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Three cheers for the 'other' team
Jonathan Pait
February 20, 2002

Last night was a cool night to watch the olympics. I guess every night in Salt Lake is cool, but it was especially cool at the bobsleigh venue.

The USA-2 team brought America its 21st medal of the Olympics. More than that they brought a little more of the Olympic ideal to an event that so often seems to be a celebrity circus.

It wasn't the fact that this was the first bobsleigh gold for America in 46 years. It wasn't the fact that Vonetta Flowers became the first African-American to win a gold medal in the winter Olympic games--though that was pretty, well, cool. It wasn't the color of Vonetta's skin--or the color of her partner's--that made the accomplishment special to me. It was the complete innocence of their attitudes and the more than skin deep class that they exhibited.

Maybe you have not been keeping up with women's bobsleighing going into these games. If you had been you would realize that USA-2 was the "other" team. They were the team that was along for the ride. USA-1 was the flashy team getting all the attention, appearing on late-night talk shows and attracting the advertising dollars. Driver Jill Brakken and "brakeman" (great to know there is still some politically incorrect terms out there--shouldn't it be "brakeperson") Vonetta Flowers quietly trained and showed up at the games in the shadow of the over the top Janine Racine and Gea Johnson.

It was then out of the shadows and into the spotlight. And you had to love what the light exposed. Jill seemed speechless so Vonetta did most of the talking. It wasn't so much what she said as how she said it. It was obvious these girls hurled down the shoot because they loved it. Winning the medal was a surprise.

"I never thought I'd be here. My goal was to be in the Summer Olympics, but God had another plan for me. I didn't know I was the first African-American to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics. I didn't think about it, but it's awesome." Vonetta ended the interview answering the question concerning her future plans. "My next goal is to start a family. I don't know if I'll come back to the sport."

Well, Johnny Flowers is a lucky guy and my guess is that Vonetta will be a gold medal mom. You go girls! Thanks for a great reminder of what the olympics are really all about.

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