An Austrian skier soaring sideways. A French skater doing fencing footwork. One U.S. hockey team capturing its medal, while another U.S. hockey team loses its mettle.
A Street paved with gold. Americans soaring to new Olympic heights. And Salt Lake City's first Olympic spotlight while the world watches.And all with a strong Japanese flavor.
These are among the highlights and images that linger from the 18th Nagano Winter Olympics. Following is a day-by-day glance at some of the memorable events and experiences of the Nagano Games:
Saturday, Feb. 7
Oh, the irony of it all. The first featured athlete at Nagano's mid-morning opening ceremonies is Akebono, an American-born grand champion in sumo wrestling, which is far from being an Olympic event or a winter sport.
Before performing sumo's dohyo-iri ring-purification ritual at the Nagano stadium, Akebono asks about the availability of Olympic pins - but where's he going to put them? The sumo wrestlers are only girded around the waist by a braided ceremonial rope despite the sub-freezing temperatures at the opening program. "Ten minutes of cold," says Akebono, "a lifetime of memory."
Other highlights from a reserved, near-reverent opening ceremony: the energetic children performers, the pillar raising, the athletes' entrance, the worldwide choir and the elevation of former silver-medal skater Midori Ido - dressed as an ancient Japanese princess - to light the Olympic flame.
Sunday, Feb. 8
Russian cross country skier Olga Danilova is the first gold medalist of the Nagano Olympics, with the top honor in the women's 15-kilometer classical event being the first of two golds she'll eventually claim. However, she has another set of doubles on her mind - her twin 2-year-old sons - and breaks down when asked about them. Twin golds and twin sons - any more multiples in the future? "These two will keep me busy for the rest of my life," Danilova says.
Canada's Ross Rebagliati claims the Games' second gold, in the men's snowboarding giant slalom. Rebagliati's medal is temporarily withdrawn the following day when mandatory drug samples test positive for marijuana.
And the men's downhill - traditionally one of the Winter Olympics' premier events and scheduled to be televised live in the United States - is the first of many alpine events to be postponed throughout the Nagano Games.
Monday, Feb. 9
Germany's Georg Hackl captures an unprecedented third consecutive gold medal in the men's singles luge - and he earned a protest to bootie. The American and Canadian squads file a unsuccessful protest that Hackl used a specialized footware - referred to by many as "booties" - during the race that had been unavailable to the North Americans.
Tuesday, Feb. 10
In front of members of his country's Imperial family, Japan speed skater Hiroyasu Shimizu grabs the host nation's first Olympic gold, in the men's 500-meter event. "I don't do much image training, but three days before the race, I imagined standing in the winner's circle with the Kimigayo (national anthem) playing and the flag of Japan being raised," says the 23-year-old record holder. "Tears were streaming down my face. I kept this visual in my mind. Then it actually happened. Image and reality became one."
Shimizu adds that he hopes to be a model for children with inferiority complexes. "I have a handicap of being short, and I am also asthmatic. But regardless of height, it is still possible to beat taller athletes . . . as long as you have the conviction. I believe in where there is a will, there is a way. I hope to give that dream to the children."
Wednesday, Feb. 11
On a rare beautiful day for skiing, attention turns to the slopes - particularly for the Americans, who finally break a four-day medal drought with a pair of golds. Jonny Moseley claims the first with a rousing first-place performance in the men's moguls finals. Then Picabo Street - the aggressive downhiller with a athletic personality to match her tiger-head helmet - sneaks an unexpected gold in the women's super-G and collects her hardware from Frances Jean-Claude Killy, an IOC committee member and Olympic ski legend himself.
Japan's Tae Satoya captures the hearts of her countrymen with a surprising gold in the women's moguls. She then incurs the wrath of much of the nation after forgetting to remove her cap during the playing of the Japanese national anthem during medal ceremonies later that night.
Thursday, Feb. 12
The United States adds a pair of bronze medals in the halfpipe events, but the day's biggest news is in the other snowboard event held previously. Rebagliati has his gold medal restored by the IOC, which realizes its current policy discourages marijuana use - like alcohol - but not restrict it like other drugs, illegal substances and some over-the-counter cold medicine.
"I won the medal, and it was the best moment of my life," says Rebagliati. "I learned it was taken away from me, and it was the worst moment. The medal remained in my front pocket. Officially, it was taken away from me, but I wanted to know it was close to me."
Friday, Feb. 13
Hockey's big boys - the National Hockey League's superstars - make their first foray into Olympic competition, and Team USA falls to defending Olympic champion Sweden. Meanwhile, American captures its first-ever luge medals with a silver-and-bronze finish in the men's doubles.
Five days and several postponements after it was originally scheduled, the men's downhill provides two memorable images - soaring Frenchman Jean-Luc Cretier, who screams his way to the gold medal; and Austrian favorite Hermann Maier, who skyrockets horizontally off the course and hits first on his neck and back before catapulting through crash fences. Maier not only walks away, but he competes in subsequent Nagano events.
Cretier, however, does not return following his golden performance. "I can't believe it at the moment, although I am sure will later." Cretier believes it enough to be satisfied and withdraws later from the men's super-G, reportedly to spend the rest of his time at the Olympics partying in Nagano.
Saturday, Feb. 14
France's Philippe Candeloro wows the crowd with his bronze-medal interpretation of muskateer D'Artagnan - complete with sword play, fencing footwork and swash-buckling maneuvers - in the free program of the men's singles figure skating.
Russia's Ilia Kulik skates a smooth program to be the first men's gold medalist to win in his inaugural Olympic appearance. Canada's Elvis Strojko is second while hindered by a recurring groin injury, while five-time U.S. national champion Todd Eldredge finishes one place away from a medal.
Sunday, Feb. 15
Denmark loses in the gold-medal game in the women's curling, but the four-member team is hailed as heroes back home. The silver is Denmark's first-ever Winter Olympics medal, despite the incorrect notion is its a winter-sports haven similar to Scandinavian peers Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
Monday, Feb. 16
Already with a handful of national records and a number of Top 10 finishes, the young and aspiring American speed skating squad clinches a medal - Chris Witty's bronze in the women's 1,500 meters. And Austria's Maier, who took one of the most unforgettable spills in the men's downhill three days earlier, wins the men's super-G on the same Happo'one slopes.
But the event of day - and of the Olympics so far - is the U.S.-Canada matchup in men's hockey, with the rosters filled with the likes of Gretzky, Hull, Roy, Richter, Lindross, Mondano, Sakic and more. Team USA misses its power-play chances early, and Team Canada sets the tone with an opportunistic offensive attack in the 4-1 victory.
Tuesday, Feb. 17
The United States claims the first-ever women's hockey gold medal after defeating archrival Canada 3-1. The opposing teams provided a picture of contrasts - American jubilation for the gold, Canadian sorrow for the silver.
"Interestingly enough, when they showed (Team USA forward) Cammi Granato's face on the big screen and the Olympic gold medal going around her neck, my feelings changed very quickly inside me," says Canada coach Shannon Miller. "And I had a feeling of joy going through my body because what I realized was that an Olympic gold medal is being hung around a female hockey player. And I couldn't believe the impact it had on me."
Wednesday, Feb. 18
Park City's Nikki Stone and fellow American Eric Bergoust sweep the gold in the women's and men's freestyle aerials finals. "I had doctors telling me a couple of years ago I would never even jump again," says Stone of a back injury two years earlier. "Coming out here and winning a gold medal, I proved them all wrong."
But the bigger news back home is the ousting of Team USA in the men's hockey quarterfinals, thanks to a 4-1 whipping by the Czech Republic. The Americans had entered the Olympics riding high expectations, fueled in part from U.S. beating Canada to win the 1996 World Cup of Hockey championship.
"Right now, it's not worth it," said U.S. center Mike Modano on the NHL break to allow its players to play in the Olympics. "We're going home with nothing."
Thursday, Feb. 19
Maier - the Austrian dubbed "The Herminator" captures his second alpine gold in the men's giant slalom. Also, U.S. speed skater Chris Witty - the world record holder in the women's 1,000-meter event - finishes second for a silver, her second medal of the Nagano Games.
Friday, Feb. 20
Men's hockey makes a pair of headlines - Team USA is taken to task after several players trash their living quarters at the Olympic Village before returning home to the U.S., while Team Canada has its gold-medal hopes derailed by an upset loss in the semifinals to the Czech Republic.
But the night belongs to the Games' featured event, the women's figure skating free program. Four months shy of her 16th birthday, Tara Lipinski becomes the youngest female gold medalist in Winter Olympics history by edging American counterpart Michelle Kwan for the first 1-2 U.S. finish in 42 years..
Saturday, Feb. 21
Missed medals are the North American norm, starting with Canada suffering its second men's loss in as many games - this time to Finland in the bronze-medal game..
Meanwhile, the U.S. bobsled team continues its snake-bit ways and misses a medal in the four-man event, meaning American's futility will have reached 46 years by the time of the 2002 Games. Brian Shimer's USA I starts the final heat in a three-way tie for the bronze and clocks the heat's fastest times nearly all the way down the rack.
However, Shimer falters down the stretch and the crew finishes with only the fourth-fastest time of the heat. USA I posts a three-heat aggregate time that is .02 of a second away from a bronze medal.
Bjorn Dahlie, the Norwegian cross-country skiing great, extended his Winter Olympics record by picking up his 12th medal in the last race of Nagano - a gold in the 50-kilometer. It was his record eighth gold medal, too.
Dahlie, who also owns four silver medals, collapsed in the snow after finishing his trek through the course in Hakuba. Dahlie's Nagano performance - three golds, one silver - put him two medals ahead of the old record-holder, Soviet cross-country skier Raisa Smetanina.
Sunday, Feb. 22
The athletic competition ends with the men's hockey gold-medal game, which should have featured high-octane offenses from the likes of Canada, the United States or Sweden. Instead, it's the Czech Republic nipping Russian 1-0.
The 18th Winter Olympics then officially conclude with the closing ceremonies, in which the Japanese reveal a more festive side than their start 15 days earlier. In addition to drums and dances, Nagano unleashes 5,000 handcrafted fireworks in an eight-minute barrage and at a $5 million cost.
And the torch gets passed to Salt Lake City, the host of the next games at the start of the next millennium. Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini doesn't drop the hefty Olympic flag, while the horses and stagecoach prove to be a big hit with the Japanese during the six-minute Utah segment. However, the red-rock butte float takes out a rack of speakers while making its exit . . . . perhaps an omen for four years down the road?