With the Olympics only about a week away, one of the best ways I know to get fired up is to remember some of the great moments from Winter Olympics past. I know the Olympics is supposed to be about celebrating the world and about coming together, but my Top Five inspiring memories are all pretty much U.S. highlights. Here’s my list in Letterman-esque reverse order: (feel free to post yours below!)
5. At Albertville, France in 1992 and Lillehammer, Norway in 1994, a former lounge singer named Cathy Turner won four total medals (including two golds) in the short track speed skating events. To see that there was always room to decide on a goal and achieve it was the kind of inspiration I remembered, even if she wasn’t the most famous Olympian.
4. At Nagano, Japan in 1998, it was so cool that the Womens’ Hockey team even made the finals, guaranteeing them at least a silver medal. They played Canada in a close game, and led, 2-1 as the game entered the final stretch. But because Canada was, well, Canada and the U.S. was, well, the U.S., it seemed inevitable that we’d get caught and probably passed in overtime until we scored an empty-net goal with 8 seconds left to win our first Gold ever in that sport.
3. Over three Olympiads from 1988 to 1994, Bonnie Blair won five gold medals, including all three of the 500 meters. The whole world went after her, but for those years, it was like we owned that event, a rare feeling for Americans relative to the Winter Olympics.
2. At Lake Placid, New York, in 1980, Eric Heiden was a big, dominating presence in a sport that I’d never even heard of. He went on to win five gold medals, sweeping all of the mens’ events.
1. Numero Uno, of course, is the “Miracle On Ice,” when a team of American amateurs who most of us had never heard of beat the pro’s from the Soviet Union. So few of those guys went on to become NHL stars, but Mike Eurizone’s wrist shot and goaltender Jim Craig’s flag draped over him became enduring images of the decade. Before the Olympics, the U.S. had lost to the same team, 10-3, in an exhibition match. “Do you believe in miracles?” exclaimed Al Michaels in the final seconds. “Yessssssssssssss!!”