Saturday, February 13, 2010

Winter Olympics - Day 2

Now, you have to remember that altho I am not much of an athlete, I do really enjoy watching sports, especially the individual sort - like most of the Olympics. I'm all for the importance of being part of a team and I think one learns a lot from that, but I really prefer seeing folks compete one on one. That's a big reason I love the Olympics - winter as well as summer. Today we got three sports about which I know little, but which I watched off and on all afternoon and evening. Today was ski jumping, short track speedskating and free style skiing. Oh, I forgot. There were early rounds of the luge.

Ski jumping: This one is pretty straight forward. The competitor climbs a zillion steps up a small, medium or large hill. S/he then sits on a narrow seat until it's his turn and then he pushes off and slides down the ski jump - no poles or anything for balance - and then jumps off the end to land 90 to 100 meters down the hill (that's a horizontal measure) after a "fall" of 100 feet or so. Today it was men, but I think women do this, too, later in the week. It's lovely to watch, rather like flying. But you know it's hard down there on the ground. All it takes is a slight mistake and one could land on his butt, but today no one did. Still to come: the long hill.

Short track speedskating: This one really should be a no brainer, but it isn't. Six or eight people racing around a track. First one across the finish line wins. Then you watch them to it. Oh, did I forget to mention that they are racing on skates, which means as the speed picks up they lean way over. Sometimes I don't know what keeps the skates from just sliding out from under them - and sometimes they do. Apollo Ono came in second, not fourth, because the guy in second place going into the finish slid out and into guy number three. This one they race at many distances (extra laps) so we will see lots more of this. Women do it, too, so double the fun. Tonight the prince and princess of the Netherlands were there with their children to cheer on their team. The orange didn't look at that good on them, either.

Free style skiing: Tonight it was the women doing something called mogels. The idea here is that someone has scattered small jump ramps part way down a medium sized hill and then has built a bunch of tightly packed snow bumps (mogels) all across and up and down the hill. The idea is that the skier comes down the hill and jumps over two of the little jumps. While in the air she does a flip, or a twist, or some other fancy move. She then lands and goes in between all the little snow piles until she comes to another ski jump where she does a trick and then finishes up down the hill. Points are awarded for degree of fanciness in the jump and overall speed down the hill. One can fall down and then pick up, but they always lose too much time when that happens. They can also totally wipe out and not finish the run. This doesn't look as dangerous as some other events, but there's certainly the potential for accident on those little jumps and many people fell on the mogels. Men do this, too, later in the week and with higher jumps, I think. This is definitely a sport where the competitor with the strongest glutes win.

Luge: This is the dangerous event of the night. Someone has borrowed the Space Mountain roller coaster track from Disney and covered it with ice. Then people who look like they have normally good sense lie on a little sled (on their backs going feet first) and slide down the shoot. The men were reaching speeds of 90 miles per hour tonight. They are going so fast that they control their drift from side to side with tiny move of their feet. The smallest mistake can be disastrous. Folks, ice is hard. No bad accidents tonight, although several have crashed and lost their sleds, but this is where a young man died yesterday. They have shortened the run for competition and that is lowering the speeds. They are only half way finished with that competition. More to come tomorrow.

Fashion notes: The skiers were dressed in colorful skiing clothes, with scarves, heavily padded suits and gloves - just what you would expect to find at your favorite ski slopes anywhere, but better fabrics. Reminded me of sorority rush, tho with small groups of women dressed exactly alike jumping up and down hugging each other.

The lugers, skaters and jumpers though, are in the speed business and there is a huge difference. Tight, form fitting, sleek suits of space age materials rule here. Bright colors with team designs, but painted on. You've got to be fearless to participate in these sports and not bashful, either.

On to pairs skating tomorrow. Life is good.

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