Olympics had moments of brilliance plus a good host in Sarajevo
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In men's speed skating, while no one could approach Heiden's historic five gold medals at Lake Placid, Canada's Gaetan Boucher emerged as the top performer this time with golds in the 1,000 and 1,500 meter races and a bronze in the 500. Now he's contemplting sticking around for the 1988 Calgary games, by which time Canada will have its first outdoor speed skating oval.Skip to next paragraph
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In hockey, the fact that the Soviets came prepared to make amends for their loss at Lake Placid was no surprise. Mildly jolting, however, was the vanishing act of Team USA, which was hardly expected to duplicate 1980, but was thought to have a chance for a medal.
Instead the United States was beaten by Canada and eventual silver medal winner Czechoslovakia in its first two games and was out of contention almost before things were under way.
The Soviets, meanwhile, skated circles around everybody else, raising the perennial questions about the inequities and hyprocrisy in the sport's eligibility code. The Russians are as professional as players from other countries declared ineligible before the Games because of brief stints in the National Hockey League. Sentiment is growing to remedy the double standards before 1988.
Another concern should probably be the rough play and flareups that too often marred the hockey competition.
If the hockey was at times too ''chippy,'' there was always the grace and beauty of figure skating to enjoy.
Torvill and Dean skated with arresting elgance and originality in copping Britain's only medal. And Hamilton and Sumners led what was probably the most glittering array of American skaters ever, with the brother-sister tandem of Kitty and Peter Carruthers winning a silver in the pairs competition; Judy Blumberg and Michael Siebert barely missing a bronze as they finished fourth in ice dancing; and 16-year-old Tiffany Chin skating spectacularly in both the short and long programs to pull herself from far back to also just miss a bronze while stamping herself as a top prospect for the women's gold four years from now in Calgary.
Alpine skiing produced a mixed bag of results, with many established stars absent from the awards podium while several new ones crashed the party - especially on the women's side.
Swiss teen-ager Michela Figini had already made enough of a splash on the World Cup circuit that the experts knew she was a contender, but her name was still new to the public when she won the downhill to become the youngest Alpine gold medalist in history. Meanwhile the other two women's winners - Armstrong in the GS and Italy's Paoletta Magoni in the slalom - were surprises to everybody, as was Olga Charvatova, who won a downhill bronze for Czechoslovakia's first-ever Alpine medal.
On the men's side things came out a bit more predictably. The Mahre twins were among the favorites, of course, while giant slalom winner Max Julen of Switzerland was also an expected contender, and Johnson, though little known until recently, had raced and trained so well in the last few weeks that he had become the man to beat by the time the downhill was run. Still, the names of the winners, except for that of Phil Mahre, were hardly of the household variety. And here too there were some surprises among the other medalists, topped by the most significant event of all to local fans - Jure Franko's giant slalom silver for Yugoslavia's first medal in any Winter Olympic sport.
Meanwhile such stars as America's Tamara McKinney, the reigning world cup champion, and Switzerland's Erika Hess and Pirmin Zurbriggen, two of the top skiers on the 1983-84 circuit, all went home empty-handed. The traditionally strong Austrian team also was far below par on the slopes, with Anton Steiner's bronze in the men's downhill the country's only Olympic keepsake.
If there was one event that epitomized the Yugoslavs' enthusiasm for the Games it was ski jumping, which drew one of the largest crowds in Olympic history to the 90-meter competition. Finland's Matti Nykannen didn't disappoint the cheering throng, either, practically soaring into tomorrow to win, with American Jeff Hastings just missing a rare US medal in the sport with a fourth-place finish.
Yes, the athletes gave Sarajevo plenty to relish, and the city reciprocated with what International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch called ''the best organized games in history.'' And perhaps the experience here has helped spark renewed interest elsewhere in hosting the Winter Games.
There was a time not long ago when basically no one wanted them. But now six communities have already thrown their ski hats into the ring for 1992 - Lillehammer, Norway; Falun, Sweden; Berchtesgaden, West Germany; Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy; Albertvill, France; and Sophia, Bulgaria. The IOC will make its final decision on the site two years from now.