- The Washington Times - Friday, February 24, 2006

Nobles: Athletes of the U.S. Olympic team, who gave an otherwise lackluster Winter Games some great moments.

U.S. figure skater Sasha Cohen’s stumble into second place Thursday typified for many America’s 2006 Winter Games experience: Close but not quite. The numerous examples of poor sportsmanship also should sound some alarms at U.S. Olympic headquarters.

But it wasn’t all bad. Despite his bickering with teammate Chad Hedrick, speedskater Shani Davis’ individual gold — the first for a black athlete at the Winter Games — in the 1,000m was inspirational. Speedskater Joey Cheek proved what sportsmanship is all about by donating the prize money from his gold and silver medals to help children in Darfur. The ice dancing team of Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, who won a silver medal, broke a 30-year U.S. medal-drought. And by beating Great Britain for the bronze, the U.S. men’s curling team won its first-ever medal in the sport.

“Everybody was not expecting us to do well here,” said curler Shawn Rojeski after his team captured the bronze.

For giving the nation some rare moments of glory, these athletes of the U.S. Olympic team are the Nobles of the week.

Knaves: U.S. figure skater Johnny Weir, for being old enough to know better, but still immature enough not to care.

A three-time U.S. figure-skating champion, Weir, now 21, was just a little boy when the Soviet Union fell, so one feels obliged to grant him some leniency in his knowledge of the evil empire. Yet surely at some point the future Olympian learned about Stalin and the gulags, the Stasi and the Berlin Wall, to name but a few of the U.S.S.R.’s uglier legacies.

In an NBC profile last week, Weir was shown hanging out in a red sweatjacket bearing “CCCP” — the Cyrillic-alphabet initials for the U.S.S.R. Later, some photographers caught him warming up on the ice in the same outfit. Alas, vintage and retro are indeed part of the younger generation’s fashion sense these days — like Che Guevara T-shirts — and should not be taken too seriously. As Weir said, it’s “the same as wearing a Madonna T-shirt.”

But Weir is not just another naive youngster. As part of the U.S. Olympic team, when he humiliates himself in front of an international audience, he also humiliates his country. Weir says he wore it for luck, because he admires the Russians’ love of figure skating. Well, there’s another Olympic disappointment: Weir only placed fifth.

For embarrassing Americans everywhere and dishonoring the millions of Russian victims of Soviet tyranny, Johnny Weir is the Knave of the week.

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