LILLEHAMMER, Norway — Wait a minute. Torvill and Dean? Didn’t we kiss them good-bye 10 years ago? Weren’t they skating with the Muppets last year? Isn’t Dean about as old as Regis Philbin? Isn’t Torvill in a reading group with Candice Bergen? Torvill and Dean? Competing? In these Olympics?
“Oh, yes,” I am told, “they’re back, and as good as ever.”
Amazing. It’s like Steve and Eydie with a hit record. I remember watching Torvill and Dean skate in Sarajevo, gyrating like two teens in heat to “Bolero.” They were big news, along with that cute East German, what’s her name again, Katarina . . . Katarina . . .
“Witt,” I am told.
Witt. Yes. Whatever happened to her?
“She’s here,” I am told.
As a commentator?
“As a competitor.”
Ha! Sure. And Brian Boitano is skating for America.
“Well, actually, he is.”
Wait a minute. Brian Boitano? Are these the 1994 Olympics, or have I just waked from a six-year nap? If so, I gotta tell you. I had the weirdest dream about these two figure skaters, one gets hit by this guy with a club, and —
“You’re not dreaming,” I am told.
Torvill and Dean? Witt? Boitano?
“Yes. Professionals are allowed to compete in these Olympics. Kurt Browning is skating again for Canada, and Viktor Petrenko from the USSR — which, as you know, is now Ukraine.”
You mean his country has disappeared, but he’s still here?
“Sort of,” I am told.
Skating. Go figure. Where are new faces of ’94?
What about speedskating? I’m sure there are hot new faces there, right? Frankly, it got pretty tiring last time, covering Bonnie Blair every five minutes. Who has taken her place?
“Nobody,” I am told. “She’s back.”
She’s back? What for? She won enough gold last time to make her own Krugerrands.
At least we don’t have to cover that poor kid, what’s his name, who lost his sister, then fell down, and he was crying, and he fell again, what’s his name. . . .
“Dan Jansen,” I am told.
Right. Dan Jansen. God. I thought that story would never end. Didn’t he skate at, like, three Olympics?
“Four,” I am told. “Counting this one.”
Right . . . wait. Counting this one?
What’s going on? Aren’t the Olympics about discovering fresh talent, the newest crop of apple-cheeked kids ready to bust a gut in things like biathlon, luge and cross-country- mogul-jumping-short-track-curling?
Each Olympics, when I arrive, I am pelted with information on the new prospects. I learn their names. I introduce myself during interviews.
Rarely do I say, “Long time, no see.”
I could say that every five minutes here in Lillehammer. Look. Up on the ski slalom. It’s that guy from Luxembourg, Marc Girardelli. Wasn’t he competing a decade ago, in Sarajevo? And Alberto Tomba. La Bomba. Hugging women and checking the mirror and talking the way James Brown used to talk on stage. Mmmmwah! Lemme kiss myself.
These Olympics are like some jubilee year, the swallows returning to Capistrano, the elephants going to their burial ground. Pros are in. Medalists are back.
Alberto Tomba? I mean, the first time he was marvelous. The second time he was fun. Now, what? He’s like this aging playboy, trying to squeeze into his Jordache jeans and impress the chicks. Forget Tonya — give us Sonja!
I knew this two-year thing was a bad idea. I’m still shaking the snow out of my boots from Albertville. Never before have the Winter Olympics been only two years apart. And I —
Wait a minute. Was that Eric Heiden I just saw?
“You’re hallucinating,” I am told.
Hmmm. Anyhow. This two-year thing is strange. More than half of our U.S team has been in the Olympics before. All but two of the biathletes have. All but four of the bobsled —
Hey. Wasn’t that Franz Klammer?
“Don’t be silly,” I am told.
Strange. Very strange. I have this feeling of deja vu. I am looking at Olympic athlete previews, and I remember writing their Olympic farewells. I am seeing favorites from the Reagan years, and they are listed as favorites again.
The Jamaican bobsledders. The Finnish ski jumpers. It is 1994 and 1992 and 1988 and 1984. It is not the Olympics, it’s a retrospective. Is Jim Craig in goal? Is Bill Johnson blitzing the downhill?
I am dazed. I am confused.
I am sitting down.
“What are you doing?” I am asked.
Waiting for the figure skating.
“Can’t wait to see Tonya and Nancy?”
Oh, they’re all right. But that Sonja Henie really turns me on.