Tag Archive | Olympics

…The Mahre Brothers

Olympic Champions with Silver & Gold

February 19, 2019

Phil and Steve Mahre. PHOTO: Lori Adamski-PeekThis pair of skiers are, no doubt, the most famous Washingtonians to win Olympic medals. It was on February 19, 1984 when the twin brothers slalomed to gold and silver, being the first siblings to compete and place in the same event.

Phil and Steve Mahre were born on May 10, 1957, in Yakima, Washington.  They grew up at White Pass which, as fate would have it, tends to be buried under snow some six months each year. It was there they learned to ski. And learn they did. Phil – the oldest of the two by four minutes – won 27 World cup races during his career, the fourth highest number for an American.

It was, however, the dramatic competition in Sarajevo which cemented the twin’s legacy and also focused attention on the Pacific Northwest. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“At the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Mahre again medaled in the slalom, this time taking the gold while Steve won the silver for a Mahre twin 1–2 sweep. Steve had led the first of two runs, skiing flawlessly and building a large half-second lead over Swede Jonas Nilsson with Phil in third place, another two-tenths back. Phil skied a fine second run to grab the lead, then Nilsson skied next and faltered, dropping out of the medals. Steve skied down last, needing only a solid run to take the gold, but a series of mistakes dropped him into second place, and Phil became the Olympic champion. Meanwhile, unknown to the racers, Phil’s wife Holly had given birth to their second child, a son, in Arizona an hour before the race started. Phil did not find out about it until a TV interview after the race.

phil-mahre-vault-slalom-sarajevo-olympics.jpgThe Mahres won two of the five alpine skiing medals taken by Americans, all from the Northwest. Portland’s Bill Johnson (downhill) and Seattle’s Debbie Armstrong also won gold and Christin Cooper of Sun Valley took the silver for an American 1–2 finish in the women’s giant slalom.”

It was probably around 1974 when I first heard about the Mahre brothers. I had friends who went to school in Naches with the brothers. It was fun over the next nine years to follow their career and cheer for them in the Olympics. It was shortly after the 1984 gold-silver win when the brothers retired from competitive skiing, their spot in the history books cemented.

As I was working on this article I was reminded of a story told by a gal who grew up in Wenatchee and learned to ski at Mission Ridge. Rosemary was a few years older than I but we both worked in the telemarketing cube farm for Microsoft in the winter of 1983. She and I covered the west coast, me California and she the Pacific Northwest. What I most recall about her were her stories. It was always fun to listen to her tales of adventure as a single woman. And she was fearless. Despite the many things she had done, her persona was that of an airhead. Personally, I think it was all an act which she used to disarm people.

In the winter of 1983, Rosemary decided to join a Microsoft group that skied together. The ensemble consisted of a half dozen software programmers and her, the lone female. On one particular Monday in late January or February, she came in to work and related to me that she had gone skiing with the guys for the first time. She had ridden the lift to the top with one of the programmers and when they skied off the chair, the pair found themselves at the top of a slope filled with moguls.

the_mogulsHer fellow skier asked her if perhaps the black diamond run might be a bit difficult and would she like to try something easier?

“Oh no. I think I can handle it,” she replied, then said to him “Why don’t you go first.”

Which he did. And barely managed to stay upright as he picked his way down the bumpy slope. What happened next, according to Rosemary’s story, was epic. She adjusted her goggles, took firm control of her ski poles, and flew down the hill, attacking the moguls like a boss.

Her partner, still staring at her open mouthed as she swept up next to him at the bottom, managed to ask, “Where did you learn to ski like that?”

To which she replied “I was on the 1968 Olympic B team.”

Oh yes, there was so much more to Rosemary than met the eye.

Despite having grown up an hour’s drive from White Pass, I did not learn to ski until I was in my mid-20’s. In fact I took my first ski lessons in the early 1980’s. The hubby and I – along with his sister and Mom – spent several days at Whistler during the 1984 Olympics watching the events in Sarajevo in the evenings at a pub, cheering on the Mahre’s  and the rest of the American’s in their quest for gold.

While I never once came close to skiing like either Phil or Steve Mahre or my co-worker Rosemary, I did have an appreciation and awe of what they could do with a pair of boards and a couple of sticks in the snow. I felt an incredible pride when, in February 1984, the twins from little ole Yakima, Washington, won Olympic silver and gold.

As always, a few links of interest:

https://www.seattlepi.com/sports/article/Where-Are-They-Now-Phil-Mahre-1984-Gold-Medalist-1195145.php

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Mahre

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpine_skiing_at_the_1984_Winter_Olympics

Ted Ligety won two gold medals, 8 years apart… his 2014 Medal was also won on February 19! Although Bill Johnson also won gold in 1984, his medal was won on February 15, four days earlier than Phil Mahre.

…Olympic Champion Apolo Ohno

… and his amazing dad

May 22, 2018

“If I have given my all and still do not win, I haven’t lost. Others might remember winning or losing; I remember the journey.”

ohno goldWhat is amazing to me about the person who said this is that, at the time, he was one of the youngest athletes to win an Olympic Gold medal. The individual? Apolo Ohno.

May 22 marks the American short track speed skating champion’s 36th birthday. He has won 2 Olympic Gold, 2 Silver, and 4 Bronze medals.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“He has been the face of short track in the United States since winning his medals at the 2002 Winter Olympics. At the age of 14, he became the youngest U.S. national champion in 1997 and was the reigning champion from 2001–2009, winning the title a total of 12 times. In December 1999, he became the youngest skater to win a World Cup event title, and became the first American to win a World Cup overall title in 2001, which he won again in 2003 and 2005. He won his first overall World Championship title at the 2008 championships.

Ohno’s accolades and accomplishments include being the United States Olympic Committee‘s Male Athlete of the Month in October 2003 and March 2008, the U.S. Speedskating’s Athlete of the Year for 2003, and was a 2002, 2003 and 2006 finalist for the Sullivan Award, which recognizes the best amateur athlete in the United States. Since gaining recognition through his sport, Ohno has worked as a motivational speaker, philanthropist, started a nutritional supplement business called 8 Zone, and in 2007, competed on and won the reality TV show Dancing with the Stars. Ohno later became host of a revival of Minute to Win It on Game Show Network and served as a commentator for NBC‘s coverage of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang.”

I think the thing which has set Ohno apart is his attitude and it was that, I believe, which made me a fan of his from the moment I saw him skate in the 2002 Olympic Games. As his story was told I could see that there were two heroes: Apolo and his father, Yuki.ohno yuki

Despite being a single dad struggling to raise his son solo, I imagine Yuki woke up every day and evaluated what exactly his child needed to be successful in life. Worried about Apolo being a latchkey kid without direction, Yuki got Apolo involved in sports.

As one reads between the lines, it becomes clear the path was not one of instant success or without bumps. Apolo faltered more than once but his father never gave up, finding new ways to direct his son.

What the world saw when this young man emerged on the world stage was an incredibly humble individual with wisdom way beyond his years. I contribute much of that to his father’s singular focus on his son’s character development.

I’m including the Wikipedia article, but also a link to his quotes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apolo_Ohno

https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/apolo_ohno

Dorothy Hamill

February 13, 2018

hamil newsweekThe year was 1976 and Olympic fever was in full force that February. There was one person, particularly, everyone was talking about. From her cute, bobbed haircut to her signature skating move, girls everywhere wanted to look like her and boys wanted to date her.

On February 13, the skater won the women’s Olympic gold medal in figure skating. Her name was Dorothy Hamill and she was 19 years old.

From the infallible Wikipedia:

“At the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, Hamill came in second in the figures and then won the short and long programs, taking the gold medal. She was the last single skater to win the Olympics without a triple jump. Hamill also won the 1976 World Championships and then turned professional.

“Hamill is credited with developing a new skating move — a camel spin that turns into a sit spin – which became known as the “Hamill camel.” The bobbed hairstyle that she wore during her Olympic performance was created by stylist Yusuke Sugaand started a fad, known as the “short and sassy” look. Her glasses with oversized frames also started a trend in the 1970s. The media dubbed her ‘America’s sweetheart.’”

Only seven American women have ever won gold in Women’s Olympic Figure skating: Tenley Albright (1956), Carol Heiss (1960), Peggy Fleming (1968), Dorothy Hamill (1976), Kristi Yamaguchi (1992), Tara Lipinski (1998) and Sarah Hughes (2002).

peggy-fleming-olympicsAnother Olympic fact, Peggy Fleming was the only US athlete to win a gold medal in the 1968 Olympics. The skating program had been decimated seven years earlier when a fatal plane crash on February 15, 1961, claimed the lives of the entire US skating team and coaches who were  en-route to Belgium for an international competition. Also from the infallible Wikipedia:

“All 18 athletes of the 1961 U.S. figure skating team and 16 family members, coaches, and officials were among the fatalities. The dead included 9-time U.S. ladies’ champion, turned coach, Maribel Vinson-Owen and her two daughters, reigning U.S. ladies’ champion Laurence Owen (age 16) and reigning U.S. pairs champion Maribel Owen (age 20).  Maribel Owens’s pairs champion partner Dudley Richards and reigning U.S. men’s champion Bradley Lord also died, along with U.S. ice dancing champions Diane Sherbloom and Larry Pierce. The team also lost U.S. men’s silver medalist Gregory Kelley, U.S. ladies’ silver medalist Stephanie Westerfeld, and U.S. ladies’ bronze medalist Rhode Lee Michelson.  Laurence Owen was the cover story for the February 13 issue of Sports Illustrated.”hamill history sabena plane

Although I was never an Olympian, I first tried ice skating about age 8 when our neighbor, Royce, sprayed water on his family’s driveway to create an ice rink. Royce, who was several year’s older, had outgrown a pair of skates which I got to borrow. I was very excited about this and, after the skating session, rushed home to ask my mother if we could buy the skates.

My mother, ever practical, told me ‘no.’ I think it had a lot to do with the fact that, in reality, there were few days in any winter – even in Yakima – where the temperatures were cold enough to create an ice rink; also, I did have a tendency to flit from one interest to another and, no doubt, the obsession with ice skating would soon fade. This is why Dorothy Hamill, and not me, won the 1976 Olympic Gold medal. That and the fact that I’m one of the most un-athletic people I know!

As always a couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Hamill

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabena_Flight_548