Footprints in the snow

Belarusians weren’t strangers at the 20th Olympic Games in Torino
Attending Olympic Games is like getting inside a fairy-tale. These unparalleled competitions, dreams coming true, peaks sportsmen reach thanks to long and industrious exercises. Every one of them tries to show their best at the Games and maybe it is what makes the Olympics so rich in surprises.

For seventeen days the Torino Olympics lasted sport fans all over the world forgot about other competitions. Italians even forgot about their “holy cow” — football. Information about Torino’s Juventus success was drowned by a flood of reports from winter arenas where every day bestowed sets of medals upon the worthy and the city square gathered more people for award ceremonies than a football stadium can. Unheard of in Italia!

The opening ceremony is the visiting card of all the Games. It is a kind of competition as well: competition between producers, directors, creators, and, of course, teams. Keep in mind, along with seeing the sportsmen the public sees a kind of fashion parade. Couturiers also do their best to get ready for the Games: garments, full dress and sport clothes are sewn to make every country’s sportsmen look better than others, for the multimillion audience to take pleasure in watching the sportsmen compete in good uniforms. According to the common opinion, Russians won this unofficial fashion parade. During the Games almost third of Torino’s population were foppishly dressed in neat red-white clothes similar to that of the Russian Olympic team. Efforts of Belarusian fashion designers received their share of attention as well: strict costumes made to meet national symbolism touched hosts and guests of the Olympic Games. However, Belarusians were also noticed during the very competitions.

The 20th Winter Olympic Games turned out to be nearly most complicated ones for Belarus. Disasters were in order even before the famous skier Stephanie Belmondo lit the Olympic fire at the Stadio Olimpico. I think everyone remembers the major sensation of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics when the Belarusian team beat iron favourite Sweden and cruised to victory in the hockey quarterfinals. It is understandable in Italy fans expected Belarus to put up a good show, especially since state support has been pushing Belarusian hockey forward with great strides. However, sport is unpredictable. There are hardly more dramatic fights than the one hockey fans saw in Riga, which hosted the Olympic qualification games. Four teams struggled for the only ticket to the Torino Olympics. In the deciding match Belarus and Latvia met. Belarusians would have been satisfied with a draw and the success seemed close: 10 minutes before the end of the game Belarus was leading 4 to 2. But something supernatural happened: within four minutes the Belarusian team missed 3 scores and lost the game. The shock was perceptible: for the first time in its history a country of hockey players Belarus was left outside of the Olympics.

Another accident had been in store for Belarusian skater Anzhelika Kotyuga before the Games started. Accusations of using forbidden medications disrupted her preparations for almost a year. Though the accusations were proved wrong, Kotyuga could not be in a good shape for the major skating of the four years, though even a year before she had been close to being named the main candidate for gold.

However, despite the losses the Belarusian sportsmen still were grand in Torino. Biathlete Olga Nazarova was named the most stable sportswoman of the Olympics. In every race on the Olympics list she was in top eight. Though she lacked a tiny bit to get a medal, we believe she will get what she is due.

Just like Belarusian freestylers, who are among favourites in every race. We can only sympathise with Alla Tsuper, who is always medalled at World Cup competitions, but this time she did not make it. Very regrettable. But they say it was a blessing in disguise. Black horse of the Belarusian team Assol
Slivets unexpectedly made it to the front of the Belarusian team ranks. Assol can boast of very complicated jumps and when she lands well, the juries give her good marks. This way it was in Torino. Now we can say the women’s freestyle has another bright star labelled “Made in Belarus”.

The world has known the Belarusian men freestyle school since ages ago.
Back in 1998 in Nagano previously unknown Dmitri Daschinski unexpectedly won bronze. Alas, in Salt Lake City he competed with his back injured and had to forget about medals. But in Italy Daschinski was high again. If not for small errors during his second jump, he would have been the champion! However, Dmitri was not upset with winning silver. He told the press in four years in Vancouver he would make his dream come true and would become an Olympic champion.

A dream also keeps spirits of Sergei Dolidovich high. He had a lot of hopes for Torino, but his time did not come. There is no other reason to explain the disastrously bad luck in the Alps. First, they did not let him to participate in a pursuit race due to a high haemoglobin level in blood caused by the mountain conditions. Dolidovich was rushed back to Minsk to continue exercising right up to the final stage of Olympic skiing competition. The haemoglobin back to normal, Sergei was again among candidates for a medal in the 50 km marathon. Nothing seemed to be able to prevent Dolidovich from getting a medal, but evil destiny made one more appearance. Two kilometres to the finish line, the Belarusian collided with an Austrian coach! The coach wanted to give a drink to his pupil Mikhail Batvinov, but was careless enough to stay in Dolidovich’s way. The collision, the fall and a broken staff deprived the Belarusian sportsman of any medal. He managed to grab himself together and even gained 10 seconds but he could not do more and landed at the 12th position in the end.

On whole, summing up the Belarusian team performance in Torino, one can say that due to various reasons the team could not accomplish what it can. Belarus is still rich in talents and plans to prove it in Vancouver. We will wait…

by Sergei Svetlov
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