I am sitting her writing this blog and watching the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Winter Olympics. I have been watching the Olympics for as long as I can remember. I am not a sport person as a rule but something about the games draws me in to watching. I remember the days before the athletes were paid for playing their sport. I miss when the athletes did it for the joy and love of whatever sport they participated in. Now is seems like they really don’t care about the games as much as if they are going to get their names in the news. Yes, I am a little bitter but I think that part of the games was the fact these are people who sacrificed so much with no guarantee of a return. Sure, some of the big names went on to amazing careers because of their Olympic experience but most just moved on to the next phase of their life. Whether it was getting married and raising kids or becoming a coach and mentoring other athletes.
I can remember one of the most proud moments in my life was watching the 1980 Hockey team beat the Russians. For a kid who was only 12 and was watching the news every night worrying about the hostages in Iran, the games seemed the only bright spot that filled up all the depression. I know that is a little strange but I am from Southern Illinois where the local news was from St. Louis and there was a native son who was held for 444 days. I can still remember his name, Rocky Sickmann, he was just 22, the same age as a lot of the athletes. If you don’t know about the hockey team just watch the movie Miracle, yes when I watched it the same feelings came rushing back as to when I watched the games live. I still tear up when I watch Mike Eurzione jumping up and down after scoring and who can forget Al Michaels famous call of “ Do You Believe in Miracles”.
That was just one of many moments of the Lake Placid Olympics that remember. Eric Heiden was one of the athletes that really struck chord for me. He was so humble and I had never really heard of speed skating but wow that made me love it. Eric and his sister Beth were some of the best participants in the games. I remember she was hurt and was not doing well and Eric spent a lot of time with her while still preparing for his 5 gold medal races.
I also loved watching the figure skating. Robin Cousins was amazing on the ice and when he won even though he was British I was still so happy for him because he was fantastic. I don’t like to be cold and here I was wishing I was able to ski. I was so enthralled by all of the speed and grace of the athletes.
The 1984 Olympics was a letdown for me because I was such a huge fan of the hockey team. My stepmonster was trying to kiss up to me so she bought tickets to a game between the Olympic team and the Peoria junior league team. I was sitting next to the walkway and one of the players gave me a puck. I cannot tell you how excited I was to get that puck.
The twin Mahre brothers, Phil and Steve winning gold and silver slalom skiing medals was so exciting. And who can forget the first gold in downhill, by Bill Johnson. The other big ones was Torville and Dean winning the ice dancing Gold with perfect scores in the artistic part of the scoring. I don’t believe it has ever been duplicated. Scottie Hamilton winning the gold and looking so tiny next to some of the other skaters. It was so sad to see what happened a few years later when Yugoslavia descended into civil war and seeing all those beautiful venues destroyed.
1988 Winter Games were held in Calgary and I can remember the opening ceremonies and all the cowboy hats. For some reason I never realized how many ranchers were in Canada. I am not sure why I really never got into this Olympics but I think it had something to do with allowing professional athletes. I can remember Dan Jansen falling just hours after his sister died from leukemia. I still see him sitting there after his second fall crying.
After they started to allow the pros in the games it kind of took away some of the love I had for them. I still try and keep up with the games but I don’t follow the way I used to. I watch the opening and closing ceremonies but it is not the same.
My question for you is do you watch the games or any sports? What are your favorites?