishers, more than 27 seconds behind Paerson. But as with Koznick, the important thing is that she was here.
"I'm so thrilled," she says. "I looked around me at all the great women skiers, and I can't believe I'm here. Hopefully, next time I won't be last."
This, then, is the day's lesson. To experience all that the Olympics are, you can't simply flash the guards a credential with the word "ALL" stamped on it. You have to earn your own credential as an athlete. Although I have very little chance to ever do so at my advanced age of 44, at least I have the necessary role models. There is a 49-year-old cross-country skier from Costa Rica, a 50-something luger from the Virgin Islands, a 54-year-old curler from Minnesota.
There is no excuse for any of us not to at least try. We live in the world's richest country, where there are Target stores selling tents, and talented surgeons to repair the most damaged knees. And ski lifts.
So turn off "American Idol," get off the couch and get out there. Vancouver is only four years away.And like Tyler Jewell told his father: If you don't get going now, then you'll be too old to do all of the things you want.
Jim Caple is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His first book, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes," is on sale at bookstores nationwide. It also can be ordered through his Web site, Jimcaple.com. Sound off to Page 2 here.