Grandma grades the Olympics
For the convenience of those who want to see all my comments on the Olympics — and especially for those who don’t — I’ve loaded them all (to date) into this one post.
I still enjoy figure skating, but it doesn’t bring me out of my seat the way it used to. Maybe it’s the rules changes. Maybe I’m getting more critical in my old age. I don’t know. Part of the problem may be the increasing emphasis on athleticism, with less on artistry. The trick, it seems to me, is not choosing one approach or the other but being able to include both without losing the beauty of the sport. In addition, I want to slap silly any skater who grabs his or her skate blade! It’s ugly, clumsy, unnatural. If you can’t adopt and hold a position without the artificial “assist” of a skate grab, then you just don’t do it. Sadly, skaters get points for doing it. Change the rules and prohibit it, I say.
Loved the Chinese pair, married, both in their thirties, who won the gold in pairs skating. And I guess I’m a sentimental old crone getting caught up in their back story; normally I think too much time is wasted telling us personal stories when we could be seeing actual competition. I did grimace at their music during their short program though. They used Kiss’s “Who Wants to Live Forever,” but it was a screechy, discordant violin rendition instead of the full orchestral sound of the original. Ugh. Yuck. Kiss is my favorite band; don’t mess with their arrangements!
Yes, I think the music the skaters use is an integral part of their performance. It is a part of the flow, the rhythm, the emotion of the program. If I don’t like the music, it’s likely I won’t like the performance. And although I know it’s necessary to cut and piece the music to fit the moves, those transitions had better be logical and seamless if you want points from yours truly.
Our men’s gold medal winner, Evan Lysacek, just doesn’t do it for me. Sorry. He looks like a big, gawky, flapping black bird out there. Worse, during his short program, he added black feathers around his wrists. Voila, birdman! He’s 6’2″, according to Wikipedia, and looks every inch of it.
Johnny Weir is a wonderful skater, both graceful and athletic, and every bit as good as Lysacek, I think. It’s sad that the ongoing shouting matches about his sexuality continue to distract from his skill as a skater.
The Russian, Evgeni Plushenko, won the men’s silver. Then he proceeded to tarnish it and all the wonderful years he’s given us by saying he didn’t think Lysacek deserved the gold because his program didn’t include a quad. Nobody likes a sore loser.
Short track speed skating is the most exciting, breathtaking sport in the Winter Olympics. How those people skate that fast, that close together, without falling all over each other absolutely amazes me. How they can skate that fast on an oval that small amazes me. How they can stay on their feet while leaning at that angle amazes me. Add tactics, passing on the outside, cutting to inside, constantly maneuvering for position, mostly without anyone falling. Amazing! And did I mention, it’s amazing?
Long track speed skating is interesting for its speed and the incredible strength involved. Those skaters have those thighs for a reason. If you doubt it, try holding that semi-crouch position of theirs for as long as you can. Go ahead. It will humble you.
Okay, whoever first decided it was “fun” to slide down a dangerously fast, curvy chute of ice wearing only a helmet and body suit and lying on a dinner tray was nuts. (The skeleton racers are the craziest; they go down head first.) I guess it’s the increasing speed that’s making it less and less fun to watch. About all you see is the start, a blur going this way, a blur or two going that way, and the finish.
The bobsledders, who haven’t competed yet, get to ride more than a dinner tray. They’re inside a much safer looking shell of sorts. Back in the old days, you could expect a bunch of them to lose control, fly off the track and land in the soft snow beyond. Track design has changed a lot since then, with the intention of keeping crashing sliders from being thrown out. Sadly, as we all know, the design is still lacking.
Skiing and Snowboarding
These competitors used to be men and women pursuing serious endeavors. They’re still serious, but as I’ve aged, they’ve become kids. Yours and mine and the kids next door. And their smiles, their attitudes, their sheer joy in participating is just delightful. Lindsey Vonn, Shaun White, and all their friends are just plain fun to watch. I cheer and cry for and with all of them, regardless of nationality.
Cross-Country and Biathlon
Cross-country skiing — racing — is the true endurance sport. It exhausts me just watching those people poling up those hills with those long, long skis all akimbo, herringbone style. Sure they get to ski down the hills, but the up parts are killer. And to top it all off, the finish this year is an uphill straightaway. You’re dying, you’ve given it all you have, you round the last curve with your competitor right on your heels, and there’s the finish line, up at the top of the hill in front of you. The course designers were sadistic.
In the biathlon, the skiers have to stop periodically for some target shooting. Stop, repeatedly, in the middle of a gut-wrenching, lung-searing cross-country race and shoot at targets. Very small targets. I was pretty good with a target rifle once upon a time, and used to jog some, too. Frankly I just don’t see how those skiers can stop in the middle of all that huff ‘n’ puff stuff and hold a rifle steady enough to hit anything smaller than the broad side of a barn. But they do.
This is the only sport in the Winter Olympics that I don’t like. No speed, no endurance. No head-to-head dash to the finish. No racing the clock. It’s more like a chess game on ice. Yes, there’s skill involved. And tactics. But watching the snow fall would be just as exciting — and whole lot prettier.
When it comes to fashion, I’m not your typical obsessed girly girl. But I do have a lot of creative interest and experience, working with design and color, etc. If a particularly handsome, aesthetically pleasing Olympic outfit appears, I notice. Likewise, particularly unattractive ones hit me in the face. The Japanese speed skaters wear awesome metallic gold and flat black uniforms. In short track speed skating, the Canadians, I’m sorry to say, have a particularly ugly uniform — some red-and-black combo with a gradient red-and-black X-thing across the front. American skiers who get to the podium appear in understated gradient gray-and-white parkas. (I’d love to snag one of those for moi.) In some of the sports, all the teams seem to wear clearly identifying uniforms; in others, there’s such a motley assortment of colors and patterns that it’s really hard to pick out your favorite athlete. That may be due to the riot of colorful bibs, numbers, ads, and logos on everything and everybody.
And then there are the medals, the things all the competitors come for. These are the most beautiful Olympic medals ever, in my humble opinion. Their unique wavy surfaces symbolize waves and mountains. Their laser-etched designs are random detail from two larger First Nation art works, and no two medals are the same. They are environmentally friendly, cast from metals recovered from discarded electronics, and are among the heaviest Olympic medals ever.
Look at that medal. That’s not something to set in a trophy case and admire through the glass. That’s something you have to hold and touch.