February 11, 2002 - 08:04
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): When Mitt Romney was hired as president of Salt Lake's scandal-plagued Olympic committee, he held tightly to his wife's hand to help her walk. Ann Romney had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: I was losing my balance. I was walking sort of like a drunk sailor, and I was numb right up to about here.
LIN: Few outside her own family know that she suffers from relapsing MS. The name describes the insidious nature of the disease. One day, you lose muscle control. The next day, you might recover, but symptoms over the years get progressively worse.
So what explains this? Ann Romney is in full remission. The MS that threatened to put her in a wheelchair is under control.
A. ROMNEY: I went through about a three year healing process, where I just really went the holistic approach and did a lot of reflex allergy and acupuncture and horses.
(on camera): Do you think Barron helped in that?
A. ROMNEY: I know he did.
A. ROMENY: I know. It's hard to explain how horses have such an amazing ability to heal. I don't understand myself. LIN (voice-over): For three years prior to the Winter Games, Ann became the athlete and Barron her coach. The 11-year-old competitive Dressage horse's nickname at the barn: the old professor. Dressage is about pure muscle and control.
A. ROMNEY: It's a lot of work.
LIN: The rider urging a 1,300 pound horse to move as one. She was so ill. Barron, who competed in Europe for years, did much of the work.
MARGO GOGAN, TRAINER: She could only go around once, maybe twice, and then she would have to walk and physically take her feet out of the stirrups, bring her legs up on the saddle, and she would bend over and take a break. And so it was a little scary at first.
LIN: Doctors say anything that relieves stress, like exercise, can only ease but not cure MS.
MITT ROMNEY, PRESIDENT, SALT LAKE OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: This is my wife, Ann.
LIN: Tell that to Ann Romney, who performed during the Winter Games.
M. ROMNEY: Ann is here with a horse -- who is that? It's a horse called Barron.
LIN: This time, her husband was there to support her.
M. ROMNEY: Now, let's see. What are you going to do for us now, sweetheart?
LIN: But Ann Romney was holding the reins.
LIN: Of course, we interviewed Mitt Romney about his wife's recovery. He was in his Olympic president's mode and was a little bit caught off guard, but he sheepishly said he is so proud of her. That she is getting stronger and stronger every day -- Paula.
ZAHN: Well, what an inspiring story. And I know that there is so much confusion when a diagnosis is first made for MS, and she made a choice a lot of people are intimidated to make. And I guess it worked for her, didn't it?
LIN: It really did, and of course, she doesn't know what her medical future may hold. She could still have a relapse. This is a lifelong struggle for her. But what a great example at this Olympics, and it certainly seems to be the year of the women -- Paula.
ZAHN: It certainly is. In fact, we're going to be interviewing Kelly Clark, the first gold medalist of the U.S. team in a couple of minutes or so. What are the big events that we should look forward to today? LIN: Oh, speaking of the year of the women, Picabo Street, 31 years old, the -- quote/unquote -- "old lady" of the women's ski team is going to be tackling the downhill again.
Now, you will recall, she has already won two gold medals in the past. The last -- two medals, rather, in the past, the last being in Nagano. And she is actually looking forward to hanging up her skis, Paula. She says that she is going to give her best. She wants to fly as fast as the wind. The predictions are that she may hit the bronze, but she broke both her legs after Nagano and is still recovering from that. She just wants to give it a final run, so everybody is going to be cheering for her certainly.
ZAHN: Well, I know we are here, because what a comeback it would be. I mean, just the fact that she has rehabbed as hard as she has and is skiing as well as she is, is quite a triumph.
LIN: Yes. Yes, I think...
ZAHN: Thanks, Carol, and keep your...
LIN: ... she just wants to prove that point.
ZAHN: ... keep your eye out for Kelly Clark, the United States' first...
LIN: We will.
ZAHN: ... Olympic gold medalist at
the Winter Games here. We are expecting to interview her -- hope she shows
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