Luke Graham: Spillane and the Great One
Things just keep getting better for Steamboat Springs silver medalist Johnny Spillane. We saw his wife, Hilary, on Friday, and she showed us one of the cooler pictures. The first American man with a Nordic combined Olympic medal met one of the all-time greats after his performance.
Spillane was able to get his picture taken with Wayne Gretzky. Hilary said they’ve shown a bunch of Canadians who are obviously jealous.
■ The Americans are having a banner winter games. The Alpine team already has won more medals than at any other Olympics, and more are likely to come. But one of the great moments happened at snowboard cross, when Canadian Maelle Ricker won gold. It was pretty cool seeing the West Vancouver native do it not only on her home soil, but right near her home mountain. Certainly, part of you always roots for the United States, but the crowd and the emotion at Cypress Mountain were something to behold.
■ Lindsey Vonn was awesome in the downhill. In her news conference, about 40 percent of the questions focused on her badly bruised right shin. Asked what she’d been doing to treat it, Vonn pretty much laid out what Steamboat’s Brett Buckles had told me she did for her shins. Buckles was pretty much spot on in all of her assessments. It would be painful? Check. Numbing cream was the best antidote? Check. Vonn, despite the shin injury, would win? Check.
■ The United States and Canada tangle on the ice today in men’s hockey. It’s sort of a big deal up here. They’re asking people to get to bars hours before the game starts. I’ve heard Canadians all week tell me why the United States doesn’t have a chance.
But in reality, it comes down to who plays better, American goaltender Ryan Miller or Canadian Martin Brodeur. Also, this is the first Olympics played on a National Hockey League-size surface. That advantage goes to the Canadians, who can play the dump and chase style game so popular in the NHL. My prediction, almost certain to go wrong? USA 3, Canada 2, at which point I’m high-tailing it out of the bar. Canadians take hockey seriously.
■ Every sport has its fans, but the ones at the downhill events are absolutely some of the best. The Norwegians, Austrians and Swiss are some of the real dandies. Each downhill event had more than 6,000 spectators there. One huge Swiss guy had a cowbell the size of a small child. He also must have had shoulders and triceps like the Incredible Hulk. There wasn’t a run that went that he didn’t have it raised up and ringing. Christopher Walken would be proud.
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