2006 Winter Olympic Games

Sasha Cohen
Sasha Cohen stands in first place, ahead of Russian favorite Irina Slutskaya by .03 points, after the ladies' short program. (Yuri Kadobnov - AFP/Getty Images)

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Tracee Hamilton
Washington Post Olympics Editor
Wednesday, February 22, 2006; 1:30 PM

U.S. figure skater Sasha Cohen, 21, claimed the best point total in the Olympic women's short program, 66.73, with the deciding free skate on Thursday. Russian Irina Slutskaya, the reigning world champion, sat just 0.03 of a point back with 66.70 and Japan's Shizuka Arakawa, the 2004 world champion, hung close with 66.02.

Full Coverage: Turin 2006

Washington Post Olympics Editor Tracee Hamilton was online Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 1:30 p.m. ET from Turin, Italy, to field your questions and comments about the events and athletes that comprise the Winter Olympic Games. (NOTE: The Post's Amy Shipley is no longer able to chat today, but check the live online schedule to see when she might be on later this week. Thank you.)

Read Hamilton's: la dolce vita (Post, Feb. 22)

Turin Handbook:

Who's There? Twenty-five hundred athletes, 650 referees and judges, 2,500 coaches and team officials, and 2,300 representatives from the International Olympic Committee, the various national Olympic committees and the sports federations. All of those people still won't outnumber the media members, all 10,000 of them. An additional 6,000 are guests of the various Olympic sponsors. One million spectators are expected, although ticket sales have been sluggish.

A day-by-day guide to the 2006 Winter Games

Photos: Winter Olympics: History

Tales From Turin:

An Olympic Journal by Dan Steinberg

The transcript follows.


Tracee Hamilton: Well, I apologize for not being Amy Shipley. Amy is at figure skating practice and then media availability (a very loose term here) and is having trouble with her Wi-Fi connection (not surprising here) so I am stepping into the breach, a la Emily Hughes, but without the blue dress and constant smile. Lucky me! Let's get started ...


Washington, D.C.: Hi Tracee (just noticed you're chatting, not Amy), You and your colleagues have done a FANTASTIC, truly first-rate job covering these games amidst the mud pits and cranes; I wish I could say the same for NBC! Now to my question: why is Sasha Cohen ahead by JUST A HAIR after her stunning performance last night? Everyone did really well, but were Irina's and Shizuka's programs that good, too, in your opinion? Sheesh. I'm starting to think Sasha should've changed her last name to "Cohenaya" or "Cohenova". Thanks!

Tracee Hamilton: Thanks for the kudos; it's much appreciated. I wish we could see the NBC coverage, just to know what you all are seeing, but then again, maybe it's better not to know.

I thought Sasha WAS better just by a hair last night, maybe a slightly bigger margin than .03 but I did think it was close. Slutskaya skates with such speed and energy and her program was really impressive. I did think Sasha was better, though. I honestly thought the overall level of skating last night was better than we've been in past Olympics.


Burke, Va.: Am I the only one who thinks Sasha Cohen got jobbed last night? She performed exactly the same technical elements as Irina Slutskya, but with style and penache. And got only .03 higher!

Tracee Hamilton: See previous questioner; you are not the only one.


Speed skating: Joey Cheek should be giving lessons to the team.

The more media Davis and Hedrick get, the better Joey Cheek looks.

Cheek has class, commitment, and the courage of his convictions. The more you hear of others on the team unable to manage even standard social graces, the more impressive he is. Here's to Joey Cheek, yet again.

Tracee Hamilton: So true. The best thing -- well, one of the great things -- about Joey Cheek is that he stays out of the feud. He congratulates them both, deflects questions and takes the high road ... somewhat of a lost art in our society. I know a lot of people are taking sides in the Shani/Chad thing but I don't think either of them is terribly admirable at this point.


Washington, D.C.: This whole speedskating this is annoying. Chad just needs to shut up. The fact is, he never really had a realistic chance at five gold medals. Yes, he is an excellent speedskater -- a world record holder -- but he had only ever competed in the 1000 meter five times before the Olympics, and never with an international field. With that kind of inexperience, you can't expect to win at the Olympics. And it's not like Shani hasn't shown his unwillingness to be a team player in the past, so Shani needs to just shut up too.

Tracee Hamilton: You know, I went back and pulled some clips of Chad Hedrick stories this morning, just to see how much of this was media and how much was him. His quotes about his own fabulousness... sorry, if you say them to a reporter, the reporter is going to report them. And he is a guy who really likes himself. And you are right, his times never suggested he could seriously win five gold medals. I'm not sure the U.S. would have won gold in the team pursuit WITH Shani. I think they would have medalled, probably, but not certainly. The behavior of the families -- Hedrick's won't clap for Shani's gold, Shani's mom dressing as a Netherlands fan -- is over the top as well.


Springfield, Va.: Why do news outlets in general (and The Post in specific) think that it's fair game to post the results of events on the front page of the Web site before they've aired? I understand the need for real time reporting, but as I've just had (another) night of ice skating ruined for me because I thought to peruse one of my favorite news sites before the events began I have to ask myself if it's really necessary to post the actual results on the front page?

Tracee Hamilton: We discussed this when the web and the Olympics first clashed oh so many years ago. It's not our business to save our readers from the news, and certainly not to keep you from spoiling your prime time viewing. I'd say the answer is for NBC to start showing the darn Olympics live but that's never going to happen. So for those who want mystery in their prime time report, you're going to have to avoid the Web site during the Games.


Columbia, Md.: Thanks for chatting today.

What's this about Sasha Cohen not practicing today? Isn't that a bit unusual, the day before a competition?

Tracee Hamilton: It's a little unusual. Sally Jenkins was down there and spoke to John Nicks and tells me that Sasha was up all night, because she was so excited, and didn't get to sleep until 8 a.m. or so, so she decided to skip practice. She'll have a short session in the morning and Nicks says she's more than ready.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Amy,

After watching Cohen and Slutskya skate, I found that Irina has very little presence on the ice. She looked to dull and uninspired. And I'm sorry to say this but wearing a pant suit doesn't compliment was almost like watching a man skate.

Tracee Hamilton: Hi, Washington. I really found Irina's program stirring and I LOVED her pantsuit; she has the body to pull it off, I thought. Which just goes to prove everyone has a different opinion. If they didn't, what would we chat about?


Bowie, Md.: Hi Tracee, my 12 year old cat is named "Bodie" and many people who meet him assume he was named for Bode Miller. He was actually named for a ghost town in California. Should I change his name to avoid the embarrassment he now suffers? He won't come out from under the bed.

Tracee Hamilton: Yes, I believe for Bodie's general well-being you should change his name. How about Joey, for Joey Cheek? Sounds a little like Bodie. (There is nothing sadder than an embarrassed cat.)


Reston, Va.: Great job with the coverage. Aside from the games themselves and a couple of bus incidents with Post reporters, how are the general logistics of the Olympics?

And doesn't Shanni Davis remind anyone of Mayor Williams?

Tracee Hamilton: I hadn't thought of Shani and the Mayor, but now that you mention it, yeah, a little bit.

The general logistics here ... eh. Not great. We have tried to keep the reporting on the media problems to a minimum because really, who cares? As long as they get the athletes to the venues on time we should just shut up. But these aren't the best-run Games by a long stretch.

U.S. just pulled the goalie for the final minutes of play.


Maryland: I am very frustrated with they NBC coverage of the Olympics last night. I wanted to watch the women's figure skating, but they showed 3 skaters then switched the coverage to bob sleigh and then speed skating, it was nearly 11:00 when they went back to figure skating. By that time I was tired (I have to get up at 3:30 AM, for work) and just went to bed, so I missed the figure skating, which I've been waiting to see this whole Olympics. I was very upset. Why do they do this?

Tracee Hamilton: I seriously can't answer this. I totally disagree with their Olympic packaging plan. I think it worked before the Internet, to a degree, but it doesn't work anymore. At 11 p.m. your time the event had been over for five hours. It's ridiculous but it's ratings. Until the ratings system is changed, I'm sure we're stuck with this. It's a shame. And why do ALL the networks move these games later and later? Who can stay up to watch them? Kids, I know, the demographic everyone wants. World Series, NBA Finals, even the Super Bowl. It's bad for deadlines, too. :) End of rant.


Reston, Va.: Can we now lump Bode Miller on the pre-Olympic hype machine mistake pile along with Dan and Dave and the 1998 Men's hockey team?

Tracee Hamilton: You bet. I will say that we discussed doing a big Bode Miller piece pre-Olympics, and I know a lot of papers put him on their special section covers, but I never felt real confident of him on an Olympic stage. And I'm glad we didn't.

And the U.S. loses to Finland.


Arlington, Va.: Who designs the medals?

Tracee Hamilton: You know, I knew the answer and forgot, but I believe it was an Italian. The hole in the center represents the piazza, the heart of an Italian city, and is also supposed to represent the heart of the athlete, beating through the hole.


Olympics Were On Last Night?: 2 Words - "American Idol" - (8 to 10 Eastern)

Tracee Hamilton: Don't tease me; I know! I'm going to be so lost when I get home.


Stone Ridge, Va.: I love your Marie-Reine Le Gougne (and Bouillabaise) diary, but what happens if The Post actually gets the chance to interview her? I mean, you are the Washington Post after all, you do have access to people like her?

Tracee Hamilton: I am reasonably certain that Marie-Reine will talk to us, or anybody else with an open notebook. She's not exactly Garbo. She is actually running for the presidence of the French figure skating federation. Seriously. This boggles my mind. So yes, we may have to interview her at some point but eh, so what? Sally has killed her numerous times anyway.


Silver Spring, Md.: I want to express my congratulations to the wonderful figure skating coverage provided by you, Sally Jenkins, Libby Copeland and Tracee Hamilton! Every article that mentions skating, even the tongue in cheek columns, catches my eye. I relish the coverage, have quite a few laughs over the columns. I also check you Web site and catch additional coverage including Wilmer.

As a native of the area, I grew up in the '40s and am now in my 60's. I could never find articles in the sports section about figure skating competitions. Interviews with the skaters were nonexistent, just the listing of winners.

I watched Wide World of Sports with Jim Mckay and saw the competition. Again, no coverage about the individual skaters, yet alone the sport itself. I was hungry for interviews, in-depth stories about the skaters and the sport--which was done with a Redskin player or a basketball player. Sports sections paid no attention to the figure skaters!!!

Thank you to your staff for the outstanding coverage on skating. I e-mail the Post articles to my skating buddies, who fit the demographics of figure skating fans and are often overlooked, around the US. Their local papers do not have the coverage as the Post does.

Unfortunately it took a "whack" to draw attention to the sport.

My complaint is about NBC's handling of the skating coverage, deliberately dividing coverage into 3 segments to keep the viewers up until the late night. It means recording the competition for later viewing. I miss the music selection is not shown with the name and country.

NBC gathered a good group of commentaries. Sandy Bezic, Tracy Wilson and good ol' Dick offer good, intelligent, articulate critiques, explaining the good and weak points. I could listen to their commentaries at every skating event. This trio is tops! Scott Hamilton needs some calming down.

As a devoted fan, THANK YOU for your coverage.

Tracee Hamilton: You are really kind and I didn't post this just to see my name in the chat, but to add to the comment about Dick Button. That is the thing I miss most about not seeing the NBC coverage. He is always a riot. And I'll always have a soft spot for Scott Hamilton. Met him in Albertville in 1992, he was there for CBS. I had just bought a "Scott Hamilton pin" on the street and he saw me wearing it and was amazed. I tried to give it to him but he ran out to the vendor and got one of his own. Nicest guy...


St. Louis, Ms.: To all the posters who don't think Slutskaya has presence, remember, there is much that you cannot see on television.

Slutskaya is fast. Very fast. And she jumps very high. Her bracket into the double axel was phenomenal.

Cohen, who was dazzling last night, had a flawed entry on the lutz combination, and a bobble on the the landing on the double axel. She also skates with considerable less speed than Slustkaya.

The skater who was jobbed was Fumie Suguri, who was flawless.

I'm excited about the veritable tie. The judges got it right.

Tracee Hamilton: Agree on the speed and the jumps. She was incredible.


Oakland, Md.: Do Jayhawks sneakers capture a lot of attention in Torino?

KU is comin' on, case you haven't heard.

Tracee Hamilton: Oh, I've heard. Believe me. BIG game Saturday. My poor Jayhawk sneaks; they are wearing out and the company went out of business. So if ANYONE knows of a place that makes college logo'd sneakers, PLEASE let me know. I love these things.

Hey, aren't you supposed to be on Rennie's chat?


For Maryland: I too could not watch the figure skating so late. It's not the same, but on they have some of the programs - cohen, slutskaya, arakawa and the other americans. It's not much but at least you can see the top 3...

Tracee Hamilton: that is a great point. I replayed the ice dancing original program splats several times.


Reston, Va.: Have you had your Cheese!Of!The!Day! yet? Tales From Turin: An Olympic Journal By Dan Steinberg

Tracee Hamilton: No Dan, no cheese. I think Dan is cross-country today and will probably bring back many tales. And maybe some cheese as well.


Arlington, Va.: Enough with Chad and Shani. Enough with the media for hyping this "drama". I think we have established that they are both egotistical jerks, so everyone should just drop it. Everyone together now: "More Joey Cheek! More Joey Cheek!"

Tracee Hamilton: Just have to post this. Lot of sentiment for this attitude...


Long Beach, Calif.: Should the Olympics wise up and reformat the next Olympics telecast to be more like American Idol? Can't Paula Abdul judge ice-skating? Can't we have a few judges with bad attitudes? Whatta ya think?

Tracee Hamilton: I think those are splendid ideas. I think NBC should come up with some fresh ways of doing this. This is the problem of having a monopoly on this thing. They paid for it, it's their show, but really... If these ratings don't wake them up, nothing will. On the other hand, in four years the Olympics will be LIVE for NBC viewers and I predict the ratings will be back up. We'll see...


Chesapeake Beach, Md.: Thank god the battle of the two jerks is over (Shani and Chad).

Besides the 'Grand' figure skating finale and hockey medals, what other events are upcoming that are expected to be close, interesting, or (ugh) controversial?

Tracee Hamilton: I think the main thing we're watching for now (now that the hockey team is done) is Bode skiing on Saturday. And Ligety. If the U.S. is shut out again, that pretty much closes the book on the "Best in the World." So that should be good.

Men's short-track 500 is always fun. Short distance, fast, lots of banging. And I like Ohno.

Four-man bobsled should be good. Always like that.

It's slim pickin's the last few days.


St. Louis, Mis.: Can I use your Scott Hamilton pin for my voodoo doll?

I just wish he would zip it. He talks over the skaters and clearly doesn't understand the new judging system. Plus, he has prematurely crowned U.S. skaters as Olympic champions, jinxing them. Thank goodness NBC brought in Dick Button to explain the glories of a good layback position.

Tracee Hamilton: Sure! See, this is the advantage of not watching NBC. I don't have to learn to hate Scotty.


Arlington, Va.: The gold medals, from afar, look like a plated DVD or CD with a slightly bigger hole in the middle. They are not very attractive.

Tracee Hamilton: No, they don't seem to be. I hear that a lot.

(but no one has given them back yet.)


Shani's mom: I thought it was great that she was turning into a netherlands fan. I took it as they had the biggest presence, were rooting for her son, and she was just getting into the spirit of things. I don't know if she bought the hat or it was handed to her, but if someone handed me a hat, I'd put it on too.

Tracee Hamilton: I get the motivation, it's just like both sides are trying to incite the other. Can't they just SKATE?


Washington, D.C.: Why hasn't The Post covered the story that is headlines throughout Canada about the Norway coach helping Canada's cross country ski team eventhough it cost Norway a medal? Something like this is far more important to teach to young sports fans than Shani v. Chad

Tracee Hamilton: OK, I haven't seen anything about this on the wires and I haven't scanned the Canadian media, so thanks for the tip. It does sound interesting.


Bethesda, Md.: Chad Hedrick is the biggest jerk I have ever seen. Who gives him the authority over Shani David as he claimed that Davis had to discuss with him?

Tracee Hamilton: Posting without comment.


Washington, D.C.: Hello, Can you comment on what the television coverage of the Olympics in Italy is like? I know that you can't see what NBC is presenting, but I have to say it is absolutely awful. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to watch figure skating and then only see half an hour intervals between 8-11:30pm. I think NBC would get many more viewers if they provided a set schedule of events i.e. speed skating from 8-9 p.m. and then figure skating from 9-10 p.m., etc.

Tracee Hamilton: Dan Steinberg watched some of the coverage. Here they have Eurosport and it's pretty good. I watched it in Athens more than here. It's live live live and they hop from event to event, but you're seeing it live so the hopping is cool. And the Euros, of course, cover these events year-round so they are very knowledgeable. As far as I know, NBC is the only network that packages the Games. I sure hope so.


Alexandria, Va.: Well, the men's ice hockey team is out with its fourth straight one-goal loss, and it NEVER led in any of those four games. An unsatisfying result, but at least they tried hard and appeared to care (unlike you know who, whose name rhymes with "Schmode"). They weren't a favorite to win a medal, so in all fairness, they met expectations.

Tracee Hamilton: Exactly right. I am happy that they continue to deflect the "we were tired when we got here" excuse. Very smart of them not to try to use that. There are many better teams than them here and really, if not for the weak pool they might not have made it to the quarters.


More on speed skating: Chad Hedrick keeps saying that Shani should have competed for the team and the US. One might suggest to Chad that in fact Shani skated for a rather larger team than that, as the first black athlete to win an individual gold in the Winter Olympics. That it has taken this long is sad, that Shani did it is grand. And he skated for the US in doing it.

Tracee Hamilton: Very true. One thing that baffles me is that, even if Chad doesn't personally like the guy, and that's his right, surely he can at least try to understand how hard it must have been for Shani to take up this sport and have some respect for that.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Tracee - Yesterday, Liz Clarke said that you were going to try and get an NBC producer on and field questions. Is that still a possibility?

I have had the opportunity to watch much of the CBC's daily live coverage. You really do feel like you are there at the games as they go from live event to live event. Just today, the CBC has shown live the Women's Cross Country Sprint and the Women's 1500 meter speed skating (where Canada has won two gold medals) also shown both runs of the women's slalom.

I recognize the economics of why NBC shows everything on tape in prime time, but I think if more Americans could see how the CBC broadcasts an Olympics, would realize what they are really missing with live vs. taped coverage.

I would really love to talk to an NBC producer to tell them how some of us like the CBC so much better. We have asked NBC to participate in a live online discussion about Olympics coverage, and we are waiting for a response to this request.

Tracee Hamilton: Oh, the CBC is the best! That is the greatest thing about the 2010 Olympics; CBC all the time! If all of America could see the CBC for a day, there would be an open revolt against the Peacock.

See the note below re NBC. We'll keep trying...


Alexandria, Va.: Enrico Fabrizio. Please more coverage including photos, we want details, he is a fabulous story!!!

Tracee Hamilton: Yes, he sadly got overshaded by those other two dopes. I'll have to check to see if he skates again. His victory lap was great; I hope NBC showed it. He's just collapse in someone's arms, then skate a bit, then collapse again. Very sweet to see.

The start list for the men's 10,000 hasn't been posted but I'd be surprised if he skates that distance. But we'll find out. (That's the only men's event left.)


Kiss and Make Up: Steinberg reports that Wise was the wiseguy who set off Chad and Shani - true? Tales From Turin: An Olympic Journal by Dan Steinberg

Tracee Hamilton: I think Wise, after listening to them both talk about how they weren't feuding, then asked them why don't they make up? And then they went at it again.


Oakton, Va.: Regarding the Official Turin Olympics Web site - Why is "...the USA "not part of the authorized countries to purchase products on our Olympicstore Web site"? (quote from the Turin Olympicstore Customer Service email response to my email on 2/21/2006). They have much better merchandise than US Olympics and the NBC Olympics site. I had no such issue with the last Australian site at their Summer games. Thanks.

Tracee Hamilton: I didn't know this, but I'm assuming it's because they want you to shop via the USOC. Maybe it's an arrangement. I know that last Ryder Cup, I couldn't order the Euro golf shirt from the United States; I could only order the U.S. shirt (which was hideous). Other than that, I couldn't say. Sorry you can't get your gear. Tomorrow is my big shopping day; what do you want; we are probably neighbors. (kidding)


Overland Park, Kan.: Tracee,

Here's a story from Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star about the Canada-Norway cross-country incident, written on Sunday:

It was hard to find, but Olympic spirit exists

Tracee Hamilton: Ah, thanks. LOVE Joe Posnanski.


CBC rocks!: I was in Canada during the Salt Lake Games. CBS's coverage was great. Wall-to-wall curling. And as if that wasn't enough, I could change the channel and get wall-to-wall curling in French!

Tracee Hamilton: I lived in Detroit for 10 years and never knew had great I had it. And I learned to curl there.


Arlington, Va.: One of my main complaints with NBC coverage is how they tease, tease, tease by splitting up coverage of events. Here's a few skaters, here's bobsled heat 3, here's a few speedskating heats. I understand why they do it but it is still annoying. Also, my big complaint is they rarely announce which piece of music a skater is using (though they did seem to for the ice dancing finals). As a fan of both music and skating I find that highly annoying. So what did Irina Slutskaya skate to last night?

Tracee Hamilton: Totentaz, says the Info2006 computer.


Arlington, Va.: Just to chime in on the Chad, Shani and Joey debate. I find all of them disgraceful. Chad and Shani for their arguments (though would any of this be happening if Shani wasn't black and Chad wasn't some bigot from Texas?). Also, Joey ... good lord, ever the peacemaker. He acts more like a girl than a man, a la Johnny Weir - BTW, great piece by your counterparts at the Post today!

Tracee Hamilton: Oh, Libby's piece on shopping with Johnny, you mean? Yes, great story. He's a hoot. But I can't be hatin' on Joey. I haven't seen any girlish behavior by him, whatever that is.


Chevy Chase: I can't figure out the Irina Slutskaya love. So many people I know involved with figure skating dislike her for so many reasons. her skating is only so-so: big jumps aren't the only thing that goes into a program. There's things like choreography and actually relating to your music. And skating with proper extension and good carriage. Irina has none of those. Her sweet-as-can-be attitude with the American press and her I-loatha-America attitude with the Russian press isn't exactly endearing.

Tracee Hamilton: And another opinion on Irina.


Fairfax, Va.: The Post's coverage of the Games (both print and on-line) has really been wonderful. Thanks!

Am wondering if you can clear up a puzzle for me. In both biathlon and cross country skiing, competitors have been suspended for several days for elevated hemoglobin levels. Officials take pains to note that this is a "health" issue, not one of suspicion of doping, and that the suspensions are for the safety of the athletes. Since altitude is given as a possible cause, why haven't competitors in other mountain sports (snowboarding, downhill, luge, etc) been tested/suspended? Or have they been tested, but they don't have symptoms? Are the biathletes/cross-country skiers actually doping? And what is the medical problem associated with elevated hemoglobin levels that would make it so dangerous to compete? Just curious, since it seems like this particular problem is only affecting certain types of athletes.

Tracee Hamilton: Boy, I wish Amy were here; this is in her wheelhouse. But here goes. The reason they test for hemoglobin is that is CAN be elevated by illegal means to help ENDURANCE. I believe the reasoning is that the snowboarders, skiers, etc., in high altitude don't need to boost endurance, therefore are not candidates to try this. They are basically screening those most likely to do it and yes, the emphasize it's for their own protection, which is partially true. If that was confused, ask Amy tomorrow on her chat. She is our drug czar but she's at the short track now and Apolo is skating soon so I don't want to call her.


NW, Washington, D.C.: I was really frustrated last night at NBC's coverage of the games. I already knew Cohen had won but I wanted to see her performance anyway. So I stayed glued to my tv from 8pm till 10:30 and then NBC said her performance will be coming up "much later."

I had to watch bob sleighing in between.

I felt so annoyed and manipulated. Plus, I had to go to sleep. I missed Sasha's performance while wasting a night on the sofa and am SO DONE with these Olympics!

Tracee Hamilton: I'd let my feelings be known to NBC. Attn. Dick Ebersol.


Gaithersburg, Md.: Totentaz was also to be Michelle Kwan's short program music, incidently.

Tracee Hamilton: We have the best-informed skating readers at the Post! Exhibit A.


Raleigh, NC : Hi, I have one wild guess:

Cohen will not get the gold medal. Her best would be 2nd or 3rd place, but no gold for her. 2 reasons:

1. She is under tremendous pressure, and from her past experience, she usually does not perform well under such pressure;

2. the sequence of skaters. Cohen will perform 2nd, and the Japanese and Russian will perform later. That is an advantage.

Tracee Hamilton: The order is not great for Sasha, as it was last night. I do think she's under pressure and I do think she could easily get silver or bronze. But I DON'T think she'll fold. She seems to be a different skater from those days. Can't put my finger on it but I'm not the only one who's noticed it. But, we'll see!


McLean, Va.: Please bear with me for asking what may be a dumb question, but what is the big deal about the pins? Every time the Olympics come around, we get stories (including Mike Wise's little tale today) about pin trading craziness. What is so special about them? Why do people go gaga over them?

Tracee Hamilton: It's a good question. Some people do, some don't. Mike is great at it and gets great pins. I will confess, I used to work at it and I've lost interest. For one thing, the darn things are hard to do much with. I will someday clean out what I have a keep a few. For instance, I have a little white skating boot that looks like the Japanese flag. It was the team pin when Midori Ito was on the squad. It's very cool. But 90 pct. of them are just pins.


Olympics apparel: try roots, they have some nice stuff,

Tracee Hamilton: Always try Roots. The best.

And the Russians? They have the worst this year. Ugliest uniforms and team gear I have ever seen. Hideous.


Arlington, Va.: In practices, as Irina been doing any triple-triple combos? It seems she may need to up her difficulty and her start values to hold of Sasha's better program component scores (assuming Sasha makes no mistakes).

Tracee Hamilton: Argh, this is an Amy question. She was there today and I clearly was not. Check with her tomorrow; she'll know all the practice scoopage.


New Carrollton, Md.: Tracee,

By Day 6 or 7 of the Winter Olympics your column was what I read first in the Sports Page. What can we do to get you to write more for the Sports Section? I know you have other important responsibilities, but your column is LOL!

Mark la dolce vita (Post, Feb. 22)

Tracee Hamilton: Address your remarks to Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, AME-Sports, Washington Post.

Seriously, it is very kind of you to say. I write it in between putting out a hundred fires and editing nearly every Oly story in the section, so you know I love doing it or I wouldn't. Thanks!


Lansing, Mich.: Do you think NBC created the Shani Davis/Chad Hedrick drama? It seems like the two of them were trying to avoid dissing each other, but finally broke after being asked about it so many times.

And, if so, is it fair of the media to stir stuff up like this?

Tracee Hamilton: I really don't. There was a LOT of tension before the Olympics began. The world stage merely exacerbated it. Not that NBC wouldn't do such a thing, but in this case, I don't think so.


Greensboro, N.C.: Do you know which schools, if any, have offered admission to Joey Cheek?

Tracee Hamilton: No, and it's a good question. We'll have to pursue that. He's having a presser tomorrow with Koss; maybe he'll tell us!


NBC Olympic Feedback: I don't know if they really read it or not, but the official NBC Olympics feedback email is

Tracee Hamilton: good tip, thanks!


Question authority?: Who gives Chad authority over Shani? Um, Chad is the head of the team.

Tracee Hamilton: Not sure what "head of the team" is. They don't have a captain or anything. It would be nice if some coaches had put a stop to it all long ago, but ...


Who are the most outstanding athletes?: I don't mean who is winning the most medals, but who has or is garnering the most respect from the folks in Turin, athletes/coaches/media alike? Eg, the Norwegian coach helping the Canadian team, Joey Cheek - those who are making the news for being terrific PEOPLE in the Games. Who are they, and how can we learn more about them?

Tracee Hamilton: There are usually more feel-good stories, aren't there? Really haven't been many this time around. That's why Joey Cheek is getting the attention, I think. You may have named the only two. The Italian athletes, of course, are being feted by their countryman. The Italian curling guy that Dan and Barry both wrote about certainly comes away from this as a clear winner. But in terms of the stories a la Dahlie helping the skier who fell, the father running out of the stands to support his son ... this Olympics has had a dearth of those kinds of stories. Sorry to say.


Tracee Hamilton: I'm out of time and my reporters are needing some attention -- who doesn't? -- so thanks for your patience with my lack of being Amy, and join her chat tomorrow, please. Thanks for all the questions!


Washington, D.C.: Sluskaya love: she's charming, she's a great athlete whose jumps are huge, and she's got one of those gut-wrenching, tear-jerker eastern bloc life stories (see: Oksana Baiul the orphan, Yevgeny Plushenko separated from parents for years of training, etc.).

That said, I think Cohen's performance was superior (okay, I'm also a huge Sasha fan), the judges chose not to reward her, and so we're in a three-way dead heat.

Tracee Hamilton: Another Irina/Sasha point.


Thanks!: Hey,

These chats are a terrific way to integrate technology into the newspaper business. These are fun, allow for questions and exchanges (perhaps even a story idea or two to emerge) and have more up-to-the-minute info.

Thanks for doing them!

Tracee Hamilton: They are fun for us as well! Good way to know what the readers are thinking!

And now I'm really done...

_______________________ Washington Post staff writer Amy Shipley will be online Thursday, Feb. 23, at 11 a.m. ET to field your questions and comments about the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. Feel free to submit your questions or comments now . Thank you.


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