February 26, 2002

NBC's Today Show mentioned an online poll that called Apolo Ohno the "athlete most representing the Olympic ideal." Is this a triumph of NBC scripting over reality, considering Ohno's questionable sportsmanship in a questionable sport?

posted by rcade to other at 09:51 AM - 15 comments

I was sucked into the Ohno hype early in the Winter Games and impressed with his ability to claim the silver medal in his first event after being knocked down. However, his last three performances were a massive letdown -- for himself, and for his sport. Aside from the Post-Dispatch, no one seems to have taken note of his egotistical comments after the relay -- a hilarious roller-derby style event which required two skills to win: (a) good teammate ass-pushing, and (b) an ability to not fall down. Ohno said he had "no doubt" he would have worked some magic to win, if his teammate had not crashed and put the U.S. in fourth place. Even if he had shown a little humility, I think we've already spent too much time on this ludicrous sport and its most well-known athlete. All four of Ohno's events were settled on the basis of people falling down or judge disqualifications, and skater interviews indicate that this is the norm for short-track events. It's enough to make me glad that every Winter Olympian who isn't a figure skater will be forgotten entirely by the public in a matter of days.

posted by rcade at 10:03 AM on February 26, 2002

I would like to make a comment about Michelle Kwan. Or should I say the audacity of the NBC broadcast team. I would say that all the media should share in the demise of that poor girl. How can you put the kind of pressure on her by saying she is the greatest U.S. skater ever. The poor girl had never won Olympic Gold before. And you put her above all the others who have worn the crown? She fired her coach. Big deal. Isn't she allowed to do that? Why did the media have to make such a big deal about it? Just one man's opinion. Thank you.

posted by 1976NinersFan at 10:05 AM on February 26, 2002

Imagine... unethical behaviour in sports. Bizarre. The Olympics no less. (Sarcasm is contagious)

posted by Xopi at 10:15 AM on February 26, 2002

His last three performances weren't a let down for the sport... maybe for American interest in it, yes... but not the sport. Ohno was a little too arrogant after the relay race for my liking (Granted, I was cheering for the gold medal Canadians). IF he had not fallen down, he MIGHT have had a little "magic" to show.... ifs and buts. Besides, the women's and men's finals were both clean and exciting that day. The relay was just an added bonus. If there's any athlete that represents the Olympic ideal, then it is Croatian Janica Kostelic, in my opinion. Her performance was outstanding, especially when you consider that she was recently recovering for knee surgery. (I'd also add Beckie Scott, and the Canadian Women's Hockey team too.. but that's just the canuck in me.) (I also would have counted Muehlegg... but, well... you know).

posted by mkn at 10:56 AM on February 26, 2002

I was impressed with Muehlegg prior to the doping news, but his country switch was pretty dubious. As for short track, Gagnon's individual gold was the closest thing to a clean win, but when his biggest competition was disqualified in a semifinal, you have to wonder whether he could've beaten Ohno. As for the relay, the Canadians won because they didn't fall down and everybody else did. It's not exactly an achievement for the ages.

posted by rcade at 11:08 AM on February 26, 2002

Having missed the races on Saturday night, I did not hear his comments. Based on the quotes in the article linked, I'm not sure I find what he said arrogant. Sounds mostly like a racer's confidence. He wouldn't be the first of any kind of race participant to say "I(or we) would have own if (some sort of adverse situation) hadn't happened". Confidence is a huge part of being able to step out onto the ice/court/field/pooldeck/curling-whatever-it-is-they-play-on. Every athlete believes heshe's the best in the world. If he's such an arrogant prick, why was he so happy to win silver in his first event? Seems that if he's what you say he is, he should have been doing a Nancy Kerrigan on the podium.

posted by srw12 at 12:18 PM on February 26, 2002

Janica Kostelic was the dominant athelete of the games and was treated by NBC as if she were a tenth place luger. If this kid was an American, she'd be at the White House having tea with W and the Mrs. today. These games were a showcase for relentless jingoism and phony patriotism. Ohno, was a swaggering kid who didn't cross the finish line first in any event and he got ten times the coverage of Janica Kostelic who got three golds and a silver. Yeah, that's the olympic spirit.

posted by LFK at 01:19 PM on February 26, 2002

The question is, What in the world do they mean by "Olympic ideal"? Does this mean the best athlete? Or the best attitude? Or the best marketability (in Ohno's case)? Or the best story? For example, I think Michelle Kwan has shown remarkable sportsmanship and class, but I also think she has not been able to handle the Olympic pressure (a major part of being an Olympic athlete). Unless "Olympic ideal" meant competing and being a good sport about it, Kwan would not qualify. I happen to like Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers, as well as Derek Parra.

posted by jacknose at 01:36 PM on February 26, 2002

Here Here to LFK. It happens semi-regularly in the Alpine events, but when it does, it is special. Tomba is the memory of my childhood. Bode was pretty impressive, but that Croat was by far the best.

posted by garfield at 02:05 PM on February 26, 2002

I'm sure they were going for more of a "faster, higher, stronger" (or whatever) thing, but I think these guys are the best illustration of the Olympic Ideal you could find.

posted by Samsonov14 at 02:14 PM on February 26, 2002

I don't think he's the "athlete most representing the Olympic ideal," but I totally disagree with the notion that he's not a good sportsman. After the first race, when he fell about 5 feet from a first place medal, he shrugged and basically said "that's the nature of the sport. I'm happy with a silver." The second time, when he won gold by a disqualification, he basically said, "that's the nature of the sport." He didn't gloat. He celebrated the way any athlete would. When he got disqualified in the third race, you didn't see him throwing a Koren-size hissyfit. Again, his demeanor and interviews came across as "that's the nature of the sport." He never gloated, bitched, complained, overly-celebrated, or blamed anyone, or did anything but act like a true sportsman. Especially impressive for a teenager.

posted by aacheson at 02:41 PM on February 26, 2002

I thought Janica Kostelic was simply amazing. After she won her first event, it was like she was unstoppable. Absolutely incredible.

posted by eilatan at 02:44 PM on February 26, 2002

LFK, I'm with you on the jingoism, but as for the phony patriotism and winning Croats trips to the White House, I don't see it. You may be able to argue that NBC could have done more to showcase her feats, but they supply the American coverage of the sports for people in America and it's been proven via polls and ratings that Americans like to see stories about Americans when it comes to the Olympic games. Not to mention, I saw all of her races, heard numerous comments and I think she even had an interview or two in there. So what if Bob Costas didn't have her over for tea? Based on the poll highlighted in the original post you get the impression that Ohno played highly among the viewers and frankly, that should be reason enough to accept that he's going to get more press. I'm sure Kostelic was a day-after-day front page story in Croatia and primetime news during they're coverage. I wouldn't be the least surprised if your average Croat had never heard of say, Derek Parra outside of the medal count reports. Would that be wrong or condemnable? It's silly for people to whine about how patriotism plays a part of the Olympics because the fact is that it plays an elemental role in the games. It affects who we root for, how we root and well, more aspects than I have time to list... and there is nothing phony about it.

posted by 86 at 03:17 PM on February 26, 2002

Is short track a ridiculous sport? Hell yeah, that's why it's so entertaining. In what other sport is staying in DEAD LAST until the end a brilliant strategy to win a gold medal? As for NBC's coverage and biases, they were useless and obvious. The alpine skiing coverage was so incomplete to be comical and so jingoistic to be annoying. Feh. The only thing enjoyable about NBC's coverage was the color commentator for men's bobsledding. He was so overly enthusiastic that he was entertaining.

posted by andrewraff at 04:43 PM on February 26, 2002

I was most impressed with the biathlete who won a gold in every event he entered. Now that's impressive. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen,from Norway, simply crushed his competition on the snow and on the shooting range.

posted by trox at 05:00 PM on February 26, 2002

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