Posted: Feb 14, 2010 8:26 AM by Mike Moran, Jamie Smith
Mike Moran was the chief spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee through thirteen Games, 1980-2002. The Omaha,Nebraska native was the Sports Information Director at the University of Colorado for a decade before joining the USOC in 1978 as it left New York City for Colorado Springs. He was the Senior Communications Counselor for NYC2012, New York City's Olympic bid group from 2003-2005 and is now a media consultant.
February 13, 2010 #4 When Injuries End A Chase For The Dream
While Millions Of Americans Wait To See if Lindsey Vonn can overcome her serious injury and tackle the slopes at Whistler in search of Olympic gold, it's thoughtful to look back thirty years ago this weekend and the tragic story of how an injury at the 1980 Olympic Winter Games broke the hearts of people around the world and deprived a pair of Americans of their shining moment............it was a calamitous moment in a Games otherwise recalled for shining triumphs........the U.S. Olympic Ice Hockey team's Miracle On Ice and Eric Heiden's astonishing sweep of the five men's speedskating events at the outdoor high school football field oval...........On February 16 in Lake Placid, I moderated a tearful, joyless press conference with more than 600 journalists on hand with Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, the 1979 World Figure Skating pairs Champions and the heavy favorites for the Olympic gold medal...........America's "Heartbreak Kids" were withdrawing from the Games because of Gardner's torn thigh muscle suffered in a workout eleven days before, making it impossible him to lift Babilonia and spin or circle..........he had fallen several times in warm-ups for the epic showdown with the stunning Soviet pair, Irina Rodnina and Alexandr Zaitsev, and it all came crashing down on them..........these remarkable skaters has met in 1970 when he was 11 and she was just 9, and two years later they were accepted by iconic coach John Nicks, their world changing forever.........they racked up success and attention at every turn, and in 1976, they captured fifth place at the Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, then becoming the first American Pairs World Champions in three decades in 1979, setting the stage for what might have been in Lake Placid.........Rodnina and Zaitsev won the gold medal and Americans Peter and Kitty Carruthers got fifth, but millions still wonder how it might have gone down but for the severe injury to Gardner.......the couple skated together for another 28 years, and retired in 2008, but nobody will ever forget them...........Babilonia appeared in Colorado Springs a year ago to help mentor U.S. pairs Champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, still stunning, as always......The awful swiftness of a death at the Olympic Games casts a pall over this largest of the world's sporting events like no other........Friday's fatal luge training accident that took the life of Georgian slider Nodar Kumaritashvili is the fourth at a Winter Games, none in actual competition, but it destroyed the atmosphere in Vancouver before the Opening Ceremony among athletes, officials and the thousands on hand.........one can only try to imagine the shock and sorrow in Munich on September 5, 1972, when eleven Israeli athletes were murdered by terrorists at the airport.....competition was suspended for the first time in the history of the Games, but resumed amidst huge controversy..........In Barcelona at the 1992 Olympic Games, our delegation was stunned by the death of the father of star swimmer Ron Karnaugh during the Opening Ceremony, six days before Ron was to swim his first race........the elder Karnaugh, who did not have the money to travel to see his son compete, had arrived with his wife thanks to the generosity of the community of Maplewood, New Jersey, where he lived, with $27,000 raised by friends and fans........61-year-old Peter Karnaugh collapsed and died of a heart attack just after he waved to his son, who was marching with his U.S. Olympic teammates in the parade of nations..........Ron did not know of his father's death until the early hours of the morning when USOC Executive Director Harvey Schiller and Vice-President George Steinbrenner went to his room in the Olympic Village to inform him of the tragedy.......he stayed on and competed nonetheless, and Steinbrenner, moved by the young man's courage, paid for his medical school courses that led to a degree in 1997 from New Jersey Medical School.......Ron has become an orthopedic surgeon, but briefly put that on hold at the age of 31 to swim for the USA in the 1998 World Championships, where he won a bronze medal....he tried to make the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team in Sydney, but failed.........the Olympic Creed says "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."..........the events of yesterday and my memory of Ron Karnaugh made those words very special to me as I watched our team enter the ceremony last night in Vancouver.
Class Act.........U.S. Olympic men's hockey player Jack Johnson of the Los Angeles Kings, an Indianapolis kid who played for Michigan, chartered a plane at 6:00 a.m. with his mom, dad and brother so he could be there to march in the parade of nations......"To have the opportunity to walk alongside the Olympians from my country and walk in the opening ceremonies is something I will never forget, and there was no way I was going to let this opportunity slip by." He was the only NHL player to be there, and has to be right back for a Sunday night game before the Olympic break......hope NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and his owners noted that as they continue their annoying whining about not knowing if they will compete in 2014 in Sochi and take the league break to do so........the Russian NHL players have already said they'll be in Sochi no matter what.........we've come a long way from the first collection of American NHL players in the Games in 1998 in Nagano when a handful of them (who have never come forward to be identified nor apologize), trashed their room, burned team clothing and embarrassed themselves, the USOC, USA Hockey and angered millions of Americans.
Today's Big Non-Olympic Note: Thousands of Americans of my age are mourning the death of Fred Morrison this week.........this is the man who created one of our most cherished leisure time gadgets, the Frisbee, in 1948, first called the "Pluto Platter."......more than 200 million of the beloved saucers have been sold since 1957, and they are beloved by millions of humans and dogs across the globe........as long as I live, I will hold on to the countless times I took my Golden Retriever, Moose, and later my Yellow Lab, Callie, to some park and spent glorious moments tossing the disc and enjoying their delight in catching or bringing it back for another go...........
Today's Big Events for your television viewing pleasure include the Men's 5,000-meter speedskating showdown with America's Shani Davis beginning his gold-mining adventure......he won it in 2006 in Torino.....Bode Miller, shut out in six events in Torino and a much less controversial figure, won't go in the downhill, postponed until Monday by the unrelenting fog, and Apolo Ohno opens his quest to become the USA's all-time winter medals leader in the short-track speed skating 1,500-meter final..............
The U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Teams are offering a limited edition collector's team pin you might want to grab for yourself. You can get one for a donation of $15.00, with proceeds going to help support athlete programs. Interested? Make your way to the site www.allcustomstores.com/teampinoffer
Here's some really good websites to help you follow the Games
www.teamusa.org (Official USOC site)
www.sportsfeatures.com (scores of Olympic stories from all over the world)
www.nbcolympics.com (the NBC Games site)
http://pressbox.teamusa.org (The USOC's superb media site)
www.newsfirst5.com (Click on link to Olympic coverage)
www.gazette.com (click on the link to Olympic coverage)
www.aroundtherings.com (Worth the subscription price, too)