Columns & Blogs

'Speedy' could be savior for U.S. in Games

Red, white and bruised.

That about sums up the American Olympic experience in Turin, so far.

Enter Boise's Jeret Peterson, who escaped, however barely, the American curse Monday by qualifying for Thursday's freestyle aerials finals.

Thus, Peterson still has a chance to become the American face of these Games — one, that to this point, has been a face of dejection, showmanship and pain.

NBC loves "Speedy," booking him with Jay Leno and Katie Couric. If Peterson, among the favorites for gold Thursday, can fulfill those lofty expectations, he could also earn a spot on Donald Trump's reality show, "The Apprentice."

Right now, most of America's Olympic hopefuls have been fired.

Bombastic skier Bode Miller has been a bust, failing to medal in four events. He failed to finish in two of them.

Figure skater Michelle Kwan, chasing that elusive gold medal, left after one practice, too injured to continue. Eccentric skater Johnny Weir melted down in the middle of his long program. Then bolted the wait-and-cry area and blamed his poor performance on a late bus.

Snowboardcrosser Lindsey Jacobellis will never live down the hot-dogging that cost her a gold medal. Short-track skater Apolo Anton Ohno — the poster boy in Salt Lake City — has a bronze in Turin and hasn't lived up to his hype.

Instead of celebrating their gold medals, speedskaters Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick are involved in a petty feud.

Skier Lindsey Kildow, who battled back from a horrific fall in practice to compete in all of her events, should be a feel-good story. But Kildow ruined it by bashing the feel of these Olympics and the lack of Italian spectators at the events.

Even Peterson's aerial teammates, considered the deepest team in the field, butchered their moments. Peterson was the only one of the four to advance.

Good to see our Olympic athletes are no different than many Americans in other professional sports — loudmouths, crybabies, show-offs and me-first stars.

Red, white and boo-hoo.

The U.S. women's hockey team could only manage the bronze, after losing to Sweden for the first time in 26 meetings. The men's hockey team couldn't beat Latvia. Apparently, they've been taking lessons from the chemistry-lacking basketball Dream Teams.

Even the American success stories, what few there have been, haven't exactly captured the nation's imagination.

Perhaps it's because the U.S. keeps winning medals in events that seem particularly contrived.

Young Americans dominated the men's and women's snowboard halfpipe, an X Games carryover event, basically invented by young Americans bored with more traditional sports. That the event — and its dangerously cool cousin, snowboardcross — is now in the Olympics is a testament to skewing younger.

And the fact is there's nothing sexy about biathlon or cross country skiing.

There is about ice dancing.

That's why you'll be seeing a lot of Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto in the coming days. The pair — aesthetically pleasing, Belbin in particular — earned a silver medal in ice dancing Monday. But even that came with an asterisk. Belbin, a Canadian, didn't become a U.S. citizen until Dec. 31.

Think the timing had anything to do with her world-class athletic status? Yeah, me neither.

Or perhaps it's because NBC insists on treating the viewing audience like it's 1984, refusing to acknowledge that the events it is showing in prime time concluded hours ago and any interested observer already knows the results thanks to the Internet. The local NBC affiliate believes we're even dumber, casting finished events as still to be played out dramas, insisting that we tune in after NBC's prime-time coverage for results that were available hours ago.

Ironically, the network interrupted commercials for wrecks at Saturday's Daytona 500. But delaying results for hours at the Olympics is somehow acceptable.

So about all that's left to salvage some Team USA pride is Peterson and the women figure skaters, sans Kwan.

Peterson, a 2000 Timberline High grad, is just the kind of guy Americans — and NBC — can get behind. He's got a compelling story to tell . Peterson was molested as a child, his sister was killed by a drunk driver and, last summer, his roommate killed himself in front of Peterson.

Such travails haven't made Peterson bitter.

Instead, the outgoing skier has gained a freedom from fear.

He's a daredevil, in a constant duel with danger of all kinds. Skydiving, riding motorcycles, gambling and battling the laws of physics with his signature move, the death-defying "Hurricane." It's five twists and three flips in less than four seconds. It has the highest degree of difficulty in the sport. Peterson has said he will attempt the jump Thursday.

What's not to love?

Of course, in order for Peterson, who qualified eighth in Monday's opening round, to complete the perfect story line, he has to do what the other high-profile Americans have failed to do — deliver on the biggest stage.

The country is waiting.