Apolo Anton Ohno
Every story about the nation’s most famous short-track speedskater calls him "soul-patched," and I still have no idea what that means, unless it refers to the quaint brush of chin whiskers that precede him around the track.
Ohno was touted as a four-medal hopeful in Salt Lake City, but he had a crash, a controversial win and a lifetime’s worth of confrontations with the Korean team. In the end, he won just two medals and was labeled something of a bust, even though in crash-and-burn world of short track, there is no such thing as a sure shot.
He came back accompanied by considerably less hype and produced one of the great moments of the Games on the penultimate night of competition, blowing away archrival Ahn Hyun-soo of Korea in the 500 meters — short track’s equivalent of the 100-meter dash in the Summer Games. Earlier, after crashing in the 1,500, he had won a bronze in the 1,000, then topped it all off with another bronze while anchoring the 5,000-meter relay.
With five medals in two Olympics, no one can Ohno anything but what he is one of the greats of his sport.
In Alpine’s second event, the combined, which marries a morning downhill run with two afternoon slalom runs, Miller was supposedly the favorite, but Ligety was the man who won the day, beating out Austrian hotshot Benjamin Raich and everyone else for what would be the men’s only medal of the games.
Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto
Belbin and Agosto, who are an item on and off the ice, ended that streak with a performance that even macho guys who normally wouldn’t watch figure skating on a bet had to admit was awfully impressive. They were graceful.
They were passionate. They sparkled. And, with a silver medal, they ended a 30-year streak of futility.
Some people don’t think that sliding rocks down a sheet of ice at a bulls eye is a sport, but curling, a game that, like golf, was invented ages ago by bored Scots, is an Olympic sport and has been for a long time.
And if it’s in the Olympics, it must be tough.
The United States’ record in the event confirms its degree of difficulty.
The team had never won an Olympic medal and the men last won anything in a major competition back in 1978.
The team led by skip Pete Fenson changed that. They were a young group, fit and devoid of the beer bellies some expect in the sport. Fenson was delightfully entertaining, spending his spare time in Italy collecting pizza recipes.
He led the team into the bronze-medal game, then made the critical throws that beat Great Britain for that medal. And just like that, curling became cool.
NASCAR on ice was a new sport this year, and it’s the only event that pits four people at a time on the same course. As in short track speedskating, crashes are part of the game.
Wescott came in as the world champion, and, like fellow snowboarders Teter and White, he lived up to his hype, taking the gold in his event. As luck would have it, his girlfriend is Tanja Frieden, the Swiss rider who capitalized on Lindsey Jacobellis’ tail-grab to win the women’s gold.
Check out the best images from the 2006 Winter Olympics.