Torino #6: Famous People

Newsletter #6, February 21, 2006: Famous People  Travels and Travails: So my friend Bill was to be arriving on the 18th - the same day my wife was leaving. He had sent me a hardcopy of his itinerary before I left, which I had in a folder along with my own, my wife's and some translation printouts to help with the language. Well, a couple of days into the trip, that folder disappeared.  

I received an email from Bill on the 16th saying, "just meet me at the airport" and that he had finally found a hotel 20 miles out of town (housing is just so impossible here).  Well, he didn't include the details of the intinerary that I had lost, so I didn't know when to meet him (as it turned out, we just missed each other - he was probably pulling away in his rental car when Shannon, Kat and co. arrived). He waited an hour or two then rented a car.

 Of course directions in Italy tend to be quite meaningless, so he couldn't find his hotel and found himself in a very bad area with a lot of homeless etc. He then made his way to long track - which normally I would have been at, but I was at a short track production meeting for the evening. He then tried to find his hotel again, and then gave up, went back to the airport, and then flew home. I think it must be one of the shortest olympic trips in history. 

(Jim Ochowicz "Och" my former team lead, and Sheila Young Ochowicz - 3 time Olympic medalist)

Run ins and rendezvous:  Now that I know about the "houses" for the VIPS, sponsors, and Olympians, I've been spending time there - mostly here, where I am now in the USA house. Athletes come in and out and the RSC has made several important photos.

(Derek Parra)

 Bonnie Blair, Dan Jansen, Rusty Smith, Casey Fitzrandolf, Joey Cheek, Chad Hedrick, Darrek Parra, Chris Witty and more have come through and I've had a chance to talk to them all except Chad. 

(Carrie Walsh)

However, last night I was sitting a hotel bar with my old Olympic coach - Jeroen Otter, British world and olympic champion Wilf O'Reilly, and Chad Hedrick's dad. Chad's dad is a big old Texas boy and overwhelmingly confident in his boy, "my boy is the best on the planet and you are gonna see somethin' special tomorrow - that Shani - if he looks at his last lap of the 1000 vs. Chad - he knows where that's headed!"  Shani's last lap was considerably slower than Chads, but Chad's first lap and a half were even slower.

(Picture: (friend of Paul), Paul Hedrick, myself)


The 1500 meter - starting about now - adds another lap and a quarter to the 1000 - and Chad and Shani are likely to be 1 and 2. The question is the order.  Shani and Chad have been having a somewhat public dispute about the fact that Shani did not skate the pursuit, and more importantly dismissed the whole team upon announcing his decision - something like, "they've never helped me - i'm not going to help them."

(Bonnie Blair Cruikshank and David Cruikshank)

Bonnie Blair Cruikshank and David Cruikshank

What most don't know is that Shani is merely a facade for the driving force behind these actions - his mother. As a member of the arbitration panel for U.S. speedskating for the last couple of years, I've had several hearings and long conference calls managing disputes brought forward by Shani's mother. She views it as a "world vs. Shani" perspective and Shani has lost a lot of sponsorship opportunities due to the radical views and opinions expressed by his mother.   (Connie Paraskevin-Young, Ellie Ochowicz, (Chris Witty in the background))

I'm predicting Shani first, Chad second, and the Italian Fabrice for third. The Today Show I've been down in the central plaza where the today show is filmed every day and have seen Al Roker and Katie Couric and the other guy (his name?) each day. The first time I went down, I went with Shannon and Katelina and we took a couple pictures from a distance when someone yelled, "hey, Coyle!". I turned and it was Derek Parra and Catherine Raney - two long track speedskaters - just about to go on the show. We chatted and then watched as they were interviewed by Katie Couric. I put Katelina on my shoulders, so she should have been on TV.  

(Picture: Katie Couric and the Today Show in the medals plaza)

Yesterday when I was down there, my friend Tommy and I went up and chatted with Katie - Tommy gave her a couple pins, and then the 3 of us took a photo together.  Today I was walking by and ran into none other than Nancy Kerrigan. We chatted for about 10 minutes - she's there working for E! TV and talked about our first trip together to Sofia Bulgaria - she lost 8 pounds, I lost 17 (we both got really sick). 

(Picture: Nancy Kerrigan)


Dinner with Visa and friends So I was sitting at the Visa reunion center, talking with one of the Visa guys - a pentathelete named Rob Stulle, when he asked if I wouldn't mind making an appearance at a Visa dinner party. He mentioned that several other olympians would be there - so I said - sure. A swimmer from 1976 from Canada and I went over, and joined the two other special guests - Bjorne Dhale - the most decorated olympic athlete EVER with 8 gold and 4 silver medals in cross country skiing, and none other than Franz Klammer - the 1976 downhill skiing gold medalist that went down the mountain in kamikaze fashion to win a brilliant victory for Austria. Franz and I ended up at a table together and spent the next 3 hours sipping some wine and watching ice dance on the big screen TV.  

(Picture: Franz Klammer - still a stud)


The bar in the hotel had been totally redone as a bobsled track, - complete with white concave "ice" walls, and a full scale bobsled replica. The martini bar in the center was something to behold as well. 

(Picture: The Visa "Bobsled Martini Bar")


So Franz and I were watching ice dance, when the Italian pair fell - the guy basically fell right onto the girl. After they finished she gave him one of the longest, most evil, most public stare downs in history. Franz turned to me and said, "Right now, I think she consider to kill him - right on international TV - maybe back in the locker room - either way he don't live until morning I don't think..." 

They kept replaying it and we were laughing and laughing. I asked "I wonder what it must be like to be married to her..." Then it got even funnier when a friend Willie O’Reilly called and said - " dude - that's Diego's wife!"  Diego was on the gold medal winning short track Olympic team that beat us in 1994 and is the rink manager over at Palavela. I see him every day and we are friends. Poor Diego... 

(Picture: Dinner and watching Ice Dancing with Franz Klammer)


I also had the opportunity to have a nice conversation with the Senior VP of marketing for Visa Scot Smythe. We talked about sponsorships and how to evaluate them...  

Preview - Newsletter #7:  Tonight is the first round of women's figure skating singles. I'm going to head over and watch from the booth after I finish watching the mens long track 1500m - which is already going on - I'll take the tram over to the Oval and watch the last half.  Last night I only got 2 hours of sleep as for whatever reason the Italian army had helicopters circling the media village in the wee hours.