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2002

Site: Salt Lake City, Utah (USA)
Dates: February 8-24
Nations: 77
Total Athletes: 2,399
Sports: 15

Now that the 2002 Olympics are over, the question arises: Will we remember these Games for the athletes and their accomplishments or will we think of the controversies and the complaints that took place over the 17-day period in Utah?

Nobody will soon forget "Skate Gate", the figure skating mess in which Jamie Sale and David Pelleter were involved, or the bitter complaints that came from the Russian and Korean delegations regarding misjudgments in competitions.

In this day and age, it seems the news is focused more on what happens outside the field of play instead of the competitions themselves.

The judging mess surrounding Sale and Pelletier dominated the games for nearly two weeks, from the time the pairs event ended, until even after they received their gold medals in a special ceremony.

As if that wasn't enough, the Russian Federation whined at least three times during the Olympics, decrying their athletes were being unfairly treated. They complained about the officiating in the men's ice hockey tournament, about the judging in both the pairs and ladies' figure skating even though their athletes won medals in both events. At one point they even threatened to pull out of the Games, but as we all know that wasn't going to happen. It was just a case of crying wolf.

There were a few cases of doping at the Games and cross country gold medals were lost by Larissa Lazutina of Russia and Johann Muehlegg of Spain.

Well, if you happened to pay attention more to the news off the snow and ice you missed some incredible performances at the 2002 Olympics.

Team Canada won both hockey golds, beating the United States in both the men's and women's final. For the men, it was the end of a long drought at the Winter Games, as they won the gold medal for the first time in 50 years.

The United States, which hadn't received a medal in bobsled in 46 years, won gold in the inaugural women's event and then captured silver and bronze in the four-man competition. The Germans won the four-man, but American Brian Shimer, in his fifth and final Olympics, came through with his only Winter Games medal, a bronze.

American Sarah Hughes surprisingly won the gold medal in ladies' figure skating, causing the furor of Russia, which argued that silver medalist Irina Slutskaya should have been given the top prize. Michelle Kwan fell and slipped from first in the short program to a bronze medal.

A total of eight world records were broken at the Utah Olympic Oval in speedskating with Germany's Claudia Pechstein and Dutchman Jochem Uytdehaage each crushing two of those marks. Americans Derek Parra and Chris Witty each set world records in winning races.

Snowboarding drew tremendous support from fans and the competitions were dominated by the United States and France. The U.S. won five medals in four events, while France captured three medals. An emotional story at the Games came courtesy of American Chris Klug, who returned from a liver transplant and won a bronze medal in the parallel giant slalom.

Apolo Anton Ohno came into the Olympics as the Sports Illustrated "Cover Boy" as he was primed to take home as many as four medals in short track. He won only two, falling once and his gold medal came after Korean Kim-Dong Sung was disqualified. Ohno got a taste of his own medicine the final Saturday of the Games, as he was DQed in the semifinals of the 500-meter event.

The U.S. welcomed back skeleton to the Olympics after a 54-year absence with three medals, the biggest one of all a gold coming from Jim Shea, Jr., a third- generation Olympian.

Germany continued its domination in luge, winning five of the nine medals awarded in the men's women's and doubles competition. Italy's Armin Zoeggeler succeeded Germany's Georg Hackl as the king of the men's track and the U.S. saw its doubles teams win silver and bronze for the second straight Olympics.

The Germans also won the team ski jumping competition by the closest margin in the Olympic history of the sport, but it was the Swiss wonder kid Simon Ammann that shone brightest on the jumping hills at Utah Olympic Park. He became the first double gold medalist of the Salt Lake Games.

There was also a superhero of sorts at the Games. Nicknamed the Croatian Sensation for her incredible alpine skiing, Janica Kostelic raised the Olympic bar by claiming four Olympic medals in a single Games and also matched the records of Jean-Claude Killy of France and Toni Sailer of Austria by claiming three golds.

Bode Miller provided some excitement for the American crowd with a pair of silvers, while Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway became the winningest alpine racer in Olympic history. He won two golds to hike his mark to seven Olympic medals all-time. Austria's Stephan Eberharter won a medal of each color.

These outstanding performances made major impacts at the Olympics, which tried to take the focus away from the controversies.

By the way, you were wondering about the medal count? Which country took home the most hardware?

Well if you must know, Germany had 35 medals for the most in the Olympics, one more than the United States.

The Games were well-organized and security was tight, but unfortunately tempers flared and emotions ran high from a few delegations. As we look forward to Torino and the 2006 Games, let us hope the focus shifts back to the athletes. After all, that is what the Winter Olympics are supposed to be about.


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