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A Children's Book in the Making

We all complain that t.v.'s presentation of the Olympics is long on commercials, longer on contrived stories, and short on actual competition. But sometimes, for drama, the tales leading up to the events are beating the struggle for the gold.

At least this seems to be true in women's figure skating, the crown jewel of the winter games.

Michelle Kwan withdrew on Saturday. Drama enough.

Should she have bailed earlier? should she have persevered through pain?

Anyway, Emily Hughes, the teenager who'd have been in Italy for the opening ceremonies if Ms. Kwan hadn't been given a medical bye in the pre-Olympic competition, would get her shot after all. Cue the violins.

Except that the New York area, where Hughes lives, was buried under a couple of feet of snow, and Emily couldn't get out of her driveway.

"It's more difficult that you think," her father reported, delighting anybody who's ever lifted a shovel. "We'll get her there. I promise."

Fine, but what about skates? Well, turns out Emily had been breaking in a new pair during practice, but for the Olympics she'd go back to the old, comfortable ones.

Anybody else see a children's book in this? Skater who didn't think she'd be going to the Olympics cheers on her shoveling dad, then grabs her sad, old discarded boots, which, shined to a glow, cheer up immediately. Skater and skates smile engagingly at each other...right and left boot gush in unison, "Oh, I just knew you wouldn't leave us behind!" and together Emily and her happy boots stun the world.

And maybe they do. Why not? "I think I've been training hard," Emily said on Monday, while still wondering exactly how she was going to get to the games. And what the heck? Emily's sister won a gold medal four years ago in Salt Lake City. Which brings up the ever-popular sibling rivalry theme for the aforementioned children's best-seller.

I don't mean to trivialize the actual competition that will begin on Tuesday, after Emily Hughes has had about fifteen minutes to practice in Italy. Hughes and Sasha Cohen and Kimmie Meissner are all dedicated and superbly trained athletes, as are the competitors from the rest of the skating world. But can what happens on the ice match the late gift of Emily's big chance, dad's promise to shovel out that driveway and get her there, and the saga of the old, reliable boots?

Stay tuned.

This program aired on February 18, 2006. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield has been the host of Only A Game since the program began in 1993.

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