CocaSoberania

The final week of the games

Nov
07

Queen

Canada’s team leader, Ken Read, called the ruling “obscene.” And Frechette, when asked in French whether she felt that she deserved the gold instead of the silver, laughed gently and replied, “Dans mon coeur (in my heart).” In Montreal, Frechette’s brother, 21-year-old Martin, declared: “She is better than a gold medallist. Here, in Quebec, she’s a queen.”

Other competitors also came away with less than they expected. Critchlow, the 23-year-old world-champion kayaker in the 500-m event, did not even make the finals in his specialty. “In the 500 m,” said the native of Nepean, Ont., an Ottawa suburb, “you go as hard as you can and die. That’s what happened: with 100 m to go, I just had no gas.”

Smith, the 24-year-old decathlete who finished second at last summer’s World Track and Field Championships in Tokyo, withdrew from his gruelling 10-part event after completing the first day’s competition in 21st place–the result of continued problems with a hamstring muscle that he pulled last May. “My whole first day was down, from the 100 m right on,” said the University of Toronto student. After watching the competition on TV in Smith’s home town of Kenora, Ont., his mother, Bernice, said: “I was feeling his pain in my stomach. We knew something had really gone wrong.” In the end, the decathlon crown went not to Smith or favored Dave Johnson of the United States, but to Czechoslovak Robert Zmelik. (more…)

A disputed Olympic medal

Nov
07

Synchro-swimming

By Aug. 5, as Frechette began the first portion of the finals in her event–the execution of four figures drawn from synchro-swimming’s repertoire of ballet-like movements–it was apparent that she had succeeded. On the first of the four, only American Babb-Sprague scored higher. Frechette would later describe the second, called an albatross spin, as “the best figure of my life.” At least four of the five judges, sitting in pulpit-like stands around the pool, plainly agreed: they punched scores of 9.2 or better into the small electronic keypads connected to the facility’s scoring computer.

Excited

But at the fifth judging position, there was consternation. Brazilian judge Ana Maria da Silveira had also rated Frechette’s figure highly: later, the swimmer’s coach, Julie Sauv*, said that da Silveira had told her that she intended to award a 9.7–but instead struck keys registering an 8.7. Almost instantly, it appears, she tried to activate a device intended to allow her to recall a mistyped score. Swiss judge Marlis Haeberlis, whose position was next to da Silveira’s, recounted: “She tried to correct it, and she couldn’t make that recall thing work. Finally, because she was all excited, she pushed several buttons.” (more…)

Unsinkable Sylvie Swimmer

Nov
07

Unsinkable Sylvie Swimmer

Frechette’s loss of the gold medal due to a judging error was one of several disappointments and frustrations experienced by Canadian athletes at the 1992 Summer Olympic games in Barcelona, Spain.

She swam

She would say later, “with all the emotion I had.” To the soft strains of a gently lyrical soundtrack, Montreal’s Sylvie Frechette, wearing virginal white, adorned only with a discreet touch of lace, glided through an expressive synchronized swimming program that at times seemed tinged with melancholy. The poignant mood was fitting for a woman who, in order to compete at all, had to shake off the shock of a lifetime: the suicide of her boyfriend, Sylvain Lake, on the eve of the Olympics. If anyone deserved a fair shake at the Barcelona Games themselves, it was surely Frechette. But although she outscored her sequined American rival, Kristen Babb-Sprague, in the final routine, she finished a fraction behind in the two-day event–the victim of a controversial judging error on the first day. Accepting her silver medal, the 25-year-old Frechette demonstrated the same grace under adversity that she did in the water. Said the swimmer: “There was a mistake, but that is part of my sport. I cannot change anything. I did my very best.” (more…)