You can read elsewhere about what happened at the cross-country races out at Whistler Olympic Park, and who won and who lost and whatnot. I was concerned with answering a more important question: How many people witnessing the cross-country races at Whistler Olympic Park would take off their shirts.
The answer: three. Three people took off their shirts. Tragically, all three were male.
Pertinent details: At race time, it was sunny with a temperature around five degrees. Winds were light. (Full disclosure: Could other people among the thousands at Olympic Park also have been shirtless? Yes, I suppose so. But I looked pretty hard and have a good eye for pale.)
This is Mike Nykreim. He’s a contractor from Seattle, but the economy sucks so he came to the Olympics instead of trying to drum up business. He brought some shirts with him. He even wore one to Olympic Park. But not for long.
Not for long.
“It’s the freaking Olympics,” Mike said, spilling a bit of his beer on account of the fact he was getting a little worked up. “This is a major entry on my bucket list. And right now it just feels right to take the shirt off.” He paused: “I’m comfortable, you know?”
I talked with Mike during one of the breaks between races, during which the on-site commentators shared more about the details of waxing than anyone since Rosie O’Donnell’s esthetician. “Is it mad science?” one announcer asked of the other. “It’s voodoo,” came the reply.
Meanwhile, Mike was still shirtless. “If the wind comes up, I’m going to dive for cover. I’m not crazy. But this feels right.”
For a while, I figured Mike just might be the only shirtless person at the Olympic cross-country sprint races. Then I happened upon these two:
It’s been a while since I pulled out the ol’ reporter’s notebook and asked some hard-hitting questions, but I dove right in. “So,” I said, all serious and Mike Wallace. “What the hell?”
“Wooooooooooo!” the guy on the right replied, and then added: “Yaaaaaaaaaaa!”
Turns out the name of the fellow on the right is “Hartman.” Just Hartman. He only goes by Hartman. He’s from Whistler, he works in a hotel (called in sick today – shhhh!) and he signs his name by drawing a heart and a stick figure. (Heart-man.) His friend is David Knuckey. He goes by “Palermo.” (The girls probably have names and nicknames, too, but I lost interest in them once they said they wouldn’t be removing their shirts.)
I asked the guys if they wanted to meet shirtless Mike. Shocking twist: they already had met Mike. In fact, it was their conversation with Mike that led to all three of them removing their shirts.
Like all good plans, it took shape in the line for beer.
“Mike was wearing this kind of really short-sleeved shirt,” Hartman recalled. “And he was kind of tugging at it, because he was warm, and we said, ‘Dude, you should take that shirt right off.’ And then he said, ‘I think I will.’ And then he did! And then we did!”
At this point, our interview was interrupted by two young girls who politely asked if they could have their photos taken with the “hot shirtless guys.” “Wooooo!” Hartman responded. Palermo concurred.
Shirtlessness? Is there anything it can’t do?
Later, Hartman added, “I feel good. I’m comfortable. I’m at the Winter Olympics, I don’t have a shirt on and, buddy, it feels right.” At this point, Palermo interjected to remind Hartman that they had seen an old lady in the line for beer, but that the old lady was really hot: “a coug.” “Yeah, I bought her a glass of wine,” Hartman said. “I’m a poor Whistlerite but she was pretty hot for, like, a 70-year-old.”