Yes, I thrill to the danger of the luge. Wonder at the power of speed skaters. Cringe at the danger of downhill skiing. Lust for the endurance of cross-country skiers. Yawn at the theatrics of figure skating. Sorry, they’re talented, but they’re basically gymnasts on ice. I don’t like gymnastics.
There’s one thing I really do appreciate. The fitness and talent of the athletes and how they all got there. Training four years for the opportunity to compete, much less achieve Olympic glory with a medal is something we should all try to comprehend. Four years.
Of course these athletes compete during all those years. Same goes for the summer games. There are national and world championships to win.
Perhaps you’ve encountered a world class athlete now and then. They might show up at an all-comers meet, a road race or a triathlon in your hometown or at some race where you’re competing. That’s when you see the real difference in these people who excel at the sports we choose, and those we do not.
A really talented runner sticks out with their efficiency and form. A great rider moves off the front with ease, or controls the race from behind. Great swimmers seem to launch through the water.
So the least we can do in appreciating the athletes in Sochi is to try to grasp the tremendous skill it takes to snowboard like that. I keep thinking about the fact that Shaun White must be in really terrific shape to do what he does in the air. Can you imagine the core strength? The leg muscles? They should show that on TV. Film him half naked and in slow motion to illustrate the athleticism of that sport, instead of just the theatrics and showboating. These are athletes, not circus clowns. Sometimes the Olympics fail to help us grasp that fact.
I have run with Olympians. I have ridden my bike with an athlete who won Paralympic
cycling events the last time around. He has only one arm and handles his bike far better than his multi-armed fellow racers. His athleticism is not diminished by his lack of an arm. It is accentuated.
So let’s all do ourselves a favor and not let the Sochi Winter Olympics turn into the SoLympics, where we watch with jaded eyes as if the screen were a cotton candy maker.
These are not cotton candy athletes. Their performances may be sweet, but there is substance there we all need to grasp. Years of weight work for the skiers. Focused endurance and sprint training in preparation for a push of the bobsled. Thousands of miles of wheeled cross country ski training to be prepared when winter comes.
These people are doing much of the same stuff as you or I. Only better. Much, much better.
If only Russia respected that fact enough to be ready to host these games. Because that might turn out to be the story of the SoLympics. How Russia was not fit to be a host.