Since I arrived in Vancouver, I have been taking my meals at the USA House, and since I happened to bring an Olympic flag with me, I have tried to get autographs from any Olympic medal winners I happen to meet. Donna Weinbrecht was the first to sign (on Feb.14) and I have since added Kristy Yamaguchi, Dick Fosbury, Tara Lipinsky and Brian Boitano as well. This morning I added Dorothy Hamill and Cammi Granato. Tonight, the floodgates opened up, as Olympic “alumni” and celebrities dropped by and athletes who have finished their competition began to arrive at the party.
Wayne Gretzky showed up, looking for a quiet place to chat with friends, and was quickly surrounded by photographers. Jon Koncak brought his family. People were getting giddy with excitement because Shaun White was due any minute. In the middle of all this excitement, the television screens were showing Evan Lysacek receiving his official scores, indicating the US had won another gold medal. The room erupted in applause.
Scotty Lago, who had finished third in the men’s half-pipe, showed up with his medal and flowers less than 30 minutes after the medal presentation ceremony downtown. His medal is big and brassy, and looks more like a copper pie pan than an athletic award. Scotty was charming in an “Aw, shucks” kind of way.
The commotion grew when White arrived. He was here to honor his coach with a USOC coaching award, but it seemed like every woman in the room was there to have her picture taken with the red-headed god. Shaun smiled and signed everything placed in front of him, even when the security guards were trying to lead him from the room.
Dan Jansen returned from calling speed skating for NBC and Derek Parra engaged him in conversation. The classic ladies of figure skating drifted back from the men’s competition, including Peggy Fleming (with her and friend, Vera Wang), Nancy Kerrigan, and Dick Button. It was like a “living Hall of Fame.”
I left with my flag safely tucked in my bag, and the party continued well into the night. I felt like a “groupie” and a proud older brother at the same time. We are not even half-way through the Olympic Winter Games.