James Lawton: Even at the Olympics, everyone stopped as Woods spoke on far side of continent

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The Independent Online

Everything stopped here at the XXI Winter Olympics because suddenly any shift in the medal table seemed rather less momentous than the baring of the soul of arguably still the world's most compelling sportsman.

Tiger Woods, in an age of carefully sculpted public relations, didn't produce a mere apology down in Florida. He did something that was the best of hope of all who still believed, despite the morass of his circumstances, that he was capable of facing his life not as it was once painted but as what it has become.

That was what he was most clear about, his problem, his guilt, his betrayals and his need to re-make himself.

If there was any man in the world who could not identify, at least in some small way, with the issues Woods was facing in the most public way he had reason indeed to congratulate himself on an impeccable journey through his life.

Most affecting was the admission of the enduring nature of the challenge that faces him, the absolute acceptance that it was he and not a prying world who had shaped the terms by which he must live the rest of his life as someone worthy of respect that reaches deeper than mere admiration for an astonishingly profound gift to play the kind of golf that had never been seen before.

Some may say that when you get right down to it Tiger was merely benefiting, finally, from some superb advice from his advisers and those few friends he has been speaking with during his rehabilitation stint in an addiction clinic.

This certainly was the opinion of one of the many talking heads brought into local TV studios by the busload, but then what could really be expected of a man whose life has been so savagely and mockingly dissected for so long?

It was, surely, clear evidence that he was facing up to the scale of his problem and that he had stripped down any sense that he might still be nursing even some vague, angry notion that somehow he was the victim rather than the author of his own difficulties.

You can find the most skilled speechwriter in the world and still fall short of making a convincing case that this is indeed your position.

Woods went beyond this when he expanded his confessional to include a resolve to show more respect not only to his wife and his family, and all the values that his late father had tried to instill in him down the years, but also the game which had provided him with so much.

If you wanted to pick out a pivotal phrase it probably resided in the statement that shaping his behaviour was a belief that, after working so hard, he was entitled to his pleasures and the indulgence of many temptations. Now he said he rejected such a way of thinking, such selfishness.

Another phrase, of course, hovered over the proceedings. It was the one that declares talk is cheap, especially when you are a corner you have created for yourself. But then Woods, plainly, accepts that there is no easy route back to the comforts, and prestige, of his old situation.

He was returning to the clinic, where therapy and self-analysis would continue, and then, he said, he would return, at an unspecified time, to the game he had once so brilliantly enhanced.

He said he looked forward to a return to the company of his fellow professionals, however cool their initial reception. Yes, he knew, he had ground to make up in all corners of his life.

He spoke for around 13 minutes and, but for a request for some privacy for his innocent wife and children, there was not a hint of anything but self-reproach.

He talked about his failure to impose limits upon himself and when he said that he might have been speaking for so many who hurtle along the fast lane of celebrity, not least England's former football captain, John Terry.

However many birdies Woods scored, though, in his Florida confessional there was no chance that he would finish anywhere near the top of everybody's leader board. Some complained about his refusal to field questions, others pointed out that the very timing of his statement so hungrily consumed by every major TV network was a blow aimed with some malice at the golf tournament of the sponsors who were among the first to drop him.

Yet these criticisms were, surely, not central to the position taken by a man whose name has been in tatters since he drove out from his house and crashed in the early morning when most Americans were sleeping off their Thanksgiving celebrations.

Tiger Woods faced the world and said, without equivocation, that he had let every body down. He had flouted his gifts and abused all those he had reason to respect and to love. He said he would try to rebuild his life, attempt to regain balance, and set about doing something that was for so long was the easiest of his challenges.

Some time he will again return to the golf course. And what will he bring? Some of his old, sublime game, no doubt, but also a sense of a man who has looked at himself in a way he has never done before. Short of blood, it is hard know what more he could put into his golf bag.

Amy Williams deserves a medal for bravery

We had to wait here until the small hours of the English morning to know the fate of Britain's intrepid skeleton challengers Amy Williams and Shelley Rudman but something was clear beyond any measurement of gold, silver or bronze.

Whatever they achieved on their last two runs, already they had shown nerve and competitive character of the highest order.

Williams had the lead and Rudman, the unheralded silver medallist of Turin four years ago, had fought back into contention after admitting her discomforts on the track that had claimed the life of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritisvili.

That tragedy was a scandal of official complacency which will inevitably linger down the years. But what has followed has reminded us that the personal discipline and the courage of the lugers, the skeleton riders and the bobsledders are not only vital and thrilling ingredients in the Winter Olympics but also an enduring testament to the quality of the men and women who follow their instinct to go down the ice.

From time to time there has been a smart-arsed tendency to jeer at crazy yodelling lugers from obscure alpine locations.

Here, we have learned that is a practice that must stop, not least in the interests of national pride.

Crosby's winner keeps Canadian party going

It is Sidney Crosby, who rescued the nation from what surely would have proved quite a serious trauma in the small hours of yesterday morning.

Crosby is said to be the best Canadian hockey player since the great Wayne Gretzky. The 22-year-old from Nova Scotia paid something of a deposit on such a mortgage of expectation when he won the shoot-out against Switzerland, coolly sliding the puck between the legs of a goaltender who had produced Alp-sized resistance in a 2-2 draw that included five minutes of excruciating tension.

It was a vital stroke for both the man and his people.

Crosby came into the Olympics saddled with the slogan he contributed to a sponsors' advertising campaign. It declared: "We own the game."

This week it was more as though he had extended a lease agreement, but it was still huge relief to the embattled organisers of these accident-prone games who are now countering a barrage of foreign criticism with the claim that Vancouver's street parties are outstripping anything seen in Olympic history.

Crosby maintained the laughter and hubris in the streets. The Order of Canada may already be in the works.

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