I am an Olympics nut, and I must admit I have spent a great deal of time over the last two weeks glued to the TV watching all varieties of winter sports. With the exception of curling and cross country skiing, I love to watch any and every competitio

Thursday, March 2, 2006

From time to time, I can get my family to watch with me. I actually managed to talk Mike and the boys into watching a little of the ice dancing competition. They complained, but as it would happen, they were watching when at least three couples had falls. This really upped their interest level, and they also enjoyed making fun of the mens' often flamboyant (the boys used another adjective) costumes.

In viewing this year's Olympics, two athletes stood out in my mind. One overcame initial disappointment to win gold and another never lived up to pre-Olympic hype. The two athletes are completely different in their styles and commitment levels and offer a great example of what to do and what not to do as an athlete.

The two athletes I'm referring to are Apolo Anton Ohno and Bode Miller. Ohno finished his Olympic experience with a gold and two bronze medals and Miller ended with nothing. Both athletes felt pressure to succeed at the Olympics, but Ohno and Miller went about their training in very different ways.

Ohno shunned media attention and lucrative sponsorship deals to focus on his speed skating training. In his first race of the Olympics, he fell and never even made it to the medal round of the 1,500. He came back from that early failure and took bronze in the 1,000. Ohno capped his Olympics with a gold medal performance in the 500 and an astounding last lap in the short track relay, which resulted in a bronze for the American team. I cheered outloud when Apolo won the gold. He is a great role model for young athletes. He's an overcomer and dedicated to his sport. He spoke openly about the sacrifices he made to become the best and represent the United States honorably in Olympic competition. In fact, he has remained a resident at the Olympic Training Center for the last eight years.

By contrast, Bode Miller is probably best known for being a rebel and a big party boy. I watched him interviewed on "60 Minutes" and read several of his interviews and was immediately turned off by his attitude and lack of discipline. By openly admitting to skiing drunk and staying out late the night before races, Miller sent a scary message to our young athletes.

Ironically, it was Miller's big failure in the Olympics that overshadowed that earlier message and taught better lesson to aspiring athletes all over the world. His performance in Torino showed that you can't abuse your body, skip training runs, stay out late at the clubs and bring home Olympic medals. Excelling at sports, and life, requires commitment, discipline and hard work. It seems to me like Miller got what he deserved, and sadly enough, he seems unlikely to change. When asked about his disappointing Olympic performance, Miller was quoted as saying, "I had an awesome two weeks. I got to party and socialize at an Olympic level." Now there's a statement the U.S. ski team can be proud of. No matter how good an athlete performs, I don't believe they deserve to represent the U.S. with that kind of attitude.

Instead, the U.S. needs to be rewarding those athletes who demonstrate dedication to their sport, a desire to be a positive role model and who lead by example. It's too bad Nike isn't as discerning and spent so much money on their bode.com campaign. I, for one, am embarrassed that our country was represented by Bode Miller. I'd rather the U.S. be remembered by the performances of Ohno, Sasha Cohen and Joey Cheek. All three of these athletes are exceptional and made me proud to be an American.