Sochi dispatches: Olympic flame was a shooting gallery

Freestyle skier Adam Crook was the first winter athlete to compete for the British Virgin Islands in 30 years. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Freestyle skier Adam Crook was the first winter athlete to compete for the British Virgin Islands in 30 years.

It was clear right away that the mother trying to herd her small children into a family portrait pose was no ordinary visitor to the Olympic Park on a rainy Tuesday.

There was the silver medal hanging around her neck. There was the official USA medal stand jacket she was wearing (you know, those silver, Michelin-tire-man, whose-idea-was-this-design one.)

It was Noelle Pikus-Pace, silver medalist in the women’s skeleton, and she and her husband, Janson Pace, were trying to set up the perfect family shot with the Olympic flame in the background.


I happened to be trying to take the picture of the flame myself. It stood out so brightly against the gloomy backdrop of overcast sky we’ve been fortunate enough to avoid for most of the Olympics because the weather is so . . . but of course you know how the weather’s been here.

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“Excuse me, can you take our picture,” she said, and I happily obliged. Perhaps the family portrait will be on her Facebook or Twitter feed soon.

Incidentally, regarding the weather, I’ve been too busy to go to the beach, but you’ll be happy to know that Pikus-Pace and her family have visited the water while you’ve been buried in snow.

Pikus-Pace was not the only Olympic athlete enjoying the park in less-than-enjoyable weather.

I ran into some of Iran’s Olympic team, wandering across the bridge that connects the two halves of the park, taking selfies on the backdrop of the silver massif of the Main Olympic Store.


And some Slovenians were jumping over a rivulet of rainwater nearly the size of the Dravinija River. “Ostanite suhi,” they seemed to be shouting. Stay dry!



Delegation of one

Adam Crook’s first hints at becoming a Winter Olympian for the British Virgin Islands took the top brass there by surprise.

‘‘They thought I was talking about water skiing,’’ he said.

Nope. Freestyle skiing.


The 21-year-old became the first winter athlete to compete for his island country in 30 years (the late Errol Spence was a speedskater for the country at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics) when he took to the halfpipe Tuesday.

He finished 27th, though the result wasn’t as important as the mission.

Crook’s parents, Lin and Barney, met while working in Tortola, later moved back to Lin’s hometown in Wisconsin, and are now back in the islands.

To realize his dream, Adam had to move to Colorado for ski school. To fund his career, he cobbled together money from Olympic scholarship funds, sponsors, and, of course, his parents.

He and his folks essentially are the British Virgin Islands Ski Association, a federation they had to start so he could enter World Cup events Crook needed to make the Olympics.

At the Opening Ceremony, Adam was the flagbearer and the entire delegation of athletes for his country, which sends a much larger group — mostly in track and field — to the Summer Games.

Maybe in four years, he’ll have company.

‘‘It’s a huge honor to represent my home country here,’’ he said, ‘‘and put it back on the chart.’’



One more go?

Julia Mancuso is leaving the door more than open for a 2018 Winter Olympics run in Pyeongchang.

The 29-year-old four-time medal winner said after failing to finish a giant slalom qualifying run on Tuesday that being in Sochi makes her want to compete again in four years.

‘‘At the beginning of the season, I felt like there was no way I could come back,’’ the American said. ‘‘But after coming here, and having that magical day, it makes me want to keep going.’’

That magical run was her bronze finish in the women’s super-combined slalom.

‘‘I still want gold,’’ said Mancuso, who was born in Reno, and lives in nearby Squaw Valley, Calif. Mancuso won a gold in the 2006 Turin Games.

Mancuso said she’s been inspired, in part, by fellow American skier Bode Miller.

‘‘So who says what’s a good age?’’ Mancuso said. ‘‘You just have to go for it, and I love to ski, so we’ll see.’’



Yeah, mon

Members of the Jamaican bobsled team appeared at a press conference to talk about their appearance in the Sochi Games.

They have also filmed a faux-documentary with team sponsor Samsung, and a movie poster that hung behind them certainly caught some attention.

Jamaican sprinting superstar Usain Bolt is pictured in the corner with the quote, ‘‘I'll try out for Pyeongchang.’’

With 46-year-old pilot Winston Watts at the end of his Olympic career, the Jamaicans are looking for younger athletes to take over. Bolt would certainly spice up the roster and bring in the sponsorship dollars the team has had to scrounge for every year.

He’s probably just kidding. But Bolt has been a supporter of his countrymen, something that means a lot to the less-heralded athletes.

‘‘He’s the star of the show,’’ bobsledder Marvin Dixon says. ‘‘And the star of the world.

“To get him on board, man, it means a lot to us. More people follow us if Usain Bolt’s on board.’’