Greason: Appreciating the Winter Olympics
Elizabeth Greason | Monday, February 12, 2018
The pomp. The circumstance. The unity. The flags. The bright lights and brighter futures. The iconic intro music. The Olympics.
Every two years, the world is treated to some of the greatest displays of athletic abilities every country has to offer. We are in the midst of one of those displays right now, and I could not be happier. The Winter Olympics bring a wide variety of fascinating elements to the table, from heartwarming storylines to sports I quite literally have not thought about since they last graced my television screen four years ago.
I think that is what is so wonderful about the Olympic Games — they are the pinnacle of athletic achievement in their respective sports. But for many of the athletes participating, their sports are something I do not pay any attention to except for two very specific weeks every four years. These are individuals who absolutely deserve attention and praise, whether they are curlers or figure skaters, bobsledders or downhill skiers. The Olympics gives them a platform for success and gives the world a way in which to appreciate these seemingly random sports.
I have grown to appreciate each Winter Olympic sport in its own way, from cross-country skiing to luge — although I would definitely prefer to watch someone sliding down a tube of pure ice at over 80 miles per hour for a minute than an hour of a pack of people walking on skis as quickly as they can. However, I also understand that cross-country skiers are some of the most athletic people I will ever lay eyes on, something I greatly appreciate and can enjoy watching, especially since my ability to run a mile is definitely in question.
I grew up watching skiing almost every weekend during the World Cup season. My dad and I were fascinated by Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller. We would get up and watch every race from Lake Louise to Kitzbuehel; slalom, giant slalom, super G, downhill, we would watch it all. But watching them compete in the Olympics? That was next level.
I am a reasonably good skier. I never raced growing up, but I was always fast and probably could have, had I wanted to. But there is no way, in any world, I ever could have been an Olympic skier. Sure, I can ski pretty well, but I definitely do not have the mental toughness to ski at top speeds down the mountains that have ice pumped on top of them. And then there’s the whole issue that I’m certainly not Olympic-caliber talent.
But, there are certain Winter Olympic sports that one can watch and say, “Hey, I could probably do that as well as they can with some training!” Curling is a great example of that. Or even a sport like bobsledding. If you’re one of the people in the middle, how much do you really need to do? But after watching a lifetime of Olympic Games, I am here to tell you that, no, unless you are a superior athlete, you cannot simply walk in and pick up a sport. Curling is hard. You may not have to spend every waking moment in the gym to be a successful curler, but you still have to be an athlete. And the same goes for the other sports that may not look as “athletic.” They require the same training and are just as difficult as something like figure skating or the halfpipe, even though they might not leave your jaw on the ground.
The point of this column is not to list all the reasons I cannot be an Olympian. There are many more than I can count and I am sure you can add to the list, and you have your own reasons about your own lack of Olympian status. But what I am saying instead is that maybe we should sit back this week and next and simply take a few moments to appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that goes into the preparation for each and every sport. Give credit where credit is due — that means to the curlers and to the speed skaters and to the ski jumpers.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.