Tuesday, February 17, 1998
Magic moment for bobsledders
Who would come down the long disco ramp first? Who would be the first to get their gold medals hung around their necks by Prince Albert of Monaco? Whose flag would be run up the highest pole in the centre? Whose anthem would be played first?
The answer to all of the above was Canada.
Pierre Lueders of Edmonton and Dave MacEachern of Charlottetown, got the full-meal deal for their gold medals.
Gunther Huber of Italy had a gold medal hung around his neck, too, and he stood on the same top level of the podium as the Canadians. But they had to take seconds on everything.
Sunday, Canada and Italy, incredibly, had tied to 1/100th of a second in the two-man bob.
"They told us it was alphabetical,'' said MacEachern. "Canada is ahead of Italy. I'm sure glad they decided to do what they did because it really made us feel like we'd won a gold medal, not a silver.''
It made it the most magical, memorable moment it could be for the two Canadians who had a complete contrast in emotions as the flag went up and O Canada was played.
TEARS WERE FLOWING
Lueders had fun with it. MacEachern allowed his tears to flow freely.
"Whooo!'' shouted Lueders after Prince Albert, himself a bobsledder and a friend of the Canadians, hung the gold around the Edmontonian's neck first.
MacEachern went down into a catcher's crouch to have his gold slung over his neck.
"I wanted to be able to look him in the eye,'' he said. "I hope it didn't look too silly.''
Because athletes who compete in indoor events are given their medals on-site, only snowboarder Ross Rebagliati had experienced the medal presentation in downtown Nagano before in these Olympics.
"Wow, that was too good,'' said MacEachern, his eyes still teary.
"It wasn't until we were on deck, watching the ceremony for the cross-country skiers, that it hit me, really hit me, what has happened to us.''
Lueders said he had the same feeling a few moments later as they experienced the long walk on the ramp through the cheering crowd, hearing the shouts of their names, including their nicknames from friends, the entire bobsled team and other Canadian athletes, who were in the crowd.
"For me, this was the first time it sank in. I actually have this thing now.''
Lueders didn't once look at his medal.
"I went to the IOC Olympic Museum in Lausanne in July and I saw the medals there. I stared at this medal for a long time that day so I could close my eyes and see it every night when I went to bed.''
For Lueders the second-best part of the entire experience was the fact it was Prince Albert who had the honor of presenting the medal.
"I couldn't think of a better person to hang it over my neck than him. He's done so much for our sport.''
MacEachern said it was the segment just after that moment that he enjoyed best. The flag. The anthem.
"I was OK for the first 15 seconds, then they put that video of our race on ...''
Lueders interrupted him. "I didn't see that.''
MacEachern said he didn't even fight what happened next.
"I just let 'em come,'' he said of the tears. "I knew I was going to have tears in my eyes. I knew I wasn't going to be able to stop them. Why try?''
Lueders had a big grin on his lantern jaw.
"I just thought it was fun,'' he said.
For Lueders the absolute best moment came after they'd left the stage and headed to the mixed zone where he hugged his coach, Hans Hildebrandt, and hung the gold around the neck of the old Swiss bobsledder.
"He's a two-time world champion,'' said Lueders of the man who took the title in '77 in two-man and in '87 in four-man. "But he never won an Olympic gold medal. Now he's won one and I wanted him to have a moment with it around his neck
"He didn't want me to do it, but he had no choice. He's done so much for me. This is his gold medal as much as it is mine.''
'I THANK HIM FOR THAT MOMENT'
The old bobber had a camera with him and made sure he had a picture of himself with the medal.
"This is his, not mine,'' he said, choking with emotion. "He deserves it, not me. But I never had an Olympic medal around my neck. I thank him for that moment. It meant so much.''