Except, of course, they won’t. Stuff happens over the course of a quadrennium. As much as these athletes don’t want to believe it, as much as they’ll tell you it’s all about the process, most bodies aren’t likely to stay in competitive shape.
The hype this time was all about Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen, Apolo Ohno, Shaun White and Bode Miller. The hype next time may be about Kimmie Meissner, Ted Ligety and four or five teenagers who mean nothing to you right now.
Vancouver figures to be better than Turin, frankly, though the mountains in Whistler will be just as far away as those in Sestriere. The Winter Games will regain some of those lost ratings and popularity, if only because of the friendlier time zone.
Fewer tape delays on NBC. A greater sense of immediacy. A hometown advantage. Canada is already aiming to win the medals count, but we all know the arenas will be filled with just as many Americans.
Here’s a look at each sport, and a first guess how the U.S. can expect to fare in each discipline in 2010:
Cohen insists for now that she will continue toward Vancouver, with no guarantee she will make it that far. Look for Meissner to become America’s darling by then, with possible backup from Emily Hughes and a teenager to be named later. The favorite in the clubhouse, though, is Mao Asada of Japan.
If Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto want to keep skating competitively, they can be the No. 1 dance team in the world by 2010.
As for the men, Johnny Weir, 21, has promised a joyous return. “I’m just a baby,” he said. Weir is the best quote at the Olympics, and may be one of the favorites for 2010. But Yevgeny Plushenko says he’s coming back, too.
The women’s Alpine team has a way of turning over every couple years, though it would be nice to think that Lindsey Kildow would get another shot at the downhill after her terrible crash here in a training run.
You won’t recognize the U.S. men’s team next time around. The old, grizzled grumps will all be gone, replaced by the kids coming up from last year's World Junior championship team.
The women have already turned over their roster, for the most part, and will build on their bronze medal and around their University of Minnesota core group. Say goodbye to Angela Ruggiero, a three-time Olympian.
We can’t do much better in this stuff. Halfpiper Shaun White will be 23, and can’t possibly be as flexible as he is now. But he’s so much better than everybody else right now, he can afford to slip a bit.
If you expect this to be the Shani and Chad show in 2010, you’ll be as sadly disappointed as Hedrick. Speed skaters rarely endure at the top for more than two or three years. Again, a new generation of new names will make itself known, but no sooner than 2009. For the men, that’s a shame. For the women, that can only be good news.
The other sports
Just remember this, as we float from continent to continent, Olympics to Olympics: The faces may change, but the sports dynasties remain the same. If we stunk at it in Turin, we’ll probably stink at it in Vancouver.