By JAY R. NEILL
The Olympics occur every four years, yet somehow they manage to sneak up on me every time. I’m then stuck trying to sign my favorite performers after the Olympics have ended—just when these athletes are in high demand. This year I got a head start on collecting some great Olympic athletes and you’ve got almost two months to do the same.
The 2010 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XXI Olympic Winter Games or the 21st Winter Olympics, will be held February 12-28, 2010, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with some events held in the nearby resort town of Whistler.
There will be a mix of some favorite returning athletes and some new to the scene—all of them hoping to win the gold, along with the fame and endorsements that accompany it. Olympic athletes are amazing in that they have to time the peak of their athletic skills to coincide with the Olympic Games. Only the most skilled and fortunate compete in more than one Olympic game and there are some great returning performers coming to Vancouver, as well as some exciting new faces.
Collecting Olympic signatures provides a unique opportunity for both in person and through the mail signatures. There are expected to be more than 80 countries competing in the 21st Winter Olympics in the 86 events that have been announced. Let’s look at some of the most anticipated events and some of the most collectible signatures.
Men’s Speed Skating
The Pacific Coliseum in East Vancouver will be the host venue for all the short track speed skating events and Apolo Anton Ohno plans to make history there. In September, Ohno retained his U.S. Short Track Championship title and was nominated for the 2010 team. This five-time Olympic gold medalist is also one of only four Americans to win three medals in a single Olympic game. Adding another medal to his collection in 2010 would make him the most celebrated male American Winter Olympian ever and would tie Bonnie Blair—a great signer by the way—as the most decorated Winter Olympian in U.S. history. Since the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Ohno has been busy both on the track and off—winning the 2007 season of Dancing With The Stars.
Ohno won’t be lonely on his trip to Canada as former teammate Derek Parra—2002 Salt Lake City gold medalist—was selected as the U.S. speed skating national all-around coach for the upcoming 2010 Olympics. South Korea is a dominating force in short track. Lee Ho-Suk won 3 medals in Torino and is expected to be Ohno’s top competition in Vancouver. Ohno is a gracious in person signer and like Derrick Parra he signed through the mail for me in care of the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Ladies’ Figure Skating
Figure skating is always one of the most popular Winter Olympic events and Vancouver promises programs with increasing difficulty and athleticism. All of the figure skating events will also be held at the Pacific Coliseum, an ideal destination for autograph seekers. Yu-Na Kim of South Korea is the ladies’ 2009 World Figure Skating Champion, the 2009 Four Continents champion and she’s the favorite to win the gold. But, 2006 U.S. silver medalist Sasha Cohen is eyeing a comeback after a three year absence from competitive skating. After roles in commercials, television and films, such as Blades of Glory with Will Ferrell, she appears ready to compete for the gold that eluded her in Torino.
Former gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi praised Cohen saying, “Sasha is certainly the one to be carrying the future of American skaters. If she can get a hold on her consistency, if she can perform two solid programs for the competition, then she is almost unbeatable.” Rachael Flatt of the U.S., currently ranked seventh in the world and Joannie Rochette of Canada, ranked third, both figure to make strong bids for medal contention.
The U.S. men’s team is counting on Evan Lysacek to skate past No. 1 ranked Patrick Chan of Canada. The current figure skaters all tend to be excellent in person signers, but are much more elusive through the mail.
If you like ice dancing, partners Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto are looking to improve on their silver medal performance in 2006, and are great signers through the mail.
Both the men and women’s ice hockey teams look to make their mark in Canada, the proverbial home of hockey. The 2010 ice hockey tournaments will be staged in two venues, the Canada Hockey Place and the UBC Thunderbird Arena. Team Canada will no doubt count on their home ice advantage to secure medals. Sweden took the gold in 2006, and both Team Canada and Team USA had disappointing trips to Torino. But in 2010, Team USA is looking to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Lake Placid Miracle on Ice team with another win.
At 39, Mike Modano is the oldest member of the men’s hockey team and the 2010 games will mark his fourth consecutive appearance on behalf of the U.S. The Dallas Stars center is looking to add to his silver medal from the 2002 Salt Lake Games. The NHL will not hold an All-Star game in 2010 due to the number of players participating in the Olympics. Toronto Maple Leafs head coach, Ron Wilson was selected to lead Team USA. Modano and Wilson are willing in person signers and, while both sign through their respective NHL clubs, be careful—Modano sent back a secretarial.
Mark Johnson, a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team, is the head coach of the Women’s Team USA. Captain Natalie Darwitz will lead as they make their bid for Olympic immortality. Natalie Darwitz signs in care of her hockey development school and Mark Johnson is quick to sign through the mail, often including inscriptions such as “1980 Gold.”
In 1998 snowboarding was introduced as an Olympic sport and Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver will play host to the snowboarding events in 2010. With a youthful following from the X Games generation, popularity will grow as the sport and the fan base continue to mature. The U.S. has dominated the sport with a medal count of 14, far eclipsing Switzerland’s 8 medals since snowboarding’s Olympic inception. Seth Wescott, Hannah Teter and Shaun White are all looking to repeat their 2006 medal-winning performances.
Louie Vito was crowned the overall Chevy U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix series title champion in 2008. At only 5-foot-5-inches, Vito is expected get big air and big wins in 2010. Like Olympians Apolo Anton Ohno, Kristi Yamaguchi and Shawn Johnson, Vito has competed on Dancing With The Stars. Lindsey Jacobellis, who put her fall in Torino behind her, has continued to dominate the women’s field since 2006 and is the favorite to win the Women’s Snowboard Cross. With an intense mix of youth and experience, look for the U.S. team to continue to dominate in Vancouver.
I got hooked on skiing watching re-runs of ski jumper Vinko Bogataj rocketing into his out-of-control jump, tumbling and flipping as the announcer intoned “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Hoping for a little more thrill and a little less agony, alpine skiers will be competing in 2010 on the Dave Murray Downhill and Franz’s Run at Whistler Creekside.
Ted Ligety (Men’s Combined) and Julia Mancuso (Women’s Giant Slalom) were the only U.S. skiers to win medals in Torino as the Austrians dominated, winning14 of the 30 medals awarded. Ligety and Mancuso will be back in Vancouver, joined by Lindsey Vonn. In 2008 and 2009, Vonn won back-to-back overall World Cup championships. With 22 World Cup wins in four disciplines and two World Championship gold medals, she is the most successful American woman skier in World Cup history. Vonn competed in the 2002 and 2006 Games without a medal to show for it and the 2010 Olympics are likely to be her last opportunity to medal.
The PlayStation 2 game, Bode Miller Alpine Skiier, may have more thrills than Miller’s own upcoming appearance in Vancouver. Miller fell short in each of his 5 medal bids in 2006 and received negative press for appearing more interested in the party scene than the slopes. While Bode split from the U.S. team two years ago to train on his own, in September he announced plans to compete in the Vancouver games.
Get Them Before They’re Hot…
Everyone knows that it’s easier to sign an Olympic athlete before they win the gold, but how exactly are you supposed to do that? It requires patience and perseverance to locate addresses for these upcoming Olympians. Each sport has slightly different rules and methods for connecting with the athletes before, during and after the games.
Remember that these are predominately amateur athletes who may not have the resources for publicity photos, so enclose your own items for signing and don’t forget the SASE.
The US Olympic Training Center in Utah told Autograph that they will not handle the forwarding of mail, but the National Governing Body for U.S. Speed Skating claims they do forward mail up until the Olympics. The NGB suggested that mail sent after the Olympics should be sent to the personal manager of the skater. Addresses for the representatives of speed skaters are included in the Celebrity Address section starting on page 64. While the Olympic Training Center said they did not handle athletes’ mail, many collectors on StarTiger.com reported success with that address, so I’ve included both addresses for good measure.
National Governing Board
U.S. Speed Skating
Kearns, UT 84118
U.S. Olympic Training Center U.S.
One Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
The folks at the National Governing Body for U.S. Figure Skating were even more generous, promising they would forward any and all autograph requests sent before or after the Olympics. Send autograph requests to:
U.S. Figure Skating Association
c/o Scotty Bibb
20 First Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
Unlike Speed and Figure Skating, the NGB of Ice Hockey will not forward mail and advised that players be contacted at their NHL team address. Easy for the male hockey players, but there aren’t enough female hockey players to make up a national league and few of these women have generated enough buzz to appear in address databases like StarTiger. Addresses for the male hockey players are in the Celebrity Address section, but for the ladies—check the schedule of their meets on www.usahockey.com and try them at the venues.
Ski And Snowboarding
The NGB for Ski and Snowboarding said they rarely get autograph requests or fan mail for the athletes, but were willing to be a catchall for letters if you couldn’t find a better address. Contact athletes through their personal representation or mail to the USSA and they’ll do their best to forward it along.
U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association
1 Victory Lane
Park City, UT 84060
The Olympics provide an international stage on which athletes have the rare opportunity to compete—one moment every four years to show the world that that they are indeed the very best. Olympians are historically generous and accommodating when it comes to autograph collectors. This year, remember to go for your Sharpie before they go for the gold!