"I hope that we Americans can sustain the same spirit in Atlanta as the Norwegians did in Lillehammer."
RAYMOND D. BAECHLER, EAST GREENBUSH. N.Y.
This is an article from the March 21, 1994 issue
What we saw in the ice dancing competition was shocking. Everybody knew that the British couple, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, deserved the gold.
ILDIKO HALASZI, Pueblo, Colo.
It doesn't take a genius to understand what happened in the judging of Torvill and Dean. The judges obviously had determined that the torch would be passed to a younger generation of ice dancers, regardless of their performances. The high ratings given to Torvill and Dean in the original dance program were only a token to justify the judges' later action.
By this travesty the members of the sports world have become voyeurs, peeking through the mysterious veil that shrouds the judging of ice dancing. It appears we caught the judges in their skivvies this time!
KEVIN G. LOVE, Mount Pleasant, Mich.
I cannot fathom the scoring system in figure skating (Silver Belle, March 7). The technical program for singles skaters is supposed to count for 33.3% of their total score, but in reality the system of ordinal placements means that the top three skaters after the technical program are even going into the free skate. Thus the winner of the free skate, by however slim a margin, is the winner of the overall competition. Only if a skater entering the final stage in fourth place or lower is among the top three in the free skate does the ordinal ranking from the technical program become a factor.
Moreover, the actual scores (5.8, 5.9, etc.) seem meaningless in the ordinal system. The margin of superiority in the eyes of one judge is irrelevant if the other judges find a skater to be second best, by whatever margin.
Just for fun, I disregarded the ordinal rankings—whereby each judge ranks the competitors—and calculated the results of the competition between Nancy Kerrigan and Oksana Baiul based on their technical and artistic scores. I used two different scoring systems. For one I threw out the high and low scores for each skater in both the technical and the artistic programs and totaled the remaining scores. I multiplied their technical-program totals by .333 and their free-skate-program totals by .667 to account for the fact that the technical-merit scores count for one third of a skater's total and the free-skate scores count for two thirds. With this system, not only would Kerrigan have won the overall competition, but she also would have won the free skate.
In the second I calculated the scores without eliminating any of the judges' marks. Again Kerrigan would have prevailed overall and in the free skate.
Either of the two systems outlined above allows for a competition in which a skater can win the free skate by a slim margin but lose the overall competition because of another skater's superior performance in the technical program. This, I believe, would be a better system because it would give real weight to the technical program.
I am not suggesting that Kerrigan got a raw deal. She lost according to the existing rules. But I do think that in light of Baud's winning the gold medal while accumulating a lower total score, the powers that be in figure skating should reexamine the sport's scoring system.
KEVIN G. CHAPMAN, New York City
I'm glad to see that at least one reporter, SI's Steve Rushin, has taken the only responsible and serious approach to the whole Kerrigan-Tonya Harding fiasco: not to take it seriously at all (As the World Turns, Feb. 28). What a breath of fresh air. It would be even better if we didn't have to hear anything more about this, but beggars can't be choosers, so I'll choose Rushin's angle any day.
BONNIE K. JONES, Waterbury, Conn.
I have never been more moved by an Olympic moment than I was by the men's 1,000-meter speed skating event (Whooosh, Feb. 28). For years Dan Jansen has been considered the greatest sprinter in the history of the sport, so we watched in disbelief as he failed time after time in his previous attempts at an Olympic medal. That set the stage for what may be his final Olympic race. Despite all the pressure. Jansen set a world record en route to the gold. Anyone who wasn't moved to tears by the medal ceremony and Jansen's victory lap should have his pulse checked.
TOM CARSWELL, Kenosha, Wis.
A sportsman embodies all the qualities that make us love athletics: the courage to overcome fear; determination; perseverance in the face of heartbreak and failure; and, ultimately, triumph. No other athlete in recent memory has exemplified these qualities the way Dan Jansen has.
STEVE RAMEY, Columbus, Ohio
Amid all the hubbub over a figure skater getting clubbed, a washed-up outfielder detonating a firecracker near a group of fans, and one college basketball coach threatening another with bodily harm, seeing Jansen with a gold medal around his neck and a tear running down his cheek reminded me of why I started watching sports in the first place.
DANNY EVANS, Simi Valley, Calif.
Good for you, SI. While Dan Jansen's golden moments touched our hearts and could easily have stolen the spotlight from Bonnie Blair's stunning achievement, you put them both on your Feb. 28 cover.
NAN BOYER, Denver
I was appalled at your reverential treatment of Dan Jansen at the expense of Bonnie Blair. I am certain Jansen is a great guy, but in all his previous Olympic races he basically choked. Granted there were extenuating circumstances in a couple of cases, but the fact remains that when crunch time came in four Olympics, Jansen came through only once.
Blair, on the other hand, is the epitome of an Olympic athlete. She has won more gold than any other American female Olympian. I am not knocking Jansen's victory, but let's give credit where it's due. Bonnie Blair was the star of Lillehammer.
ANDY LEE, Monroe, La.
While awaiting the Feb. 28 issue, I convinced myself that it would include three things: Dan Jansen on the cover, extensive coverage of Bonnie Blair and, what I most eagerly looked forward to, a great story on Norwegian speed skater Johann Olav Koss.
I received Jansen and Blair (having her on the cover was a big plus), but barely a whisper about Koss. Koss broke three world records in winning his three gold medals. Koss obliterated his 10,000-meter record by 12.99 seconds! Not only is he a great athlete, but he also exemplifies the term sportsman with his humanitarian efforts. Barely three lines in the whole magazine for the greatest athlete in Lillehammer.
DIANE WILKERSON, Red Bank, N.J.
The Home Team
When are we in America going to get the real message of the Olympics? It's not about labeling someone a loser when he doesn't finish first. It's about cheering for any performer when he makes an honest effort, which is exactly what the Norwegians did. They showed kindness and respect while winning the medal count. Nice guys do finish first.
GARY WIREN, North Palm Beach, Fla.
All in the Family
In the caption for your beautiful Throng of Norway picture on the Feb. 28 CONTENTS page, you say, "Are these folks related or what?" Let me give you the answer: They are not, other than being Norwegians. The woman is actress Liv Ullmann, and the man is the famous ethnologist and author Thor Heyerdahl. Also, the picture is from the opening ceremonies, not a cross-country competition as you suggest.
SVEIN ANDREASSEN, New York City
As a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic bobsled team, I was moved by William Oscar Johnson's depiction of the contrast between today's senseless killings in Sarajevo and what 10 years ago seemed the pinnacle of friendly competition and Olympic spirit (The Killing Ground, Feb. 14). I will never forget walking into the stadium during the opening ceremonies and feeling the warmth of the crowd. Children welcomed us with flowers. Today some of those children may be buried next to the stadium. The tears of joy I shed during those ceremonies have been replaced by tears of heartbreak.
PRANK HANSEN, Stamford, Conn.
I was the executive director of the U.S. Olympic ski team in 1984. We rolled into Sarajevo with a certain bravado. Our only thoughts were about winning, and win we did—big. What we had not bargained for was another emotion, one of awe—that people with so little could give so much. For a time we stayed in a private home. The family gave us the best of everything that they had in food, accommodations and warmth. It was an old-fashioned, almost naive embrace.
The daughter volunteered to be our driver. She had the smallest car I have ever seen. We referred to it as the Beer Can. At least 20 times during our stay, the Beer Can stalled, and in a minute help would appear from nowhere. Many was the day when one could see five guys pushing the Beer Can for blocks and blocks heading to avenue.
Living in Sarajevo as I did for 21 days was like being in a time warp, when people were simpler, genuine in their generosity and open in their spirit. I am humbled by the suffering in Sarajevo today, and I pray for the people there.
INEZ AIMEE, New York City
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