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Grip on Sports: At the Olympics, a 10th of a second can change the next four years – and a lifetime

Driver Drazen Silic and Benedikt Nikpalj of Croatia take a curve during the two-man bobsled competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. (Wong Maye-E / Assosiated Press)
Driver Drazen Silic and Benedikt Nikpalj of Croatia take a curve during the two-man bobsled competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. (Wong Maye-E / Assosiated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • The best part of the Winter Olympics? That’s hard to say. It varies from person to person, taste to taste. The worst part, though, is easy. They come just once every four years. Read on.


• We must admit we haven’t watched all that much of this year’s Olympics from South Korea. It seems every time we turn it on, there is a sport that doesn’t move our meter much.

Which is sad, in a way, because who knows if we will be around for the next one? Four years is a long time.

The calendar weighs heavily on all the athletes at the Games, whether it be Summer or Winter. It showed in Lindsey Vonn’s face on Tuesday, as she finished her Olympic career in the downhill with a bronze medal.

It shows in every athlete who finishes lower than they expected, especially the ones who end up fourth, the worst spot in the Games.

Four years is a long time to sweat every day for a chance at glory that is denied.

No matter how often the TV networks show us, no matter how many stories are written about it, no matter what, we never understand how hard these athletes work to get to the Olympics. And for every one that does make it, hundreds come up short.

Just being there is fine for many. It’s a party that stretches over much of a month. Many enjoy that aspect of it. For others, it’s gold or bust. And when they bust, it hurts.

For the younger ones, there is hope for another chance. Not a given, but a hope. For those past their prime, there are just memories. And often “what-ifs.”

Success or failure stays with an Olympic athlete for years, sometimes forever. The gold medal is pretty heavy as it hangs around their neck, but probably not as heavy as dashed expectations.

Redemption, if it is possible, is a minimum of four years away.

And that’s both what’s great and awful about the Olympics.


WSU: It didn’t take long for Mike Leach to find a new strength and conditioning coach. And it’s a guy who is familiar with Pullman. … The baseball team rallied for a win in Arizona last night. … The Times’ Stefanie Loh runs down all the offseason football staff changes thus far. … Athlon has some thoughts on the Cougars’ newcomers. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the NFL draft is still a ways away, but that doesn’t stop people from projecting. … In basketball, there is a hierarchy in the Pac-12, and, despite what Bill Walton says, nine teams are not going to make the NCAA tournament. … Washington may, but it will take a hot streak. … USC and Colorado play tonight in Boulder with all eyes on the coaching boxes, as Andy Enfield and Tad Boyle don’t seem to like each other much. … A beat-up Utah team doesn’t want to look too far ahead. … UCLA would be awful without Aaron Holiday.

Gonzaga: If you loved the Battle in Seattle, you are going to have to wait even longer for it to return. As Jim Meehan points out in this story, GU’s showcase Puget Sound event has been dormant for a while and can’t return for years as Key Arena is remodeled. … The S-R’s newest feature, The Press Box podcast, features Gonzaga talk. … Around the WCC, the Zags finish the regular season at BYU, which hopes to get rolling again. Maybe a change in recruiting philosophy would help.

Chiefs: Everett is in first place in the WHL’s U.S. Division for a reason. That reason, defense, popped up last night in the Silvertips’ 4-1 win over Spokane in the Arena. Kevin Dudley has the game story and Colin Mulvany has a handful of photographs.

Preps: Post Falls’ boys team is headed to the Idaho 5A state tournament, with a chance to emulate the girls’ team title. Dave Nichols was at the game that sent the Trojans there, a 56-31 win over Coeur d’Alene last night. … Sam Dowd’s story is one of hope. It’s a story he’s lived since his days at Gonzaga Prep and now at Idaho State. Whitney Ogden caught up with Dowd, who has won a prestigious national award. … Former Pullman High football coach Ray Hobbs died recently at age 88. Peter Harriman has an obituary.

Mariners: If you are into looking down the road, it’s not a given Felix Hernandez will start the M’s opener. Who would you have, Hernandez or James Paxton?

Seahawks: The idea of putting the franchise tag on Sheldon Richardson would be an expensive one. … The return for Earl Thomas may not be all that high priced.


• The weather turns awfully cold and I begin to feel cruddy. Correlation? Maybe. Until later …

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