Saturday, February 8, 2014

XII Olympic Winter Games, Innsbruck 1976

The Sportscaster Cards were, indeed, awesome but perhaps not as awesome as this website "dedicated to their preservation." There's nothing that I will add here that is potentially as entertaining as simply browsing that website, so I encourage you to not read another word of this post before exhausting the link.

OK, now that you're back, let me just say that I loved my Sportscaster Cards. I had maybe a couple hundred of them at the height of my collection, but I sold off most of them to the nice fellow (and Church of Christ Sunday-school teacher) at Rocking Chair Antiques in Paducah along about 1984 or '85, when I decided I needed money probably to rent a tuxedo for prom or to pick up a copy of Quadrophenia or Nebraska at Camelot Records. I have zero doubt that Rocking Chair gave me a more-than-fair price for my cards, and I still listen to Quadrophenia and Nebraska, and I'm thankful I went to the prom because at least I was a little less terrified and awkward around girls by the time I got to WKU.

Still, I miss my Sportscaster Cards. I played with them a lot when I was 8, 9 and 10--and especially when I was 11 during the XIII Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., in 1980. I pushed ski jumpers off my bed; I scooted bobsledders around the shag carpet, and I even spun figure skaters on our cleared kitchen table. And when it came time for the Summer Games later that year, I went on and staged my own Cairo Road XXII Olympiad--in flaming defiance of President Carter's Moscow boycott.

So, all of that said, you might wonder why this post is labeled as being in commemoration of Innsbruck 1976 if my little Sportscaster Cards experience is more directly tied to Lake Placid 1980. Well, that's because the Sportscaster Cards depicting winter Olympians that I still own won most of their medals in XII, not XIII.

Says the back of his card: "Although he lost the 30 km cross-country title by 28 seconds to Sergei Saveliev of the USSR, 21-year-old William Koch was the star of one of the biggest success stories of the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics. The first American cross-country skier in the history of the Games ever to win a medal, Koch stunned the world of Nordic skiing, challenging the traditional domination of Scandinavian and Soviet athletes."

"(S)he collected three medals: a gold in the 500 m; a silver in the 1,500; and a bronze in the 1,000 m. Although her triple triumph at Innsbruck brought her a great deal of publicity, to Sheila it was something of an anticlimax. Her proudest moment had come a month earlier, on Jan. 31, 1976, at Davos. There she became the first woman to break the 41-second barrier, turning in a world-record time of 40.91 seconds in the 500 m. 'I much prefer my world record to the Olympic gold medal,' she said. 'For me it represents the crowning achievement of 16 years of work.'"

Austrian "Anton Innauer's uncanny ability, ease, and control catapulted him to the peak of the ski jumping world. These qualities also made him the super-favorite at the 1976 Olympics at Innsbruck. But the 17 1/2-year-old high-school boy muffed his Olympic chances. The pre-Games publicity and pressure took their toll, and Innauer had to settle for a silver medal in the 90 m jump."

"Meinhard Nehmer, who at the age of 35 won two gold medals in bobsledding at the 1976 Olympics, is symbolic of the great potential of the East German athletes. Although he's a weatherman and a member of the East German Army, he's always devoted himself to sports."

"In 1976, Rosi Mittermaier of West Germany came very close to matching the Olympic triple-gold skiing exploits of Austria's Tony Sailer in 1956 and France's Jean-Cleaude Killy in 1968. At Innsbruck, Mittermaier finished first in the slalom (her specialty) and first in the downhill (her least favorite event). But Canada's Kathy Kreiner prevented Rosi from making a clean sweep of the women's races, edging her out in the giant slalom by just .12 seconds."

"Some 10,000 Austrian fans in the Tyrol spent what was possibly the longest 12 minutes of their lives one icy cold day in February, 1976. They were lined up along the Patscherkofel waiting for their teenage hero, Franz Klammer, who was competing in the Olympic downhill in 15th position. Just minutes before, the partisan crowd had watched 28-year-old Bernhard Russi of Switzerland, wearing No. 3, turn in an excellent time of 1:46.06. Now Klammer was making his descent, and at the halfway point he was clocked at .19 seconds behind Russi. But Klammer pulled out all the stops and managed to beat Russi by .33 seconds. And so it was that six years after becoming the world champion at Val Gardena, Russi bowed to the much younger--and slightly faster--Klammer."

"She mesmerized international audiences with her performances, charming them with the near-sighted squint she needed to read the scores, and the radiant smile she flashed when her marks were high. Dorothy couldn't see more than a few yards without glasses, which led to her characteristic expression and the nickname 'Squint.' But she didn't need perfect vision win the 1976 Olympic and World Championship."

That's all pretty good writing. The cards are pretty great--almost as great as You should go back to that website and look at it all again. If Putin and the Russians try to take another jab at our president tonight, I just might boycott Sochi 2014 and instead spend the evening browsing myself.

Soviet Union 13 gold, 6 silver, 8 bronze
East Germany 7, 5, 7
United States 3, 3, 4
Norway 3, 3, 1
West Germany 2, 5, 3
Finland 2, 4, 1
Austria 2, 2, 2
Switzerland 1, 3, 1
Netherlands 1, 2, 3
Italy 1, 2, 1
Canada 1, 1, 1
Great Britain 1, 0, 0
Czechoslovakia 0, 1, 0
Liechtenstein 0, 0, 2
Sweden 0, 0, 2
France 0, 0, 1

1 comment:

  1. In looking at this post again four years and a week later, I just want to post for the record that it turned out that Putin and his Olympic minions were cheating all over the place at Sochi 2014. What a disgrace.