Last Word The athletes aren't the only ones making Olympics sacrifices--just ask Mom and Dad

February 23, 2002

Sounds cool, doesn't it? Your kid in the Olympics? NBC zoomed in
on your beaming mug? A lifetime of Campbell's Chunky commercials
all lined up?

But to get your child to the Games, would you...

...live without your husband for nine years so you and your son
can live near his figure skating coach, as Ginny Goebel did for
their Tim?

...live in a truck for a year, so you can afford a gymnastics
coach for your son, as Frost Townsend did for his Sean?

...move in with your own parents, so you can afford to pay for
your daughter's hockey career, as Mike and Susan Mounsey did for
their Tara?

Happens every day. Olympic parents trade in their careers, homes
and happiness in the hope that someday somebody will give their
kid three weeks of free clothes and a dorm room at an Olympics.

Not that the kid would notice.

"I didn't realize it then," says U.S. figure skater Todd
Eldredge, 30, "but they sacrificed every day of their lives for
me. Took out second and third mortgages. My dad was a fisherman,
and he'd work 10-hour days to make enough money. My mom used to
drive me two hours each way to Boston, four days a week. Only
now do I understand what they went through."

They still live in that two-bedroom house, by the way. What
color is the medal for sacrifice?

Japanese immigrant Yuki Ohno closes down his Seattle business
for weeks just to be with his son, Apolo, at his short-track
events around the world.

Most of the time, all that parent sweat doesn't get their kids
to the Olympics at all. And even when it does, it doesn't always
end up roses and minicams.

Fran and Francois Lalive of Steamboat Springs, Colo., have spent
most of the past three decades tending to and paying for their
skiing daughter Caroline's every need. When she made it here,
she crashed in the downhill, the combined and the Super G. It
was the eighth straight event in Olympic and world championship
races that she'd failed to cross the finish line. And still,
every race, the Lalives wait at the bottom of the hill,
open-armed.

Not that there aren't happy endings.

When Tim Goebel won his bronze in figure skating, he stopped a
marching throng of reporters and officials cold when I shouted
at him a question about his father, who has lived in a Chicago
suburb for nine years without his son and wife, cranking out the
paychecks that paid for the career his wife and son chased,
first in Cleveland and now in Los Angeles.

"I want to tell you one thing," Goebel said. "This medal belongs
just as much to them as it does to me. I wouldn't be here, with
this medal around my neck, without them."

Too bad his parents weren't there to hear it. Security wouldn't
let them in. --Rick Reilly

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)