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Olympic Losers: Silver Medals, Black Auras

February 26, 2006

TURIN, Italy (AP) _ So, like, dude, I was grabbing some air, looking for some metal and I just beefed. No big deal, though. At least I’m not a Bode or a Betty.

America may call me a loser, but no one will ever call me a noob. Besides, I’m coming home with one of those doughnuts made of silver.

They don’t give those away on the bunny hill.

Yes, I’m Lindsey Jacobellis, the most notorious silver medal winner since Roy Jones Jr. got krunked in South Korea. And, yes, it’s true that I got a little caught up in the moment and looked flamboyant weezy on that jump.

But, hey, I’m a snowboarder. Without us, the red, white and blue would have been totally wack.

Want that in English? OK, try this:

``I really don’t care what people think,″ Jacobellis said. ``I still won a silver medal, and no one can take that away from me.″

Maybe Jacobellis is right. Maybe there’s something to the notion that every Olympian is a winner, even those who never come close to a medal or fail spectacularly when gold is in their grasp.

More likely is that she’s just a snowboarder whose spends too much time chasing the ultimate ancillary stoke.

Every Olympics has to have losers. Without them, how could we identify winners?

With that in mind, let’s take a look at those who might have fit in the train pack but not on the medal stand.

Get out your snowboardionarys (snowboard dictionaries for the less schwank) and let’s go to figure skating, of all places, where Johnny Weir had to put up with a dorm room with (horrors!) no room service and closets that wouldn’t hold a good swan suit.

Without a hotel concierge to read the bus schedule, Weir arrived late for the biggest night of his life and quickly sank from medal contention. He came looking for gold, silver or bronze, but all he had was a black aura to remember his Olympic experience by.

Unlike Weir, Bode Miller at least had fun during his Olympics. So much that he should have been given a special Olympic medal for the cross country party marathon.

When last seen, the Newsweek and Time cover boy and special ``60 Minutes″ guest was eating a sandwich in his RV, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the sponsors who hyped his shot at five medals at least expected an honest effort out of him.

``It’s been an awesome two weeks,″ Miller said. ``I got to party and socialize at an Olympic level.″

Awesome? How’s this for awesome, dude?

You win a silver medal and your teammate comes up and congratulates you. Well, maybe that’s not so awesome, but this was the same teammate who refused to shake your hand when you won a gold medal and later said he felt betrayed by you.

Chad Hedrick won three medals in speedskating, and Shani Davis two. When they weren’t collecting bling, though, they acted like Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul debating the merits of the 343rd ``American Idol″ contestant to sing ``I Will Always Love You.″

That’s not all that bad, though. Proving that Miller isn’t the only skier who can go downhill in a hurry, U.S. aerials skier Jeret ``Speedy″ Peterson was sent home from the Olympics after a night of partying ended in a fight that police had to break up.

At least Peterson had somebody to go home to. Italian ice dancers Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio weren’t likely to be sharing a taxi after Margaglio dropped Poli near the end of their routine. When they finished, Fusar Poli glared at Margaglio like Lucy Ricardo after Ricky returned from a long night out.

Not to worry, though, because everything turned out OK, even if the couple finished sixth.

``We were speaking with our eyes like, what we did? We did a mistake,″ Fusar Poli said. ``It was like, `Whoa! We made a mistake.′

You didn’t even have to be an Olympian to be a loser in Turin. Wayne Gretzky’s wife, Janet Jones, arrived with the Great One beseiged by questions about her betting habits. Gretzky swore the scandal that threatened to envelop him would not affect Canada’s chances to repeat as gold medalists, but the Canadians could barely score a goal and the puck stopped there.

Canada didn’t win a medal, and the odds were certainly against that. The United States and Russia failed to medal, too, and a parlay bet on that would have paid off big for someone with, say, an extra 75 large or so to put down.

And who would have bet that the U.S. women’s team would blow its chance at a gold medal by losing to someone other than Canada for the first time since women began chasing pucks for real in 1990. There was so much whiffing going on in the shootout against Sweden that it seemed like Roger Clemens was throwing pucks at them.

Which brings us to one big loser _ NBC. The peacock network wasn’t crowing so much about an Olympics so lacking in American star power that it took a whipping not only from ``American Idol″ but from lesser shows as well.

Michelle Kwan was gone, Bode Miller disappeared and so did the ratings. Things got so bad that viewership plunged 10 million from Thursday night’s figure skating to the next night, effectively ending the games three nights early for NBC.

It was enough to make Jim Lampley’s hair take on a life of its own, almost enough to stop Katie Couric from being so perky. In the end, NBC was forced to send in replacements, making retired anchor Tom Brokaw trudge through the snow to Miller’s RV for an interview. Thankfully, he didn’t make him apologize for wasting $600 million of the network’s money on the Winter Games.

So, like, dude, that was it.

Everyone was stoked to be here, but sometimes they couldn’t avoid a swiffer.

It wasn’t all wack, but don’t worry. There’s always another one four years from now.


Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org