Saturday, February 9, 2002
Park City, Utah The Olympic smile.
It's a fleeting moment that escapes most Olympians and stays with some others for a lifetime.
On Saturday, that smile was easy to see on the face of 21-year-old Shannon Bahrke, and also the face of Norway's Kari Traa.
Both skiers stood on the podium Saturday night with medals around their neck.
But if you wanted to see that same smile on the face of four-time Olympian Ann Battelle, you would have to look a little harder. The medal may have escaped her once again, but the smile of a champion hasn't.
Battelle has accomplished just about everything she can in the world of freestyle skiing.
She is a two-time World Cup champion, has won six U.S. National titles and won a gold and silver at the Goodwill Games.
Oh yeah, did I mention that she has made more trips to the Olympic games during her 10-year-career than any other U.S. freestyle skier.
Not too bad for a girl who took up freestyle skiing after graduating from college.
Unfortunately, Battelle's chances of winning an Olympic medal came to an end. She plans on retiring after this season.
Battelle will never have that medal around her neck, but on Saturday she stood as tall as any Olympic champion as she spoke to the media after her competition.
She may have even cracked a smile.
Battelle said she plans on enjoying the rest of the week with the pressures of competition behind her.
After this season she plans on enjoying the rest of her life after skiing.
Battelle said she would finish out the season, then head back home and start a new life with her new husband.
I couldn't help but think on Saturday, as I watched Shannon Bahrke run across the snow to share an emotional hug with her veteran teammate, that the torch has already been passed.
It's true that Battelle never won that coveted Olympic medal at the Olympics, but she leaves a legacy that will live on in her smile.