So pardon me for putting the Olympics on the back burner.But my interest got piqued Sunday and it's the same reason I was glued to my television four years ago. And that reason is a Great Neck figure skater with the last name of Hughes.Four years ago it was Sarah Hughes, who seemingly came from nowhere to win the Olympic gold, becoming America's sweetheart overnight. And now her younger sister Emily will have the same chance, albeit as a longer shot than Sarah was, to win the gold. An alternate for the U.S. Olympic team, the 17-year-old will compete in Turin, Italy, on the world's stage, because of skating megastar Michelle Kwan's groin injury.I've got a confession to make - I like to watch Olympic figure skating. It's one of my guilty pleasures, like enjoying listening to Kelly Clarkson. This coming from a guy who has video tapes of some of the best hockey fights from a decade ago.But I do like to watch Olympic figure skating. And it goes beyond the elegance and grace. It's the soap opera of it all.I was a bit too young to appreciate Dorothy Hamill or Peggy Fleming, but my first foray into the sport came in the 1994 Winter Games with Nancy Kerrigan and Tanya Harding.Could the drama get any better than that? Miss Goodie Two-shoes Kerrigan against the bad girl from across the tracks in Harding? And, of course, there was Jeff Gillooly's infamous clubbing of Kerrigan at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships with a metal baton.Harding won the competition, Kerrigan cries, "Why."Great TV.And how about the Olympics a month later? Ratings soared when Harding hit the ice, whining about her broken skate lace while Kerrigan captured the silver medal in Lillehammer, Norway.There was no such off-ice drama four years ago in Salt Lake City when Sarah Hughes took the ice, with all of Great Neck - really all of New York - in her corner.There were others who were favored, including Kwan and Sasha Cohen, but Hughes rallied. I remember watching her gold medal-winning program live on television. I can't tell the difference between a Triple Lutz and a Triple Salchow, but I remember feeling chills down my spine watching Hughes skate.Hughes was the girl next door, the girl just across the Queens border. She practiced at Parkwood Rink, where I've covered many high school hockey games.And now Emily is following in her sister's footsteps. The junior at Great Neck North High learned she'd be competing in the Olympics Saturday night. While Kwan tried to hold back tears at a press conference in Turin, several hours earlier the Hughes family tried to hold back their joy when they found out.They put on their best poker faces, left Daruma, a Japanese restaurant on Middle Neck Road home to the "Sarah Gold Roll" and headed back home to celebrate.A day later, Emily Hughes was on television, being interviewed during NBC's Olympic coverage while 20 or so inches of snow blanketed the area. On Monday she was in Syosset, practicing and preparing for her Turin departure, scheduled for Wednesday.Emily Hughes will take the ice in Turin Feb. 21 and is a long shot to medal. But once again Great Neck is abuzz, another Hughes is in the Olympics and I will be glued to the tube.Aren't the Olympics great?Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2006 Community News Group
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