Originally Published: February 28, 2006 4 a.m.
As soon as the curtain goes down on the Olympics, the talk turns to medal counting. Medals don't carry the life-and-death political implications they once did in the Cold War Era, but for those who count, America did OK 25 in all, the best ever in Olympics on foreign soil and second only to the tally of 34 in Salt Lake City in 2002.
What's more important to most people is the spirit of the games, the idea of well-trained, dedicated athletes who turn out and give their best.
In that department, America had plenty to be proud of, especially speedskater Joey Cheek, who won gold in the 500 meter and silver in the 1,000. Cheek donated his $40,000 bonus for winning to a charity for children trapped in war zones.
We also saw other displays of courage, class and commitment to the spirit, including Apolo Anton Ohno in his spectacular gold-medal charge in short-track speedskating 500 and his bronze efforts in the 1,000 and the 5,000 relays. Chad Hedrick won gold in speedskating 5,000, silver in the 10,000 and bronze in the 1,500.
He was right to call teammate Shani Davis for his failure to step up in an early relay, but then the dissension between him and Davis, who won gold in the 1,000 and silver in the 1,500, degenerated into a highly distracting catfight worthy of a couple of high-society doyennes.
Also dragging down the otherwise high tone of the Games were Bode Miller, whose goofing off and lack of commitment cost him all chances at a medal, and snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis, who blew her moment literally feet from winning a gold medal with a failed show-off move.
Incidents on both sides will stay in the memories of those who saw them, but the Cheeks and the Ohnos are the ones worth remembering.