Colorado

Feb 22, 2010 11:11 AM by Mike Moran, Bea Karnes

Vancouver Vantage Point: On The Passing Of The Torch

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.

Here is his Sunday blog: Bonnie Blair was as gracious and classy as she always is after sitting in the seats at Pacific Coliseum and watching Apolo Ohno replace her as America's most-medaled Winter Games Olympian.............."I'm very happy for Apolo's accomplishment," Blair said. "It's a great feat for him, US Speedskating, and the United States of America. We hope that more kids will see his accomplishments and want to try our great sport that has been so good to us and taught us so much about what it takes to be successful in life."..............Blair knows what she's talking about, and she and Ohno gained their glory through grit, tenacity and lack of resources as kids...............I am in awe of what Ohno, who lived and trained in Colorado Springs for a long time, has achieved, but Blair will always be an athlete with a special story that defines why I spent a quarter century doing what I could to support our Olympians.............she was born in Cornwall, New York in 1964, but her dad, Charlie, moved the family to Champaign, Illinois, when she was an infant......she got on skates when she was two for the first time, competing in some sort of ramshackle rink in Champaign on wooden skates................"I don't remember the first time I skated on ice," she said. "I was too young. I do remember falling in love with that wind-in-my-face feeling, though." ..............by the time she was in high school, she was clearly talented and eager to take the next step and find her place in the sport, but then there was the issue of money, no stranger to the lives of hundreds of American Olympic athletes in the sports less publicized.............so the Champaign Policeman's Benevolent Association stepped up and raised $7,000 to send her to Europe to train along with another skater destined for big things, Dan Jansen.................by 1984, she was ready, and she made the U.S. Olympic Team for the Games in Sarajevo, where she finished eighth in the 500 meters at the age of 19, flashing promise for the future, and that future was going to be Golden.............it was in Calgary during one of America's worst Games' performances in history that she exploded into the hearts and minds of Americans, upsetting the East German skaters Christa Rothenburger and Karin Enke to win the 500 in 39.10, the first time a woman had gone under 40 seconds and the first of five Olympic gold medals in her bedazzling career, in a sport where less than 250 Americans were competing at any level of credibility in the first place......she became better known to the Dutch than in Denver..............she brought down the curtain in Lillehammer in 1994, skating in the shadow of the tacky Tonya/Nancy controversy that had sapped our energy and attention in the weeks leading up to the Games.................she ripped off electric performances to win the 500 and the 1000, becoming the first woman in history to win three straight Olympic gold medals in the shorter distance, then sat in the seats on February 18 in Hamar as teammate Jansen got the monkey off his back that had dogged him in five Games by winning the 1,000..........Blair retired on her 31st birthday, March 18, 1995, breaking her own American record in the 1,000 in Milwaukee in the final race of her life.........I've seen her often since, she has a sister in Colorado Springs, and we have become nice friends......I was in the chairs at her wedding in 1996 in a Milwaukee church just before the Atlanta Olympic Games, and she walked into my office one summer's day in 1998 at the USOC and handed me a bundle of blankets and clothes that contained her new infant son, Grant.............while watching short tracker Ohno last night, I was reminded that Bonnie competed in that rough-and-tumble sport at one time as well, and an incident that stands out in my bank of memories........she'd come to Baton Rouge in 1985 during our old USOC National Sports Festival to compete in short track, where she had been before in this long vanished event we created in 1978 in Colorado Springs...........she had won four gold medals in the Sports Festival in two days and was tired and ready to head back to the dorm at LSU and get some sleep..........but on the evening of July 30 at the Baton Rouge Metroplex venue, she got an invitation she simply could not turn down..........she and another female skater, Becky Mane, were asked to skate for the North and East men's 5,000-meter relay teams that had been depleted by injuries and illness............Bonnie's North team was made up of Tom Carter, Brian Arsenault, and the man she was later to marry, David Cruikshank.........they skated to a Festival record of 8:10.32, with Blair taking a perfect hand-off from Cruikshank and ripping off the anchor leg.............her medal made her the first athlete in National Sports Festival history to win five gold medals............Ohno got into the sport when he was 12, after watching those 1994 Games in Lillehammer......his dad drove him to competitions in the pacific Northwest and Canada to encourage him.......by 1996, he got an invitation to train at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, and now we know where that has led............how totally right it was for Blair and Ohno to be together in the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver last night.
Random Thoughts: Monday is the 30-year anniversary of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team's amaranthine, inspiring upset of the Soviet Union in Lake Placid, an event so meaningful that it has been called the Sports Event of the Century................though I and others who were in the rink that day, and millions of our citizens will never forget Mike Eruzione's wrister with ten minutes left that gave the USA a 4-3 lead that held up, it was two sensational goals by Wisconsin's Mark Johnson that kept our kids in the game against the USSR machine when things looked bleak............Coach Mark Johnson's 2010 U.S. Olympic Women's Team faces Sweden at Noon Monday in Vancouver in the first semifinal game, with heavily favored Canada facing Finland at 5:00...........the gold medal game comes on Thursday, setting up, with luck, a chance for Johnson and his team to create another Miracle On Ice themselves...........one of the best sports columnists in the country recently said about that 1980 epic "While the greatest sports upset in the history of American sports was sweet, we've seen the movie (twice). Enough already, so let's dance the last dance and stop talking about the red, white and blue hockey glory in the past tense. What happened in 1980 is no more relevant today than Donna Summer."............love the writer, but, dude!...........I must demur.

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