David Bruce: Winter Olympics Anecdotes

Figure skater Carol Heiss won five gold medals at the World Championships, a silver medal at the 1956 Olympics, and a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics. Oddly, only one of those medals means anything to many people. One day, at the Winterhurst Figure Skating Club in Lakewood, Ohio, a woman came in who didn’t know Ms. Heiss. They got to talking, and the woman discovered that Ms. Heiss had won the silver medal at the 1956 Olympics. The woman said, “Oh, that’s too bad … what did you go on to do after that?” Ms. Heiss said that she had continued to compete and had won Olympic gold in 1960. Hearing that, the woman was suddenly impressed and wanted Ms. Heiss’ autograph. Ms. Heiss gave her the autograph, but she also told her, “I’m very proud of my silver medal in 1956. First time I made the Olympic team and I’m on the podium.”

When Sarah Hughes won the gold medal in ladies’ figure skating at the 2002 Winter Olympics, she received a few perks. Another gold medalist in ladies’ figure skating, Dorothy Hamill, asked Sarah to sign a copy of Time magazine—the one with Sarah’s photograph on the cover. (Time was prescient when it put Sarah’s photograph on its pre-Olympics issue—Sarah was a definite underdog in the competition.) She signed it, “Dorothy, thank you for all the inspiration. Love, Sarah.” The State of New York also gave her license plates that read “TRPL TRPL” to honor her two record-breaking triple-triple combinations in the Olympics long program—even though 16-year-old Sarah had not yet learned how to drive.

The King and Queen of Sweden attended the 1980 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York. Trying to get into an ice hockey game featuring the Swedish team, they were stopped by the ticket taker because their tickets were for another game. The King said that the correct tickets were in his car and he asked to be allowed in without the correct tickets: “Could you make an exception for us, please? You see, I’m the King of Sweden.” The ticket taker responded, “Sure you are, and I suppose this is the Queen.” The King and Queen of Sweden went back to their car to get the correct tickets, only to see it being towed away.

When Sarah Hughes won the gold medal in ladies’ figure skating at the 2002 Winter Olympics, she accomplished a major upset. She skated early in the long program, and she skated excellently. The crowd roared, and her coach, Robin Wagner, wanted her to wait a few extra moments before leaving the ice. She told Sarah, “Turn around. Close your eyes. Soak it in.” After winning the gold medal, Sarah slept with it, and when she met her family next, although she had not seen them for a while, they asked, “Where’s the medal? Where’s the medal?” She joked, “Hey, guys, what about me?”

At the 1992 Olympic Games in Albertville, France, figure skater Elvis Stojko finished seventh. When he returned home, his aunt and uncle gave him a gift: a round medallion they had specially made for him. On one side of the medallion appears an engraving of the Olympic rings and the words, “Sixteenth Olympic Winter Games.” On the other side of the medallion appear the words, “Congratulation, Elvis, You’re Number One.” Mr. Stojko has worn that medallion at every competition he has appeared in since it was given to him.

As a little girl, figure skater Sasha Cohen sometimes watched a videotape of Kristi Yamaguchi winning a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics; however, she was so young that she didn’t realize that she was watching a tape. She thought that she was seeing a new competition each time, and she was impressed that Ms. Yamaguchi kept winning gold medal after gold medal. Even as a little girl, Sasha had won a few medals at kids’ competitions. These were displayed on her bedroom wall, and she thought that Ms. Yamaguchi’s wall had to be covered with gold medals.

The night before playing in the championship game as a goaltender on the United States women’s hockey team at the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games, Sarah Tueting found it difficult to get to sleep. Seeing a bowl of apples in her room, she picked up an apple and hurled it at the middle of a wall, creating a big splat! She kept on hurling apples until she ran out, although her roommate told her, “Get away from me!” The apple-throwing incident must have had a therapeutic effect—she and her team won the championship game and the gold medal the following day.

Watching TV with someone who has a lesbian sensibility can be interesting. Lesbian comedian Kate Clinton and her significant other were watching the Salt Lake Winter Olympics when the women’s luge event came on the screen. Her significant other said, “The luge is a very gay event.” Almost immediately, as they watched the luge sled hurtling down a chute, the TV announcer said, “She’s controlling the whole thing with her inner thighs.”

At the 1992 Olympic Games in Calgary, which is located in western Canada, several members of speed skater Bonnie Blair’s family were in attendance to show support. One sign hanging in the audience section said, “Dear Aunt Bonnie, Skate Fast. Love, Brittany.” Brittany was Ms. Blair’s niece and perhaps her tiniest fan—she was only four-and-a-half-months’ old. The sign must have helped—Aunt Bonnie won two gold medals.

During autumn of 1975, David Leonardi took several photographs of figure skater Dorothy Hamill outside. During the photo session, a single leaf fell on top of Ms. Hamill’s head. When Mr. Leonardi snapped her photograph, the leaf looked exactly like a small crown. The leaf was prophetic—Ms. Hamill became queen of the 1976 Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, when she won the gold medal in women’s figure skating.

After Dorothy Hamill won the gold medal in women’s figure skating at the 1976 Olympic Games, she slept with it under her pillow. The next day, someone asked where she was keeping it. She pulled it from out of her blouse and said, “Right here.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved




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