Olympic Athletes: Glory Days

October 1, 2009

 

Ross Rebagliati (Gold, Giant Slalom Snowboarding, 1998) recalls Nagano:

“Going into the second run, I was ranked eighth. I knew that to win, I had to go all out, risk everything. They’d watered the course the night before, then frozen it and treated it with chemicals. The ice was blue. People don’t realize how steep those courses are. I was going so fast, you can see my cheeks pulled back, like I had my head stuck out the car window on the highway. They had me clocked at 77 miles per hour. I was making turns that in my head I didn’t think I could make. Finally, only Thomas Prugger was left. By that time, I knew I was guaranteed silver. When he crossed the finish line, the times on the board didn’t really change, just the last digit. There was one-100th of a second between us. It seemed like an eternity that I stared at that leader board. It was the race of my life.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karen Magnussen (Silver, Singles Figure Skating, 1972) recalls Sapporo:

“In 1969 I was training so hard—doing triple jumps when no woman had done them before—that I ended up with stress fractures in both legs. It was like a thousand hatchets hitting my shins. Today everyone knows to monitor electrolytes and sodium levels, but back then no one knew that stuff. They said I might not compete again, but I made it to the ’72 Games. That year the Olympics became much more political (thanks to terrorism at the Summer Games in Munich)—we were escorted around by people with machine guns. I was picked to be the Canadian team’s flag-bearer (I never understand why athletes these days say they don’t want that job). And when we marched into the Olympic village, a gust of wind actually lifted me into the air. The bobsledders had to hold me down.”

 

 

Nancy Greene (Gold, Giant Slalom and Silver, Slalom, 1968) recalls Grenoble:

“I knew I’d had a great run, with no mistakes. When I crossed the line and looked at the scoreboard, it had “999999” where my time should have been. I thought, ‘Oh my God, there’s been a timer problem—I’ll have to do it again.’ It turned out my time was outside the parameters, and they had to manually override the scoreboard. Finally my number was posted, 09, and CAN, for my country, and then my time, which was two and a half seconds faster than the next best time. After you’ve set your goals and worked so hard, you can hardly believe you’ve won. Then, when you’re standing on the podium, trying not to cry, you feel emotion you’ve never felt before.”

 

 

 

Kathy Kreiner (Gold, Giant Slalom, 1976) recalls Innsbruck: 

“I was 10 years old when Nancy Greene won at Grenoble. My father was the team doctor there, and he came home to Timmins with all these stories and home movies. I said to myself that I too was going to be the best skier in the world. At Innsbruck, eight years later, in the starting gate, I was completely relaxed. I remember looking around, thinking, ‘All these people don’t know it yet, but I’m going to win this race.’ On the run down I was very clear, I never lost focus, I just kept repeating two phrases over and over, my mantra: ‘Outside ski. Look ahead. Outside ski. Look ahead.’ Winning that race really was the culmination of a dream, and it meant something to other people, too. A few days after I got back to Canada, I was walking through the airport in Toronto. Someone recognized me, got to their feet, and started clapping. Someone else joined in, and soon everybody in the terminal was giving me a standing ovation. It was a pretty neat moment.”

 

 

Kelley Law (Bronze, Curling, 2002) recalls Salt Lake City:

“You don’t appreciate the magnitude of it all until the opening ceremonies, when you walk into a stadium full of 60,000 people. It was absolutely exhilarating, great to be part of, almost an out-of-body experience. A couple of months earlier, when we’d played in Regina at our trials, the team was awesome. We were at our peak and felt like we could beat anyone. In Salt Lake we were battling the flu and a third-degree ankle sprain I’d suffered in training that kept me off the ice until two weeks before the Games. But we won the round robin and were one point away from playing in the gold/silver game. It was a great three weeks, full of memories we’ll always have.”

 

 

 

Steve Podborski (Bronze, Downhill, 1980) recalls Lake Placid:

“Crappy conditions. Fog and wind and snow at the top. Ken Read had already gone, and he’d fallen. So the Crazy Canucks’ hopes were now on my shoulders. I made a mistake in the first few turns—the technical part of the run—and then on the flats I somehow caught two inside edges. I couldn’t believe that I’d almost fallen on the easiest part of the course. Otherwise I had a good run and was happy when I saw I was in third place. It was great getting up on the podium with the two Austrians. I was the first North American male to win a medal in Downhill in the Olympics. And you know, I never thought of it as losing to the gold and silver winners. The way I looked at it, we’d beaten everyone else on the planet.”

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