I’m Still Watching the Winter Olympics

I’m still watching the Winter Olympics and that’s saying something because I’m not much of a winter sports fan.  NBC must be doing something right.   And I’m looking forward to watching Apolo Ohno race again, and to seeing Lindsey Vonn race for the first time.  Her injured shin should be on the mend after nearly a week of delays due to rotten weather conditions.  I’m also hoping to see Bode Miller win another medal.  He took the bronze in a downhill event a couple of days ago.   Those downhill racers are the toughest of the lot it seems.  I keep hearing stories like “coming off a broken back” so and so is back for another chance at Olympic gold.

Speaking of gold, it was sad to see Lindsey Jacobellis lose her chance as she skied off the course in Snowboard Cross and out of medal contention.  She did win the B Final and place 5th, but it must have been no consolation.  NBC did not interview her – she may not have wanted to talk to anybody, but we’d all like to hear her describe what happened in due course.

The Men’s Figure Skating short program was interesting.  Takahiko Kozuka who finished 8th skated to Jimi Hendrix – now that was cool.  And Stephane Lambiel, the amazing Swiss spinner who spun himself into 5th place, pleased the crowd but not the judges.

I’ll be watching, even though I’m not a big winter sports fan.  Hey, I can barely stand up on skis – maybe that’s why I’m not a fan.  But I am a fan of the Olympics.  I’ll be watching. How could I not – Sean White has yet to drop in from the half pipe.

Thrill Seeking Winter Olympians

Speed.  That’s what it’s all about.   Crossing the finish line on a sled at 90 miles an hour.  “Dropping in” on bumpy Cypress Mountain at full speed doing crazy aerial tricks like “helis” and backflips off two strategically placed jumps en route to the finish.  Vermont native Hannah Kearney won the USA’s first gold of the games in Women’s Mogul.  Speed. Turns. Air. Daring. Execution.

Risky business these games.  NBC’s Brian Williams presented a terrific report on the risks athletes take to compete in winter sporting events.  He suggests that winter Olympians are cut from the same DNA cloth; that they share a common gene which predisposes them to risk taking.   And the risks are enormous.  A young luger, Nodar Kumaritashvilia from the Republic of Georgia was the first and I hope only fatality at the Vancouver games – a horrible tragedy, which may have been preventable.  His father said that a mistake should never cost an athlete his life.   NBC aired the video a number of times on the day of the opening ceremony, with appropriate warnings that the footage would be difficult to watch.   And on opening day, Bob Costas announced that they would not show the video again.

And it’s not just the sliders who put themselves at risk of injury or worse.  Did you see the short track speed skating races?  Speed.  Spills.  In every race, somebody goes down.  This is part of the thrill of watching speed skating.  It’s not the fastest who always win, but the racer who outlasts the others, whose strategy prevails.  America’s most decorated skater, Apolo Ohno, now with 6 medals in his Olympic career, took the Silver in the Men’s 1500 meters short track speed skating final, a race in which he nearly finished 4th.  With seconds to go the 2nd and 3rd place Koreans whiped out allowing Ohno and fellow American JR Celski to sneak in to medal.

But I think downhill skiing is the most dangerous event of all.  Flying down a hill on skinny skis at break neck speed is just insane.  Skiers seem to suffer the most serious injuries of all.  And yet they can’t stop racing.  Just ask American alpine skiers Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn.  Both know the risks.  Both have suffered severe injuries in downhill crashes.  And both, though less than 100% are back for more.  It is in their blood.

And it’s in my blood to watch these thrill seekers we call winter Olympians.