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Jean Claude Killy Wins First Gold – February 9, 1968

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France’s Jean Claude Killy won three gold medals at the Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France. His first win, in the downhill, came on February 9, 1968. Killy followed up his Downhill win, taking the gold medal in the Giant Slalom on February 12. He put a final exclamation point on his spectacular Olympic showing when he won the Slalom on February 17. Killy was the second Olympic skier to win the “Alpine Grand Slam.”

Austrian Toni Sailer was the first skier to win the three events. He won his gold medals at the Winter Olympics in Cortina, Italy in 1956.

In the days leading up to Killy’s third win, the Frenchman and Sailer became engaged in an Alpine trash talking event of Olympic proportions. Sailer predicted that Killy would fail in his attempt to win the third leg of the slam. Killy responded by saying that even having only won two gold medals so far, that he had already surpassed Sailer’s 1956 performance. The AP reported that Killy said, “In the slalom Sailer only had to make one descent. I must make two. To win the special slalom I must race four times – – two qualification runs in addition to the two official runs. It is much more difficult.”

In addition winning his three gold medals, Jean Claude Killy clearly won the pissing contest with Sailer as well.

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Peggy Fleming Skates to Gold – February 10, 1968

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Peggy Fleming won the gold medal in Women’s Figure Skating on February 10, 1968. She was the only American to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France.

The New York Times described Fleming’s win as “a victory of the ballet over the Ice Follies approach to figure skating.”

Women’s figure skating became an Olympic sport in 1908, but no American woman was able to take a gold medal in the event until Tenley Albright did it at Cortina, Italy in 1956. The U.S. followed up its win in Cortina when Carol Heiss, who had been the silver medalist in 1956, stepped up and took the gold medal at Squaw Valley, California, in 1960.

Disaster struck a year later when all 18 members of the U.S. team were killed in a plane crash in Belgium. They were on their way to the World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

Still in the throes of its rebuilding phase, Peggy Fleming at the age of 15, led the U.S. women skaters by placing 6th at the 1964 Winter Olympics at Insbruck, Austria.

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Carter Announces Olympic Boycott Threat January 20, 1980

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Coca Cola Commercial Promotes the 1980 Olympics (The One We Boycotted)

Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, Spawns Olympic Boycott Talk.

Russians start invasion Christmas Day, 1979

The Soviet Union began its invasion of Afghanistan on Christmas Day, 1979. On New Years Day, 1980, with already more than 10,000 Russian troops engaged in heavy fighting near Kabul (eventually the Soviets would have more than 100,000 personnel deployed in Afghanistan), the New York Times reported that “West Germany’s representative at an emergency meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization raised the question of whether the Western Allies might want to withdraw their participation in the Moscow Olympic Games this summer as a result of the Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan, a NATO official said.”

Or did he say that?

The next day, The Washington Post disclosed that “a West German government spokesman denied newspaper reports that its NATO ambassador was the one who had suggested the boycott. In the same article the Post reported that Lord Killanin, head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), “vowed to resist any political interference with the Olympics”.

On January 3, the New York Times reported that France did not support the idea of an Olympic boycott.

President Jimmy Carter in a nationally televised speech on January 4, outlined his plans for forcing the Soviets out of Afghanistan, he hinted at the possibility of an Olympic boycott.

Saudi Arabia became the first nation to officially withdraw from the Moscow Olympics. On January 6 the LA Times reported that a spokesman for the Saudi Royal made the announcement, citing Soviet aggression against the “friendly and brotherly Moslem nation of Afghanistan.

Day by day, more and more editorials were written, interviews were given, and opinions taken on the not yet officially proposed Olympic boycott. For the most part, politicians favored the boycott while athletes and Olympic officials opposed it.

Carter Goes on Meet The Press and Makes Olympic Boycott Threat Official

Finally, on Sunday Morning, January 20, Carter appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press. Bill Monroe led off the interview by asking Carter, “Mr. President, assuming the Soviets do not pull out of Afghanistan any time soon, do you favor the U.S. participating in the Moscow Olympics, and if not, what are the alternatives?”

To which Carter replied, “No, neither I nor the American people would favor the sending of an American team to Moscow with Soviet invasion troops in Afghanistan. I’ve sent a message today to the United States Olympic Committee spelling out my own position that unless the Soviets withdraw their troops, within a month, from Afghanistan, that the Olympic Games be moved from Moscow to an alternate site, or multiple sites, or postponed, or cancelled. If the Soviets do not withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, within a month, I would not support the sending of an American team to the Olympics.

Watch Carter’s Announcement about Olympic Boycott Threat

(more…)

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Nancy Kerrigan Attack Orchestrated by Tonya Harding January 6, 1994

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World Watches Nancy Kerrigan Attack in Disbelief

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6T09XWRkq5M
On January 6, 1994, Nancy Kerrigan had just completed a practice session in Cobo Hall in Detroit. She was preparing for the U.S. Women’s National Figure Skating Championship which was going to be held there, the following day.

As she was leaving the ice, an unidentified man struck her on the back of the knee with a club like object, causing her to fall to the floor, writhing in pain. As paramedics were getting her ready to be taken away in the ambulance, Kerrigan gave out her iconic wail, Why? Why? Why?

Kerrigan’s arch rival, Tonya Harding, won the competition (without Kerrigan of course), earning a position on the Olympic team. Even though she had not been able to compete in Detroit, on January 8, Kerrigan was given the second position on the team

On January 9, while the world was pondering who could have done such a thing, Jere Longman wrote in the New York Times,

This was only Act 1 of a great unfolding soap opera. Harding the talented but troubled champion, versus Kerrigan, America’s darling, the victim of a chilling assault. Muscular power versus swan-like grace. Harding has more technical skills, Kerrigan has elegance and the sympathy of an entire country. Everything about them is being compared, their hair, their costumes, their figures, their make up. One usually has to see a John Waters Movie to witness this sort of high camp.

Five Days Later the Soap Opera Takes a Wild Turn

The high camp soap opera took a bizarre turn on January 11, when The Oregonian reported that the FBI was investigating an allegation that the attack had been orchestrated by Harding’s body guard Shawn Eckardt, her ex-husband, Jeff Gilhooly; and a friend, Shane Stant.
The following day Eckardt confessed and implicated Gilhooly, Stant, and another friend, Derrick Smith. He also named Harding as a co-conspirator.

Tonya Insists She’s Innocent

On January 18, Harding met with investigators for ten hours. Her story, which she repeated at a nationally televised press conference on January 27, was that she only learned that her ex-husband and body guard were involved, after the attack. At the press conference Harding said. “Within the next few days, I learned that some persons that were close to me may have been involved. My first reaction was one of disbelief, and the disbelief was followed by shock and fear. Although my lawyers tell me that my failure to immediately report this information is not a crime, I know I’ve let you down, but I have also let myself down. I have devoted my entire life to one objective, winning an Olympic gold metal for my country.”

Both Girls Go to the Olympics

On February 5, the U.S. Figure Skating Association met, in order to decide what to do about Harding. Five days later Harding sued the U.S. Olympic committee in an effort to stop them from conducting a hearing to determine whether or not she should be allowed to compete in the Olympics. She dropped the suit two later after the committee agreed to cancel the hearing. Tonya Harding was given the green light to go to the Olympics in Lillehammer.

She placed 8th in the competition, but in typical Tanyaesque fashion, her Olympic performance will long be remembered almost entirely for the drama involving the laces on her skates. She was almost disqualified for not appearing on the ice in a timely fashion, and her skating was interrupted for an “equipment mishap”. The Judges generously allowed her to return to the ice and she managed to skate well enough to rank among the top third of all the competitors.

Meanwhile, Kerrigan recovered and was also able compete at the Olympics. On February 25 she won the silver medal (in a close and controversial competition with gold medal winner Oksana Baiul). Sadly Kerrigan is known much more today for her anguished cries after the brutal attack, than for winning Olympic bronze (Albertville, 1992) and silver medals.

The Melodrama did not quite end at the Olympics in Lillehammer. On March 16 in Portland, Harding plead guilty to conspiracy to hinder prosecution. She was put on probation for three years and was fined $160,000. She also agreed to resign from the U.S. Figure Skating Association

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