Dick Button will not be in Sochi for these Olympic Winter Games, but that doesn’t mean the 84-year-old broadcaster won’t get the last word.
Button, the last man to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in figure skating, said he will be sitting on his couch with his dogs and some popcorn in his home tweeting all the way about the competition.
“I invite you all to join me,” Button said. “Of course, I will miss being in Sochi but I will be watching it with great interest.”
The ever-opinionated Button, who recently authored a book titled, “Push Dick’s Button,” can be found with the twitter handle @PushDicksButton, and no doubt will be spewing all sorts of insight, commentary and knowledge when it comes to skating competition in Sochi.
TeamUSA.org caught up with Button, who began his broadcasting career when the Winter Games were held in Squaw Valley, Calif., in 1960 and subsequently became a figure skating institution. Here are some of his thoughts he shared with us.
TeamUSA.org: During these Winter Games in Sochi, a team figure skating competition will be introduced. What are your thoughts about this event?
Button: Without seeing it, I can’t make predictions, but I know for me, it would’ve been another opportunity to skate. But the Olympics were not designed to be country against country, which the team event emphasizes.
TeamUSA.org: It would have been kind of neat to earn a third gold medal, though?
Button: Well, I gave my first Olympic gold medal to my mother, and I gave the second one to my father. I guess I would have given the third one to my dogs (That’s a joke).
TeamUSA.org: You make it very clear in your book that it is not a biography or a memoir, but rather a conversation. Can you tell us about the process of putting this book together, and was it a fun one?
Button: I had enormous pleasure doing this and it was relatively easy for me. The only thing I would’ve done differently if I were to do it again was that I should’ve made it twice as long! There is tons of stuff I could say.
TeamUSA.org: I guess we should wait for the second volume then.
Button (laugh): Oh gosh, I don’t think so. If I do another book I think I’d like to do a garden book.
TeamUSA.org: You are the last man to win back-to-back Olympic titles in skating. Yu-Na Kim of South Korea has a chance in Sochi to become the first woman to win consecutive titles since Katarina Witt did so in 1984 and 1988. What do you think of her chances in Sochi?
Button: I try not to predict who will win in figure skating. I have seen skaters who can rise to the occasion or wilt under the pressure. Once, I made a prediction about Michelle Kwan when she was competing in the (2000) world championships in Nice, France. She was in fourth place after the short program, and the mathematics which would have had have happened for her to win were complicated. She would have had to win the free skate and the others ahead of her after the short program would have had to end up in a particular order to allow Michelle Kwan to win. And, of course, that’s what ended up happening!
So I did expect all the moves would happen so I said something like, ‘I don’t think Michelle can win.’ She had heard I said this because her sister, Karen, was home watching on TV and telephoned her. After Michelle won, she came up to me and said, ‘Hi Dick. I hear you voted against me,’ which I hadn’t. So no, I have learned my lesson and I try not to make predictions.
But for Yu-Na Kim to win another gold medal she would have to skate flawlessly, which she usually does. She has marvelous jumps and marvelous consistency, but she has an ugly positioned free foot.
TeamUSA.org: Last month, you were in Boston, the city where you did much of your own training, for the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. First off, what were your thoughts on having the championships in Boston?
Button: It was wonderful. Boston is place where there is a true skating center with the Skating Club of Boston. The people there are very knowledgeable about skating and it really was a good place to host the nationals. I liked the enthusiasm of the audience.
TeamUSA.org: Twelve of the 13 U.S. Olympic gold medalists were in Boston (Evan Lysacek was unable to attend) and there was a special party for them to help send off the members of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team. Is there anyone in the Olympic gold medal club you were especially excited to see and as far as the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team goes, did you offer any of the skaters any advice for Sochi?
Button: I was very glad they brought all of the gold medalists there. I always enjoy seeing them. As for the advice question, I would have been delighted if any of the skaters had asked me for advice but they didn’t, and I think it’s better not to offer advice if it’s not asked for. Too many times you get so many opinions. Advice is good but you have to examine it and adjust it to fit your needs.
TeamUSA.org: What are your thoughts on the U.S. Olympic Team that will go to Sochi?
Button: I really admire all the ladies and that includes Mirai Nagasu who was not selected for the team (Nagasu, a 2010 Olympian, took the bronze medal at nationals but was not picked to go to Sochi; Polina Edmunds, Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner are representing Team USA in Sochi). I am not sorry it worked out the way it did; I am sorry there was not space for all four. The same for the men. Jeremy Abbott, Jason Brown and Max Aaron were all first rate. And (ice dancers) Meryl Davis and Charlie White, I think they are just marvelous. I am mesmerized by them. I’m a great fan of the entire U.S. team.
TeamUSA.org: But you are not a big fan of the scoring system, which was created in the aftermath of the judging scandal that rocked the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
Button: No, I am not. I really think they need to take the good and the bad out of the old and the new systems. With this judging system, there are just so many cookie-cutter programs, and we’re just seeing falls, endless falls.
TeamUSA.org: But you’re still excited to watch the competition in Sochi. Any final thoughts as the competition is about to begin?
Button: Check if the shoelaces are in and if the feet are pointed in forward catch-foot spins. I can tell you all the predictions. I will predict everything after the event is over. I’ll test my hindsight against your foresight any day. But I’m quite sure (the competition) will be very well done in Sochi.
Amy Rosewater is a freelance writer and editor for TeamUSA.org. A former sports reporter for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, she will be covering her fifth Olympic Games in Sochi. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.