Winter Olympics: The Summit of Sporting
Summer Olympics face a surprisingly steep competition
Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
Many of you may prefer the Summer Olympics to the Winter Olympics, but the truth of the matter is that they are entirely different beasts. The summer sports are about teamwork, athleticism, and beating individual scores. Winter sports are about athleticism, beating individual scores, and putting oneself in incredibly dangerous situations.
Sure, during the summer games one can pull a muscle or break something. But during the winter games, much worse can happen. Just recently, on February 12, 21-year-old Olympian Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a horrific luge accident during a training run.
It takes a special kind of precision and steely composure to pull off most of these events. Take for example the skeleton, a pared-down version of the bobsled, where racers lie face-forward on a sort of one-piece titanium toboggan and propel themselves down a track that for all intents and purposes is the same as a bobsled track, which is essentially a mile-long frozen waterslide. Like all Olympic events, it pays off to watch in case someone wipes out in a particularly gruesome manner. In the Winter Olympics, this happens much more frequently, and the payoff is greater. Even ice-skating is more dangerous than most summer events.
I wasn’t quite a Winter Olypmic convert until I saw the Super G ski event this winter. These Olympians ski down a specialized slalom hill at speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour. Imagine wiping out at highway velocity. I’ve seen it—they go tumbling for quite a way.
Then there are the events where you just want the Olympians to succeed. The snowboard events are fun to watch, if only for the ridiculous names of the maneuvers, like Shaun White’s “cab double cork 10 stalefish.” But my favorites are ski jumping and sky flying. As the names attest, they're all about airtime. Imagine a big ski jump multiplied by 50. That’s an Olympic ski jump. The skiers glide—fly, really—down and parallel to the hill, and land a very impressive distance from the ramp. Fliers can easily go 10 meters into the air at more than 60 miles per hour.
The reasons to watch the Winter Olympics are many. There’s even target shooting in the biathlon and ice dancing in figure skating, for the firearms and dance enthusiasts, respectively. Lastly, let us not forget the nationalistic implications of the Olympics. You can always root for your own country, or, in this day and age, you have the option of rooting for the country you’d prefer to be living in right now.
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