This is a list that is sure to raise some eyebrows, the first lifted brow will be the right and someone will say, “Well where are the figure skaters?” Easily answered, I don’t watch figure skating, never have; never will so I don’t expect them to be included. Before I get the hate mail, I just don’t like skating, I am not saying they are not athletes or they should not be respected, but if I don’t watch a sport how can I include them in my ranks. Then someone will raise the left and say, “Where is [insert Olympic legend]?” There are two possible answers. One, I only have 10 spots and not everyone can be included, or two, they were before my time. I have a problem with putting someone on a list because others tell me he or she was great. These are athletes I have grown up watching and enjoyed, not because I have heard that they dominated, but because I watched them dominate.
Another caveat I may add is don’t feel offended by the Countries included or omitted. Yes the list is highly slanted United States, and that is for a reason, I am from the United States. These are the people that I root for to hoist the medals for my Country. Also don’t be offended I chose others from a competing country, there are two athletes on the list from a foreign land, I watched these folk dominate our folks and I have grown to like them as well as earned my respect.
And the last, where is hockey? Easy, I was too young and did not yet care for the Olympic Games in 1980 and with the inclusion of the NHL in current games I do not agree with the practice and this is my simple protest to pros in the Olympics.
10. Karine Ruby (France), I will admit I first noticed Karine for her legs, it’s sexist but it’s true. The slalom is a sport that keeps you in a crouch and her legs up to her butt were just amazing. But her style is why I love her, she has knock people around at both the 98 and 2002 Winter Games medaling in both and has my complete respect for her athletic ability. Sadly, she died in a mountain accident last spring, she will be missed at this coming games. RIP Rube.
9. Jim Shea (USA), 3rd generation Olympian and won gold in the skeleton after a 50 year absence from the Games. All three generations of Shea Olympians should have celebrated the victory, but a month before the Games the eldest was killed by a drunk driver. Jim Jr used that loss to drive him to victory, while introducing millions to a sport their grandparents had only known.
8. Chris Klug(USA), what do you do 2 years after a liver transplant? Klug wins a bronze medal. While overcoming a serious medical condition is a feat there is a few things even a superhuman can’t overcome, like a broken binding. For people not in the skiing or snowboarding world a binding is what holds your foot to the board or ski. Upon getting to the top for his run Chris noticed his binding was broken and without the option of calling a time out or getting a new board he quickly made use of duct tape and made a MacGuyver-save on his equiptment and eventually cruised to a medal. Quite possibly the best use of duct tape ever, and it would have made one hell of a advertising campain, I don’t know why they never ran with it.
7. Jill Bakken & Vonetta Flowers(USA), if you read the news on their win it focus’ on the fact that Vonetta is the first black athlete to win Winter Olympic gold, but they always forget to mention that she and teammate Bekken were also the underdogs, not just to win a gold, but they were the 2nd American team and the outcasts. Vonetta was originally a Summer Games track & field athlete who because of injury had never won a medal in her sports, her husband inspired the transition by making the switch himself then falling to injury, she picked up the pieces and took his lead and became an Olympic Bobsleder. Jill was once part of the team with Jean Racine the première US Women’s Bobsled hope. Through hirings and firings she found herself on the team and off, but eventually pairing with Vonetta and beating the “hope of bobsled” at her own game. A classic story of overcoming the odds, watching them win was every small kid’s dream.
6. Joey Cheek, Shani Davis & Chad Hendrick(USA), look at the Men’s individual medal board and you will see why these guys are all here; 5 events, 7 medals of a possible 15, that is domination. Shani, Chad and Joey’s biggest competitors were each other, while there was controversy they did find way to win even if it was probably solely to best one another.
5. Ray LeBlanc & the 1992 Team(USA), the only non-medal winner on the list. Ray shared the ice with a list of great hockey players (Steve Heinze, Ted Donato, Ted Drury, Shawn McEachern, & Keith Tkachuk to name a few) but for me stood out for two reasons, first he was born in a neighboring town and also the team had an electricity that I have not felt following the ’92 Games. A goalie from nowhere led them out of the gates and made a run at the 1984 teams legacy, but would eventually fall to the Czech team in the bronze round.
4. Pete Fenson & the 2006 Mens Curling(USA), go ahead laugh, but watch the sport and you will be hooked. Is it a sport? I really don’t know, it’s like a board game played with giant pieces on ice. Sure anyone could play and it might be a highlight for America’s Funniest Videos watching grandma bust her ass trying to sweep, but this is really a fun competition. While this team did not draw me into curling, a trip to Toronto did that in 2002, these guys gave the US the bronze noone expected them to even compete for.
3. Ahn Hyun-Soo(South Korea), they guy was a torn in my side. If you have looked ahead you know why, in Turin at every corner… he was there, at every finish line… he was there at every medal ceremony, save one, he had the pinnacle. Hyun-Soo defeated, my “Olympic hero” not once, but 3 times in the 2006 games. South Korea was the greatest short track team in ’06, possibly ever. South Korea was perceived as our heel after the ’02 games when a disqualification caused issue in the medals, but these guys just want to win, don’t hold the media’s opinion against them. I was really looking forward to a rematch between Ohno and Hyun-Soo at ’10, but it seems with the team split in South Korea that won’t happen.
2. Ross Powers, Danny Kass, & JJ Thomas(USA), in just the second Olympics for snowboarding the US Team showed what it was made of by putting three men on the pedestal. While the team of Shaun White and Kass in 2006 was better, this team was special. Just months after the events of 9/11 it was powerful to see three American flags raised in unison.
1. Apollo Anton Ohno(USA), easily the most exciting event in the winter games. Put four men in a speed event and pack them like sardines, the rest will take care of itself. While you may be the fastest skater you may never win in short-track, the best poker players will tell you the luck is better in hold ’em. Bumps, slips, accidents are common, but the action does not dictate a good event, in actuality the accidents are less than common; it’s the potential that makes the event so exciting. For the past two Games Ohno has been the poster boy for US Skating winning 5 total medals (23 in the World Cup of Skating, 13 since his last games) and still continues to improve.