Spotlight on Italy

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

On a frosty Lake Placid night, Ken Read proudly carried the Canadian flag and the Olympic hopes of millions of fans into the opening ceremony of the 1980 Winter Games. No one could have predicted that Read's Olympic dream would soon end with a plop on a snow-covered slope of Whiteface Mountain.

Read, the pre-race favourite in the downhill, didn't wipe out or miss a gate.

His ski simply fell off.

For a man who wove together such an illustrious career, it was one of his more forgettable moments.

Little wonder Read had no aspirations to attend the recent ceremonies in Lake Placid celebrating the 25th anniversary of those Games, a love-in that included members of the U.S. Miracle onIce hockey team.

"I hadn't even realized it has been 25 years,"Read said. "It hadn't really crossed my mind. For me, 1980 was the year I won Kitzbuhel, the hardest downhill in the world -- not the year my ski came off."

As a disappointed Read hobbled off the course, teammate Steve Podborski whizzed by en route to Olympic bronze

"Obviously the normal human reaction is to ask, "What if?" Read said. "We may never really know what would have happened. But it's part of skiing. I mean, my 13-year-old had his ski fall off on Monday. It can happen to anyone."

Despite his Lake Placid heartbreak, Read has made Olympic success a priority for the Canadian team heading into the 2006 Games in Italy and 2010 Games in Vancouver.

"No question part of our program is to make sure our athletes are ready," Read, the president of Alpine Canada, said. "(Italy) is a spotlight for our sport and our team but so is Vancouver. We're a young team and still building.

"My goal is to have developed a skiing powerhouse five years from now."

Just in time for the Vancouver Games


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