LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Eric Who?
Suddenly it's hockey, not Heiden, that has captured the hearts of Americans at the Winter Olympics.
Eric Heiden goes after a record fifth gold medal today but the talk in this tiny resort village is not of the 21-year-old speed skater but of a group of brash, young hockey players who did more for American pride Friday than all the politicians put together.
All Uncle Sam's kids did was make the Soviet Union "Red-faced." By beating the Soviet Union 4-3 they flat out embarrassed them at a game they play better than any other country and made a political statement in the cold war between the two nations.
"With the world situation as it is and nothing really going on in the U.N., we have proved the free man will prevail," said one fan.
"To hell with Afghanistan. Let them have Afghanistan," yelled another fan, referring to the Soviet invasion which has strained relations between the two nations and forced the U.S. to boycott the Summer Olympics in Moscow. "We have the gold."
Not really. It just seems that way. The U.S. is in good shape for a gold medal in the hockey competition but will have to beat a tough Finland squad Sunday. Finland tied Sweden, which had beaten out the U.S. for the Blue Division title, 3-3 Friday night.
"Somebody asked me before the competition started whether we would rather win the gold medal or beat the Soviets," said U.S. hockey coach Herb Brooks. "We want to win a gold medal. That's what we came here for."
The hockey team's victory, which came on a pair of third-period goals by Mark Johnson and Mike Eruzione, brought a telephone call from President Carter, touched off choruses of "God Bless America" in the U.S. team's locker room and ignited a celebration normally reserved for the Fourth of July.
When the final horn sounded, the more than 8,500 fans stood and cheered wildly in a salute to Uncle Sam's youngsters and thousands more hooted and hollered in the streets, many ringing cowbells, blowing horns and setting off fireworks long after the game ended.
In handing the Soviet Union only its sixth loss in 46 games since it started competing in the Olympics in 1956, the American amateurs accomplished what the National Hockey League All-Stars could not in last year's Challenge Cup Series.
"In light of the improvement of the European countries and the enlightenment to the game which the Russians and Czechoslovakians have brought, this has to be the biggest win for the U.S. in Olympic hockey history," said coach Herb Brooks.