Hoist a cold one for Fabris and Klassen and Ahn and Raich, and maybe a few for those wacky Kostelic kids, the brother-sister act on skis from Croatia that won more medals than some nations.
These were games when speaking English meant missing some of the best parties, unless your name was Bode Miller, but not the best feud between winners, a dubious distinction claimed by American speedskaters Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick.
Italian Enrico Fabris wound up climbing a step higher on the podium than either of those two in his sport’s equivalent of track and field’s mile and overnight became the most popular thing on ice in this soccer-mad country since Campari.
Until two months ago, this nation of 57 million boasted exactly one Olympic-caliber oval, and even then his countrymen never got around to building a roof over it. Good thing, too, because it might have put a ceiling on Fabris’ imagination.
Italy had never won an Olympic medal in “pattinaggio di velocita” when Fabris, 24, a dead ringer for actor Adrian Brody, glided to the start line for the 5,000 meters two weeks ago. He began honing his craft on a frozen pond near his hometown of Asiago, then quietly became a world-class competitor and, finally, a revelation by slipping in to grab the bronze medal that Saturday.
But his best was yet to come.
After next leading Italy to a gold in the team pursuit, Fabris won a high-stakes, high-drama shootout in the 1,500 against the heavily favored duo of Davis and Hedrick and zoomed off with yet another gold.
“Today,” Fabris said, “without any arrogance, I’m the king of Italy.”
Germany won the medal standings with an Olympics-best 11 golds in addition to 12 silvers and six bronzes. The United States was next, with nine golds, nine silvers and seven bronzes, followed by Canada with seven golds, 10 silvers and seven bronzes.
But Austria got the award for efficiency. It came to Italy with 22 skiers from a nation of just 8.1 million people, and left with an Olympic-record 14 of the 30 Alpine medals, including two golds each by Benjamin Raich and Michaela Dorfmeister.
Janica Kostelic, Croatia’s one-woman band, was almost as reliable. She became the most decorated female Alpine skier of all time by grabbing a gold in the combined and a silver in the super-G.
But Kostelic was none too happy about having to fight the flu and being forced to hang around while officials delayed the start of the downhill leg of the combined.
“They’re stupid,” Kostelic said.
American Shaun White, “The Flying Tomato,” was eager to share his winning spirit. He showed why snowboarding has been tabbed the Olympics’ next big thing by winning the half-pipe and immediately suggested he could parlay his latest accomplishment into a date.
“Everybody found out that I wanted to meet Sasha Cohen ... so they’re asking me, ‘So, you think Sasha is digging gold medals?”’ White said. “And I’m like, ‘Couldn’t hurt, right?”’