Canada Ends Drought; Winter Games' Athleticism Outshone All the Scandals

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 25, 2002 | Go to article overview

Canada Ends Drought; Winter Games' Athleticism Outshone All the Scandals


Byline: Patrick Hruby, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

SALT LAKE CITY - After 17 days of competition laced with controversy, the Salt Lake City Olympics concluded yesterday with a hockey game for the ages and a closing ceremony worthy of a Super Bowl halftime show.

"On behalf of the Olympic movement, I want to thank our hosts, the American people, for offering us these two unforgettable weeks," said International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge. "People of America, Utah and Salt Lake City, you have given the world superb Games."

Following two hours at Rice-Eccles Stadium, in which Olympic pomp like the "Child of Light" mixed with American musical acts from the likes of Kiss and Earth, Wind and Fire, the Olympic Cauldron was extinguished and Mr. Rogge officially closed the Games, inviting the world to reconvene at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

Five-time Olympian Brian Shimer, a bronze medalist in bobsled, carried the American flag into the stadium.

Earlier in the day, a sold-out E Center was treated to the final event of the Games, the much-anticipated gold medal hockey match between the United States and Canada.

In a contest crackling with friendships, rivalries and an impressive collection of National Hockey League All-Stars, Joe Sakic notched two goals and two assists as the Canadians won 5-2, ending their 50-year gold medal drought in the sport.

For the United States, it was the best Olympic hockey finish since the 1980 gold medal-winning "Miracle on Ice" squad.

"Overall, we had a great tournament," said U.S. captain Chris Chelios.

An Olympics marked by controversy also produced one parting scandal: Spain's Johann Muehlegg and Russia's Larissa Lazutina, both cross-country skiers, were thrown out of the Games and stripped of their respective gold medals yesterday after testing positive for performance-enhancing substances. Russian cross-country skier Olga Danilova was tossed out for the same reason. A female Belarussian short track skater also flunked a drug test earlier in the Games.

Thanks to a home ice and snow advantage as well as a seven-year, $40 million winter sports plan born out of a disappointing eight-medal performance at the 1988 Calgary Games, the United States captured a record 34 medals, more than doubling its previous Winter Olympic best of 13.

With 10 gold, 13 silver and 11 bronze medals, the United States finished second in the final medal standings. Germany led all nations with 35 medals.

"I feel like a proud mother today," said United States Olympic Committee President Sandra Baldwin. "We've put a lot of work and a lot of time into these Games. …

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