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Thread: Did Olympic gold change their lives?

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Question Did Olympic gold change their lives?

    Leading up to the Salt Lake City Olympics, Kristi Yamaguchi made the comment that whoever wins the gold medal, his or her life would be changed forever -- unless it was Michelle Kwan, who was "already as famous as it is possibly to be in figure skating."

    Certainly, this was true in the past. In 1976 Dorothy Hamill said, I'll either win the gold and have a career with Ice Capades (she later bought the show), or get silver and go back to secretarial school. Skaters like Katarina Witt, Victor Petrenko, Oksana Baiul and Torville and Dean gained a lot of opportunities that might otherwise have been closed to them. Scott Hamilton and Kristi herself said that life just wouldn't have been the same without that medal in their pockets.

    But I don't think that Sarah Hughes' life would have turned out much different in the long run if she had won silver or bronze at Salt Lake City. I don't think Tara's career would have changed much. With a silver instead of a gold she still would have had professional opportunities for endorsements and touring with SOI, etc.

    What about Alexei Yagudin (an immensely popular performer with or without a medal), Sale and Pelletiere or Berezhnaya and Sikharudlidze? Did the Olympic gold medal "change the lives" of Anasinna and Peiserat?

    Mathman

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    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    it's different in N. America for N. American skaters than it is for European skaters... Katia Gordeeva mentioned several times in her book "My Sergei" that the N. American skaters get paid/offered more than teh other skaters. Because they are the ones that ultimately sell tickets to the common person...

    Most definately I think Scott Hamilton, Dorothy Hamil, Brian Boitano, and Kristi Yamaguchi made skating more popular in America and therefore made it possible for more opportunities for skaters to skate... regardless of their medal's color

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    Forum translator Ptichka's Avatar
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    Sarah Hughes is a seperate story; she controlled the situation, instead of others deciding for her if she was worthy of this or that deal.

    Anissina and Peizerat are actually an interesting case. Peizerat was dead set on going into business and quitting skating. I think it was "a little extra" that the Olympic gold gave that made him stay (as for Anissina, I always felt bad for her thinking that Peizerat would quit - she would have been in a foreign country without a profession).

    Yagudin, Kulik, Tara -- well, I think their lives would have been different because I don't think they would have gone pro when they did had they gotten silver.

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    Lovin' the Kween ... Now and Forever
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    This is an interesting question Mathman. Even with Michelle's popularity and earning abilities before then, I would imagine a gold would have put her way over the top. Even without an OGM, she has had many opportunities usually afforded to Olympic champions only.
    I would also guess that both pairs winners in SLC ultimately benefited by all the media coverage of their event. I would think they are all more popular now, than if it had been just one of them winning with no controversy.
    I don't know about Tara ... now we hear that her hip was bothering her even then, so who knows if she would have been able to continue as an eligible skater. You're probaby right that she would have gone on to SOI anyway.
    I doubt Sarah's life would have been any different. I think school was always what she wanted to do, win or lose in SLC. It might be that in later years we will see more of the effect of the OGM with her.

    It's fun to think about, but I guess we'll never know for sure.

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    Custom Title IDLERACER's Avatar
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    One thing is for certain. When you win the gold, you never have to worry about unemployment for the rest of your life. Even if you can't find any work with a traveling ice show of some sort, somewhere, there will always be a rink happy to have you on staff as a teacher/coach. For instance, out here at the Healthsouth Training Center, Irina Rodnina teaches classes about four days a week. Whether or not these same opportunities would be open to silver or bronze medalists as well, is subject to debate.

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    I think that the Olympic gold medal probably changes everyone's life in some sort of way-just some more than others-and some in more obvious ways.

    Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano, Dorothy Hamill, Kristi Yamaguchi are the closest figure skating has to household names. I think it is their gold medals and the ability to 'connect' with the public.

    Kurt Browning, Torvill & Dean, Katerina Witt, Katia Gordeeva and Oksana Bauil are exceptions to the rule of non-US firgure skaters not being very well known by the general public. Again it is not just the Olyympic Gold(Browning has never won one) but also a more of a "story" and "personality" reason.

    Even skaters who are not household names-their lives still change by winning medals. They get invited to do major tours-where they can make a very nice living.

    I think B/S and S/P's popularity has increased somewhat because of SLC. I think that if there was no second gold-B&S would not be very well known by the casual skating fan.

    Anissina & Peizerat are popular in France-having done game shows, charity fashion shows and more.

    In Russia, Evgeni Plushenko, B/S and Lobacheva & Averbukh are 'household' names over there. However-besides B/S none of them have won an Olympic Gold-so again I think it is something more than just winning the OLYGM

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    I think that an Olympic gold changes the life of especially foreign skaters in the sense that it gives them opportunities they would not otherwise have. On the other hand it is no guarantee that this skater becomes a big star. The rest depends on if a skater has talent to go forward from the Olympic gold on the ice, how this person handles the media and is able to keep up the fandom.

    Some do all that exceptionally well and some just fail in some parts and will fade away gradually. The skaters who have good advisors and also have the sense to listen to professionals, will succeed.
    Last edited by Jaana; 05-17-2004 at 05:20 AM.

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    Keeper of Michelle's Nose berthes ghost's Avatar
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    I think that it most certainly changes your life, even if in only small ways.

    If Sarah had won silver, or bronze or even come in 4th, she probably still would have gone to school, but it would have been all different. Not as many of her co-students would know who she was and she wouldn't be giving so many interviews about what it's like trying to be "just Sarah" at Yale, and she wouldn't be having discussions with her parents on which celebrity events to turn down, and I doubt that there would be as many posts here at GSF about "did she look better in the red dress she wore to the Gramies or the floral one she wore to the BAFTAS?" etc...

    Failure was never an option for Tara, so "what if Tara didn't win?" is right up there with "what if the sun never existed" in my book.

    I said it before and I'll say it again (and get flamed for it again too probably. ) : The Oly gold didn't cause Oksana's family life or shape her way of dealing with life's problems. If she hadn't of won, she just would have crashed a Toyota into a tree instead of a Mercedes, and thrown Diva fits over at "Toy Story on Ice" rather than COI. It just gave her more money and more media exposure, it didn't change who she was.

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    Keeper of Michelle's Nose berthes ghost's Avatar
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    Skaters like Katarina Witt, Victor Petrenko, Oksana Baiul and Torville and Dean gained a lot of opportunities that might otherwise have been closed to them. Scott Hamilton and Kristi herself said that life just wouldn't have been the same without that medal in their pockets.
    I just wanted to say that a famous pro career is almost more dependant on being a good freeskater than it is being an Oly champ. All of the people you listed are famous for their free skating.

    Janet Lynn and Toller Cranton are 2 examples of bronze medalist who went on to long brilliant pro careers because of their free skating skills.

    Jeannette Altwegg.

    Who?

    She won the 1952 Olys despite coming in 4th in the LP, which was won by US's Virgina Baxter who finished 5th overall. Altwegg took the bronze in 48 with a 6th place finish in the LP.

    Although she is heralded as the undisputed queen of figures, sometimes I think that Trixi Schuba would be all but forgotten if she hadn't competed against Janet Lynn.

    Sonja and Peggy many have excelled at figures, but it was thier free skating that made them icons, while Altwegg is forgotten.

    I'm sure that winning the Olys changed her life in some way, but since no one ever talks or writes about her, we don't know to what extent it did.

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    Whether a skater wins any medal at all, the career in skating is limited. Many fans say So and So should turn Pro because of age. That would give the skater an additional two years before fading into Skater's Pasture and turning Pro does not guarantee a non-gold medalist a career. there are much more skaters than just the stars.

    Although there are many ancilliary careers connected to figure skating, most of these require talent or expertise. How many skater's have that? A career change means studying another field. would the skater have the determination to work at that?

    Figure Skating has an intimate fan base. It is not a large fan base, i.e., it is not filling an arena for more than one-two nights. A good show, a circus, a hockey game could fill the arena for more than one night. so the Pro skater must get used to one-night stands. Not an easy life and how well can the star put up with it and moreso how long can the chorus skater keep their bodies in shape to go beyond 5 years of one-night stand?

    I congratulate Kristi for her endurance. I wonder how well the chorus skater at 35 or 55 is doing?

    Joe

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  11. #11
    Keeper of Michelle's Nose berthes ghost's Avatar
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    As an Olympic champion, Jeannette Altwegg was offered large sums of money to turn professional and perform in ice shows. Instead she retired from skating, moved to Switzerland and took a low-salary job working with war orphans.

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    Tripping on the Podium
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    Kulik

    Interesting...but even those winners whom some posters do not include in the Big Bucks category feel that their lives are changed.

    In a TV interview this past season, Ilia Kulik was asked about his gold medal winning moment and said (and I believe this is the quote) "it made my life." And I'm sure it did - all the choices are different with that wonderful bit of jewelry around your neck. It is a distinction and an achievement that is rare and permanent. It must change the winners lives in many ways that have nothing to do with their bank accounts.

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    I've always wondered about the emotional effect of winning. Imagine, you've had this one great dream your entire life. That dream becomes so real, it takes on a life force of it's own. You are by nature competitive and driven. You make huge sacrifices for that gold medal. You push yourself as hard as you can. You want this so much, you will suffer agony for it. Plus, you love that adrenaline rush. It makes you feel alive. Then, you win.

    For this next part, I admit to loving to play armchair psychologist. However this is all just my opinion.

    What do you do then? Is that OGM really enough to replace the dream? This is what makes me feel so awful for Yagudin. He definitely gives the impression of loving the fight more than the finish. I also think the reason Sarah seems so unaffected is because she never gave that dream much space. It was easier to fill her life with another dream. I actually think Michelle will find herself in a really good, peaceful resolution whether she wins gold or not. She's had a long time to really see beyond the glory. I have the feeling she will have taken the power from the dream and kept it for herself. She'll be ok no matter what happens.


    Ok, I am through playing Freud.

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    Salchows and Shimmies!!!
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    SusanBeth: Good armchair psychology!!! Similarly, I feel Tara still likely has unresolved feelings about her OGM because she had to live through the oddity (for the Olympics) of the silver medalist remaining the more popular of the two skaters and in essence, Michelle getting the "Dorothy Hamill package" as the beloved and more memorable skater ( no offense meant to Tara). While the OGM definitely changed Tara's life, its hard to say if it was for the better. She seemed to feel she constantly had to remind people of it ("no-one can take it away from me") and she ended up with her skating career pretty much ended because of injury. Now she is trying to start up an acting career that is sputtering at best. Time will only tell if it actually changed her life overall for the better.

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    I agree about Tara, but Tara had a lot of other factors in play too. Unlike Sarah, Tara was an only child and her parent's lives revolved around her. That lack of balance really can give a kid a skewed perspective. 15 is such a confusing time anyway. It's filled with questions that always seem earth- shattering to the kid. I can imagine her thinking- ''If this OGM is the most important thing that could happen, why doesn't everyone else see that too? Why doesn't this feel right?''

    Since she had such a short eligible career, I have to wonder if she truly understood what she wanted, before she got it and it was over. There she was with a shiny medal and a permanent injury. You have to wonder if all that, ''It was worth it'' talk was an effort to convince herself.

    I really think Tara deserves more credit than she gets. I've seen kids from easier circumstances burning up their brains and throwing their lives away. She's still out there trying. She deserves respect for that.

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