Monkey makes Olympic star turn

My daughter’s stuffed monkey needs an agent. Not like an “Entourage,” Ari Gold type of agent, but someone like Mikaela Shiffrin’s people. George says he could see himself on a Wheaties box. I can’t argue with that.

For me, the 2014 Olympic Winter Games are a series of snapshots, sound bites and impossibly unpredictable moments that years from now will make me smirk randomly while doing something completely unrelated, like consulting a doctor about my prostate.

Many of those moments involved Curious George, to whom this publication – in cahoots with my friend Chris Knight – committed ink, to officially link the fuzzy little dude and me together in Olympic history. It’s something I’m proud of.

Four days before the opening ceremony, George rode a train with Julia Mancuso to the set of the “Today” show. She won a historic fourth Olympic medal to open the games for alpine skiing. Julia now has double the Olympic alpine hardware of any woman in U.S. history. She made a point to have George take a picture wearing her bronze in the NBC studios.

Andrew Weibrecht hadn’t stood on a podium – in any race – since Vancouver. He made no more than two turns in the Olympic super-G when Bode Miller turned to me and said, “He’s going to beat me.” That night, “Warhorse” was trampled into the Mirror Lake snow in 20-foot letters. George took a snapshot with Andrew’s silver and had no problem posing for a photo while lounging on beanbags with Andrew and Bode at the medals plaza. It was Bode’s idea.

Ted Ligety entered the Olympics having won the last World Cup giant slalom by a second-and-a-half. In ski racing, that’s like crossing the line, and then making a sandwich while waiting for the guy to finish second. He was the Sochi favorite, then he won. In sport, it’s the hardest possible position to be in. Following Ted’s gold, we went to hang out with Bob Costas. Ted suggested Bob take a photo with Curious George.

Mikaela Shiffrin had been thinking about her “George photo” ever since meeting him in last October in Austria. Knowing her, she probably had a list of options written down in her notebook. At her opening Sochi press conference, she told an audience that included NBC, ESPN, The New York Times and others that she’d imagined the press conference. Gal is calculated. Moments before leaving for the medal ceremony, she asked to see George. I took a picture of her giving him a cookie. It was spontaneous and perfect.

Five medals. Five moments. One fuzzy little monkey. Sochi was unscripted and amazing. I was in it. But what is even more incredible than being front line to some of the greatest Olympic stories of Sochi?

That’s easy.

These athletes – Julia, Bode, Andrew, Ted, Mikaela and so many others – cared enough about me and my family to set up photographs with an ankle-height stuffed monkey for my 3-year-old daughter.

To me, that is why they are champions.

—-

Doug Haney lives in Saranac Lake and is the alpine skiing press officer for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.