I can’t say that you ever completely won me over.
Goodbye, Viktor Ahn and your messy politics.
I can say that you have taught me that I am way too idealistic with my Olympic ideals.
These Games in the seaside-and-mountain city of Russia may forever be known as the Winter Olympics where spectators and athletes walked around wearing shorts. It was warm. The snow events suffered some.
I tried hard to allow myself to be enamored.
I liked the big smiles of ice dancing gold medal winners, Americans Charlie White and Meryl Davis.
I did not like that Russian figure skater Adelina Sotnikova tripped up in her free skate program and still took the gold medal over defending champion Yuna Kim of South Korea, who was flawless in her program. The curious scoring made me long for the good, old days, when scoring was announced, on the PA, judge-by-judge. This lump-sum scoring is too anonymous.
I liked the big gold-medal runs of Americans Ted Liggerty and Mikaela Shiffrin in Alpine events.
I did not like both the U.S. women and men losing to Canada in the medal-round hockey games.
All that, however, falls into the category of victory or defeat on the fields, courts and rinks of sports. It’s to be expected at every Olympic Games.
So, really, a different little piece of my heart left these Games when I listened to the story of Viktor Ahn after he won his first of three gold medals (and four overall) in short track speed skating.
Ahn was a veteran of Olympic competition. But the last time he skated in the Games, 2006 in Turin, he was known as Ahn Hyun-Soo. Born in Seoul, he competed for his homeland, South Korea. He got hurt in 2008 and did not compete in the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Other skaters from other clubs looked like they’d bypassed him.
In 2011, he moved to Russia to train. Then he gave up his South Korean citizenship and became a Russian citizen. He changed his name, picking Viktor because it meant champion.
Russian fans cheered Ahn for winning for his country.
NBC coverage alluded to the fact that he picked Russia from a handful of countries that wanted him to skate for them because they offered him the sweetest deal and best chance for success.
Now I am not an expert in the politics of the move, nor all of the underlying facts.
I know that athletes have participated for countries other than those they were born in, but I’d been under the impression their ancestry somehow allowed them to become dual citizens.
A story in the Washington Post last week reiterated how several athletes compete for countries in which they were not born every Games these days.
But countries bidding for gold medal athletes makes me uneasy. An athlete giving up citizenship in his home country and swearing allegiance to another in the pursuit of Olympic gold, not to take a stance against political oppression, makes me extremely uneasy.
And it spoiled the Sochi Games for me some.
Did you enjoy these Winter Games? What did the case of Viktor Ahn make make you feel about the Olympic ideal?