`THE WINTER GAMES/COVER~

THE THRILL OF THE GAMES

BOB LEVIN February 29 1988
`THE WINTER GAMES/COVER~

THE THRILL OF THE GAMES

BOB LEVIN February 29 1988

THE THRILL OF THE GAMES

`THE WINTER GAMES/COVER~

There was no shortage of political news across Canada last week—it only seemed that way. The abortion issue made emotional headlines. The federal government’s embarrassments dragged on. In Quebec City, the saga of dismissed supply and services minister Michel Côté continued, while in St-Jean, Que., former cabinet minister André Bissonnette stood trial on charges of breach of trust, fraud and conspiracy. But those and other stories did not capture much of the nation’s attention. It had already been captured, held hostage by a

compelling collection of international athletes working wonders on the artificial ice and snow around Calgary—by the phenomenon that is Canada’s first Winter Olympics.

The Games had something for everyone. They had excitement, controversy and mystery. They had heart-stopping feats and heartbreaking falls, Eddie the Eagle and Pirmin the Pure. In Calgary itself, the Games had become a movable party. Each night up to 60,000 people jammed into Calgary’s downtown Olympic Plaza for a medal ceremony, variety show and fireworks-and-laser display, while nearby bars and restaurants overflowed with revellers.

The Games also provided fuel for skeptics. Many critics had long ago tired of the corporate clamor, and others had warned of the area’s gusty winds, which last week forced repeated postponements. But even sheltered from the winds, Canadian figure skater Brian Orser could not avoid faltering. His American rival Brian Boitano won the gold, relegating Orser to his second straight Olympic silver medal (page 16).

Happy: Orser was not the first Canadian medallist: a day earlier Karen Percy of nearby Banff snapped up a surprise bronze in the women’s downhill. “It feels great,” bubbled Percy. “I’m very, very, very happy.” Far less happy was Canada’s top downhill hopeful, a tearful Laurie Graham, who had to settle for fifth in the race. And while the Soviets, followed by the East Germans, grabbed most of the first-week medals, the hosts had to be 3 satisfied with some best-ever

0 results for Canadians, includg ing Pierre Harvey’s 14th-place 1 finish in the 30-km cross-coun¥ try trek. The Canadian hockey & team appeared likely to reach 0 the medal round, but still g lacked scoring punch (page 22). Z In the demonstration sport of 1 curling, Vancouver’s Linda Moore skipped Canada to a VOL. 101 NO. 10

gold, beating Sweden in the final.

It was a week of many impressive performances. In cross-country skiing, the Soviets proved so dominant—eventually taking eight of the first 12 medals in men’s and women’s events—that outspoken Canadian coach Marty Hall implied that they might be guilty of blood-doping (page 26). There was no questioning the supremacy of stylish Soviet duo Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, who easily won gold in the skating pairs. In ski jumping, Matti Nykänen—the Flying

Finn—soared to victory off the 70-m tower (page 21), while Steve Collins of Thunder Bay, Ont., leaped to 13th place, another best-ever for Canadians. But one of the biggest cheers went to dead-last finisher Eddie (the Eagle) Edwards, a 24year-old British novice with pop-bottle glasses and not a hint of shyness who hopped to instant folk-hero status.

Sweep: High winds, which postponed further jumping until this week, also delayed the third and fourth runs of the women’s luge. But when they were finally held last week, Steffi Walter, a 25-yearold mother who had taken a year off from competing to start a family, led a trio of East Germans to a stunning sweep. Marie-Claude Doyon, a 22-year-old from

Sherbrooke, Que., finished seventh, a best-ever for any Canadian luger. The East German men also prevailed in the luge, with Jens Mueller grabbing gold in the singles and Jörg Hoffman and Jochen Pietzsch teaming up to take the doubles.

Thrills: There were notable tumbles as well. Swiss superstar Pirmin Zurbriggen began a quest for five golds with a sterling downhill run that edged out teammate Peter Müller. Then, with a second gold seemingly assured in the combined downhill, he ran ingloriously into a gate on the

slalom run, toppling over and over (page 18). American speed skater Dan Jansen had an even more difficult time. He learned early in the week that his 27year-old sister, Jane Beres, had died of leukemia, then twice—in the 500-m and 1,000-m races in which he was a medal favorite—fell frustratingly to the ice. Meanwhile, U.S. downhiller Pam Fletcher—one of America’s top hopes for an alpine medal—was completing a training run when she crashed headlong into a volunteer course worker, shattering her right leg.

For all the thrills and spills, the bestweather permitting—may be yet to come. This week Zurbriggen continues his medal hunt against slalom specialist Alberto

Tomba, the flamboyant Italian, and Percy will try to strike again in the giant and super giant slaloms. The Canadian hockey team and a host of others will try to derail the powerful Soviets. At the Olympic Oval, where records have been falling in bunches, American speed skater Bonnie Blair will challenge Karin Kania and the mighty East Germans.

Seductive: Perhaps the top attraction, however, will be in women’s figure skating: the long-awaited showdown between East German Katarina Witt and Ameri-

can Debi Thomas. Last week Thomas completed her final tune-ups at home in Colorado, while Witt arrived early in Calgary and, in a sense, promptly established herself as the uncrowned queen of the Games. Frankly flirtatious, she did seductive warm-ups before appreciative audiences and charmed a roomful of reporters, one of whom proposed marriage. Trying to explain her appeal, Witt said coyly, “Every man prefers looking at a well-shaped woman rather than one that has the shape of a rubber ball.” With lines like that, Canadians—in the full throes of their Olympic love affair—cannot help but stay hooked.

BOB LEVIN in Calgary