SBD/Issue 109/Olympics

USOC Backs Performance, Denounces Behavior Of Some Athletes

Scherr Happy With Overall
Performance Of U.S. Athletes

The U.S. Olympic team finished the Turin Games ranked second in the medal count with 25, including nine Gold, nine Silver and seven Bronze. Germany finished first with 29 medals, including 11 Gold. USOC CEO Jim Scherr last year predicted the U.S. would win 30 medals (THE DAILY). Scherr: “Our previous high on foreign soil was 13 medals [Nagano and Lillehammer]. We’re not only happy with the medals we won, but we also had the most top-eight finishes of any nation in these games, more than 60 top-eight finishes. We were very close to even more medals” (Mult., 2/27). IOC President Jacques Rogge said the record 26 countries that won at least one medal “is proof that winter sports are getting more popular.” USOC Chair Peter Ueberroth: “It’s a reminder that the world is changing quickly and, as global citizens, we have to be ready to compete. That’s true of business, that’s true of education, that’s true of medicine and that’s certainly true of sport” (USA TODAY, 2/27). Scherr grades the U.S. team’s performance as a B+ or A-, adding, “It’s probably a little bit our fault that this team has been viewed a little less than that because of the high expectations we all had coming into this” (WASHINGTON POST, 2/26). On Long Island, John Jeansonne noted the USOC spent $35M on athlete support for the Turin Games, plus another $9M in Turin. The NGBs spent a combined $35M in the last four years, “roughly half of which went to elite athletes” (NEWSDAY, 2/26).

FLOP OR NO FLOP: In K.C., Joe Posnanski wrote the U.S. had “the most successful foreign Winter Olympics ever, and yet the overwhelming impression seemed to be that America flopped” (K.C. STAR, 2/26). In Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan: “The hype actually had a negative impact on the Games themselves. There is a perception that Team USA has flopped here. It isn’t really true” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/26). In Baltimore, Rick Maese: “Short-term memory will focus on the losses. But the history books will reflect the Americans’ success” (Baltimore SUN, 2/27). But in Orlando, George Diaz notes speedskating and snowboarding accounted for 14 of the 25 medals for the U.S., which reflects “disappointment, if not embarrassment, in other disciplines” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/27).

SLOPE STYLE: U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association President & CEO Bill Marolt said that the USSA “will not back off its goal of overtaking the long-dominant Austrian ski team.” He added that he is “not about to rip apart the organization.” Marolt, whose team won two alpine medals after predicting it would win eight, said, “I know everybody wants an explanation. ... I guess there really isn’t one. We’ve got the talent. We’ve got good coaches. We believe we have a good plan. The momentum, or whatever needed to spark us, just didn’t happen” (USA TODAY, 2/27). More Marolt: “We came in with high expectations, and I don’t think the expectations were unjustified” (BOSTON HERALD, 2/26). In Boston, Tony Chamberlain writes USSA’s “Best in the World” tag “was a reach.” The slogan “helped put an entire team of athletes in the line of fire” (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/27).

Davis One Of 23 Minorities To Compete
For U.S. Winter Olympic Team
DIVERSITY: GANNETT NEWS’ John Torres wrote the U.S. team included the “most diverse group of American winter athletes.” Of the 211 U.S. athletes in Turin, 23 were minorities, up from 12 in ’02 and three in both ’98 and ’94. But U.S. luge team spokesperson Jon Lundine believes that one challenge in getting minorities to participate in winter sports is that “most American children have limited exposure to winter sports.” Lundine: “In the U.S., kids of all backgrounds play baseball, football, basketball and now soccer. They only get to see these sports once every four years, and they don’t think they can participate in them.” Seibel: “By expanding opportunities for participation, we are seeing more Americans participating in Olympic sports” (GANNETT NEWS SERVICE, 2/26). But in L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote the Turin Games were “so racially skewed, Davis’ gold medal didn’t erase differences, it only highlighted them. Yet, there is little cry to increase diversity in these Games.” San Francisco State Univ. ethnic studies professor Larry Salomon: “Lack of diversity is only a big problem if kids are knocking on the door and can’t get in, but that’s not happening” (L.A. TIMES, 2/27).

BEHAVIOR: As evidence of less than exemplary behavior by U.S. athletes, columnists have cited Johnny Weir, Bode Miller, Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick, as well as aerial skier Speedy Peterson being sent home by the USOC after a street fight on Friday (THE DAILY). In Boston, Karen Guregian reported USOC members “called for a crackdown on Team USA members behaving badly.” Scherr: “We need to do a better job at making them understand what they do affects the whole team and country.” Scherr also said that the USOC would sit down with Hedrick and Davis to “make certain they understand our position.” Scherr added of U.S. hockey C Mike Modano blaming USA Hockey for the team’s lack of success in Turin, “I don’t think USA Hockey is at fault at all. So we would take great exception to those comments” (BOSTON HERALD, 2/26). USOC Chief of Communications Darryl Seibel said of athletes’ behavior, “You don’t legislate conduct, but what you do is provide them with a strong understanding of the opportunity and the responsibility that comes with representing your country at the Olympic Games” (“Nightly News,” NBC, 2/24). Scherr: “We’re going to let our NGBs know that there will be ramifications if expectations are not met” (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/26). U.S. Speedskating President Andy Gabel said that he “doubted the USOC or USS could legislate behavior.” But Gabel added, “I’m disappointed for [Hedrick and Davis]. Their behavior overshadowed the incredible performances they achieved” (WASHINGTON POST, 2/26).

Street Fight Cuts Short
Peterson’s Stay In Turin
MEDIA REAX: NBC’s Bob Costas said there were “some less than Olympian attitudes, including, but not limited to the petty feud between” Hedrick and Davis (NBC, 2/26). In N.Y., Selena Roberts wrote the USOC’s “disciplinarian pattern is not always clear-cut. It tossed out Peterson but indulged Miller. It frowned on the snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis for premature end-zone dancing, but awarded ski-team talents with Olympic parking passes for their R.V.’s. ... The USOC has to end its mixed message with a more aggressive enforcement of its conduct code, which is signed by every athlete” (N.Y. TIMES, 2/26). The BOSTON HERALD’s Guregian writes Scherr can “hope all he wants for these episodes not to color or tarnish the good and positive aspects, but that’s being naïve” (BOSTON HERALD, 2/27). In L.A., David Wharton wrote, “It wasn’t just poor results that hurt U.S. athletes. They took a few image hits in Turin too” (L.A. TIMES, 2/26). In N.Y., Jay Greenberg: “It’s really how we behaved that made us losers here, even if the dark contrast made a few Americans beam even more brightly. ... That’s our sad Turin legacy. We lost big when idiots showed up in numbers too ugly for a Joey Cheek to save” (N.Y. POST, 2/27). But in Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde wrote, “For every braggart like Bode or Hedrick, there was a story like Lindsey Kildow, who competed two days after a dramatic crash” (Ft. Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL, 2/26). In Orlando, Jemele Hill: “American athletes did nothing to dissuade their reputation for being spoiled, petulant and petty” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/27).

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