Tuesday, February 26, 2002
Frozen in time
Some Olympic moments will never be forgotten
By ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun
SALT LAKE CITY -- The smile. I'll always remember that smile.
Sitting comfortably in a local restaurant hours after winning Olympic gold, Theo Fleury wore his gold medal and a massive grin.
Absent was the gap in his teeth Calgarians grew so familiar with. Gone also were any signs of the pain and personal demons that have plagued his personal life for years.
Coming full circle, "from hell and back," as he put it, the little big man, who checked into substance abuse rehab a year earlier, looked down at his medal and flashed that smile.
"I'm not taking this baby off," said Fleury.
"This is what I came back for."
Plagued by the disappointment of Nagano and the pressure of these Games, Fleury was one of 23 Canadian hockey players and thousands of other athletes who left here teaming with pride yesterday.
And it's simple moments like the one I shared with Fleury Sunday night that I'll covet as my most cherished memories of these Games.
As I leave this picture postcard city to rejoin my regular life, here are a few other powerful Olympic moments etched in my mind:
No version of O Canada has ever been as powerful as the one belted out by fans at the E Center during the last minute of Sunday's gold medal game. Timed perfectly, the last refrain began as the final buzzer ended 50 years of frustration ... With a light snow falling, third generation Olympian Jim Shea pulls a funeral card of his grandfather out of his helmet after winning skeleton gold ... Seeing the Canadian flag paraded out during opening ceremonies ... Sharon Wotherspoon embracing me with tears in her eyes after reading a column I wrote about the Olympic spirit that buoyed her son Jeremy ... A sign held by a Canadian hockey fan that read 'Hi Mom, please send real beer' ... The genuine politeness of local volunteers thrilled to be playing host to the world ... The Barenaked Ladies doing Canada proud by showcasing just how talented they are ... The Tragically Hip performing at a private function for Canadian athletes and media ... Jamie Sale's brave attempt to fight off tears while standing on the silver medal podium ... 18 months after receiving a life-saving liver transplant, American snowboarder Chris Klug wins Olympic bronze on World Organ Donation Day ... Seeing a speed skater fight for glory despite the name I. Luse ... Seeing thousands of Americans in line, clamouring for Canadian Roots gear ... Australian Steven Bradbury winning gold in short track after a last-lap pileup worked to his advantage. He then had the gall to insist it was indeed his plan to lag far behind the others ... Clara Hughes shocking herself to make Canadian history ... Mexican-American and Home Depot employee Derek Parra crying on the podium after shattering a speedskating world record for the gold medal ... The roar at the Utah Olympic Oval when Chris Witty, Casey FitzRandolph, Parra or any American won gold or was on record pace ... Asked to stand up when he asked his question at a jammed Sale/David Pelletier press conference, vertically challenged Toronto Sun writer Steve Buffery gives the age old punch line, "I am standing." Thing is, he was ... Annoying European `journalists' waving their flags and openly cheering in the press box ... Seeing the fake soul patches handed out at Apolo Anton Ohno short track races ... The pride in knowing class acts like Sale and Pelletier are Canadian ... Sitting so close to the ice for the men's gold medal hockey game I could've smacked Mario Lemieux when he missed the open net. (I thought about it, too) ... The shock of hearing Gretzky's "American propaganda" tirade and learning the next day his son called him to say, "hey dad, (italics)we're American." ... German speed skater Anni Friesinger who said if she won gold, she would "buy a round" for her home town of Inzell. She did, and she will.
So will I, if you let me come home now.
2002 Games Columnists