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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 7, 2002

It's all about racking up the medals

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Americans wanna win.

Well, duh. But that may be why some of us are rather ambivalent about the Winter Olympics.

We kick butt in the Summer Games and that's why we tune in: We watch the butt-kicking and then, at the end of the day, we tally up how much butt we've kicked.

We don't win very often in the "other" Games. It's not that we do badly — 13 medals in each of the past two winter Games — but we don't exactly lay boot to bootie, either. Hence our ambivalence.

This year could be different. The U.S. Olympic Committee has already projected that American athletes will come away with 20 gold, silver or bronze medals from 78 medal events.

Of course, these will likely come in events such as slalom and figure skating and — oy vey — skeleton. But medals are medals.

Either way, watching this first Olympic spectacle of the millennium could deliver that dose of domination we crave.

Of course, 17 straight days of anything can be a grind. To help you separate the powder from the slush, we offer here a brief, biased, day-by-day guide to the Winter Games TV coverage.

Friday, Feb. 8: The theme for the opening ceremonies at Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium is "Light the Fire Within," — perhaps not a good idea in the world's highest security area.

Saturday, Feb. 9: The Games get under way in earnest with a full slate of events. If you're only going to watch one thing today, try Austria versus Latvia in hockey. Latvia hasn't competed in Olympic hockey in 66 years, and they're rumored to have the most boisterous fans in the game. Could be fun, could be ugly. If we're lucky, it could be both.

Sunday, Feb. 10: Somebody named Stine Brun Kjeldaas of Norway is the favorite to win gold in the women's half-pipe snowboarding competition. Need we say more? Go Stine Brun Kjeldaas!

Monday, Feb. 11: American Adam Heidt will look to upset four-time Olympic gold medalist Georg Hackl of Germany in the men's singles finals of the luge competition. Winner gets an extra vowel for his name.

Tuesday, Feb. 12: The defending Olympic champion U.S. women's hockey team takes to the ice against Germany. At their last meeting at the 2001 World Championships, the Americans beat the Germans 13-0. For slightly less violence, you could also watch a new episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on KFVE.

Wednesday, Feb. 13: American Chris Witty, who competed as a cyclist in the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, will challenge defending champion LeMay Doan of Canada for the 500-meter speed skating gold. Skaters race twice, with final results based on the total time. So ... wouldn't that be 1,000 meters?

Thursday, Feb. 14: What can we say about curling that hasn't already been said by every late-night comedian? U.S. versus Switzerland on the men's side; ditto on the women's. Watch, or not.

Friday, Feb. 15: Pittsburgh Penguin legend Mario Lemieux makes his Olympic debut as Canada takes on Sweden in hockey. Pencil in about half of the NHL as Lemieux teammates.

Saturday, Feb. 16: America, meet Apolo Ohno. Seattle's mercurial star-in-waiting is favored to win the gold over Li Jiajun of China in the men's 1,000-meter speed skating final. Just hope he doesn't implode like he did when he finished last at Nagano in 1998. Oh no!

Sunday, Feb. 17: Can American alpine skier Picabo Street come all the way back from knee surgery and a broken leg to defend her 1998 Super-G gold medal? We'll find out.

Monday, Feb. 18: In women's biathlon, four-person relay teams cover 30 kilometers on skis and try to shoot a total of 20 targets. Miss a target, ski a lap around the 150-meter penalty loop. And they chose this sport.

Tuesday, Feb. 19: Four-time world champion figure skater Michelle Kwan makes her first appearance on the ice for the ladies short program. She'll try to stay ahead of fellow American Sarah Hughes and the unfortunately named Irina Slutskaya. Imagine going through life with a name like Irina ...

Wednesday, Feb. 20: After a 54-year absence, skeleton returns to the Games. The sport got its name from the ribby appearance of the original luge-like sleds used. In fact, the sport is essentially the same as luge, except racers fly down the icy chute face first. Now, why did they bring this back?

Thursday, Feb. 21: Kwan, Hughes and Slutskaya return for the long program, also known as the free skate. And for the last time, it's Michelle, not Nancy.

Friday, Feb. 22: More skating, more skiing. And more hockey if you're really interested. Otherwise, stand up, change your clothes and re-introduce yourself to your family.

Saturday, Feb. 23: If all goes well, you'll be watching Ohno the American speed skater go for his third and fourth gold medals of the Games in the 500-meter final and the 5,000-meter relay final. If not, there's always the finals of the four-man bobsleigh.

Sunday, Feb. 24: The $2 billion Games ends with a pair of last-minute finals — men's hockey and women's 30-kilometer cross-country skiing — and the ceremonial extinguishing of the Olympic flame.

Now, get out there and kick some butt!