He has won three gold medals and might even pick up a couple more this month. But desperate to avoid becoming to athletics what Erik Estrada is to show biz, Italian skiing star Alberto Tomba resorted to the only means available: He got himself a snazzy Web site.
And what a Web site it is, complete with a topless Tomba revealing enough chest hair to make Chewbacca jealous.
For those craving more of the Nagano Games than they can get on television, the Internet will be the place to go for more information about the games, the events and the athletes.
The Web offers the chance to communicate with athletes, go virtual luging. Given the 14-hour difference between Nagano and Baltimore, the Internet will also offer fans the chance to find out results far in advance of television.
Here are some of the major sites:
The Official World Wide Web site for the Nagano Games: This site (www.nagano.olympic.org) is the wild card of the bunch. If it's working, the IBM site is the Joe Montana of Web sites. If not (as was the case at certain points last week), it will be the Heath Shuler. The site offers something for the casual fan and someone who craves deeper knowledge about the Winter Olympics, including panoramic video tours of the Nagano venues. However, this site will have only event information, results and action photos, but no stories, no commentary. Also worth a look is IBM's sister site, FanMail (www.ibm.com/olympic/fanmail), which lets fans try to communicate with specific athletes.
CBS SportsLine: Probably the best of the ones that are guaranteed to work. This site (cbs.sportsline.com/u/olympics/nagano98) passed the Olympic Web site litmus test -- depth of information on curling -- with flying colors, providing an overview, history and rules for the sport. The site even features a curling glossary. The site also features Olympian Journals from stars such as Picabo Street.
ESPN SportsZone: Nearly as good as SportsLine. For each sport, SportsZone (espnet. sportszone.com) offers a viewer's guide, a succinct account of the event, its rules, the leading contenders for gold and the U.S. chances. For every U.S. athlete, readers get what they won't get at a lot of sites: what the athlete has actually done to get to the Olympics. Add to that video footage from the Games and reports from ESPN anchor Jack Edwards.
USA Today: If only for the Graphic Scrapbook, net users should )) make a beeline for this site (www.usatoday.com/olympics/w98front.htm). There's a U.S. roster, a map of the venues, the athlete journals in which someone is sure to say, "Gee, it's cold here." The Graphic Scrapbook, with interactive demonstrations of the intricacies of each sport, is probably the best individual feature of any Olympic-related Web site.
CNN/SI: A disappointment. The site (www.cnnsi.com) will have the benefit of feature stories from the Sports Illustrated staff. Other than that, there are not a lot of bells and whistles in this camp, just results and a few stories from Reuters. It pales in comparison to SportsLine and SportsZone.
MSNBC: Weaker than CNN/SI. The problem is that whereas CNN/SI has sections on each event at the Nagano Games, there is no such thing on MSNBC (www.msnbc.com/news/OLYMPICS). The commentary might be good, but MSNBC doesn't have much that the rest won't.
Other sites worth mentioning: Mountain Zone (www.mountainzone.com/olympics) touts itself as the "only Olympic coverage with monkeys." True, but with its live Olympic footage, it's worth checking out, particularly for those with an interest in skiing.
The SLAM! Sports site (www.canoe.ca/SlamNagano), based in bTC Canada, might be the place for those who grow weary of the flag-waving by the U.S.-based sites. SportQuest (www.Sport Quest.com) offers the opportunity to find information on all of the events -- other than what's happening in Nagano -- and Encyclopedia Britannica's site (www.winter.eb.com) has the results for every Winter Olympics since the first one in 1924.
For its part, Yahoo! provides coverage of the Winter Games (nagano.yahoo.com/wg98) and Internet Guide to the Olympics (www.zdnet.com/yil/content/ mag/9802/olympictoc.html). With references to other Olympic Web sites, both will be valuable to the person who can't stick to one Web site.
Among the athlete sites, the Tomba site (www.alberto.tomba.it/e/index.html) is an improbable winner, though Wayne Gretzky's (www.gretzky.com) earns honorable mention. Sponsored by an Italian television station, the Tomba site doesn't seem to take itself seriously. Tommy Moe (www.alask.net/tommymoe/) is shilling his newsletter, and Tara Lipinski (www.taralipinski.com) offers her "diary," but Tomba gives you all of his races from the past year, with real-time video and a detailed written account.