Posts Tagged ‘vancouver’
I am now an authority on snowboard cross. Yesterday’s women’s competition was an exercise in not falling over, a discipline which seemed beyond most participants. It came across from Vancouver like an extended sequence from You’ve Been Framed. My favourite entry was the wretched woman whose Olympic dreams evaporated when she failed to leap off with enough momentum to slide up the first incline and ended up hopping off the course seconds after she had started. Because of the binding onto the board, any competitor with the misfortune of slipping over is compelled to jump along with the same deranged motion as a sack race entrant.
One of the more dramatic of these incidents involved Lindsey Jacobellis, who lost her bearings on the way down and succeeded in obliterating one of the control gates. The race organisers take a dim view of this, those gates cost a lot to replace after all, and she was disqualified. Jacobellis was one of the pre-race favourites, but her previous Olympic form may have been a reason to put your pocket money elsewhere:
So Jacobellis fell within metres of the gold medal because she was attempting what is known in the trade as a grab or as I like to call it, showing off. In the immediate aftermath Jacobellis claimed that she performed the manoeuvre in order to gain balance. Which is a little bit like a drunkard explaining that he drove his car home to avoid the dangers of the bus.
Subsequently, Jacobellis revised her opinion and admitted that “snowboarding is fun; I was having fun.” Which would be quite admirable, except I can’t imagine being asked the same question about her erratic showboating ever since is all that fun.
I have to be suspicious of a sport that compels its onlookers to amuse themselves by repeatedly ringing cowbells. Skiing offers the same spectacle as Formula 1: things zooming past very quickly at regular intervals. At least with motor racing there is sometimes overtaking; skiing is just one long qualifying session, a battle against the clock (who isn’t the most charismatic of opponents).
Snowboard cross is a different species of winter sport. It’s mental. Competitors line up at the starting gate in different-coloured bibs like starving greyhounds, leaping down the track with the rabid enthusiasm of shoppers on the first day of the Primark sale. If they weren’t so busy trying to keep balance they’d punching each other and gouging each other’s eyes out. The course is set out in fiendish tiers so it resembles a massive wedding cake.
Last night the men’s event was won by defending champ American Seth Wescott. He’s a typically rad snowboarder, whose special snowpants have been mocked up to look like a particularly gnarly pair of jeans. Wescott left the sport after the last Olympics to set up his own restaurant in the mountains of Maine. I’ve checked out the menu online – it looks pretty gnarly too.
Tonight is the women’s event and there’s an actual British lady with an actual medal chance. Zoe Gilling hails from the Isle of Man. Hope there’s a Primark there.
Controversy might be all the Winter Games can rely on to sustain the interest of sports fans: some partisan marking at the ice rink, a wasted snowboarder vomiting all over the half-pipe, or Russo-American relations disintegrating in the hockey final.
The Vancouver organisers have made a brave pitch to create some early rumblings by inviting Arnold Schwarzenegger to carry the torch during the opening ceremony on Friday. Arnie’s candid and remorseless tales of steroid-munching in his days as a professional beefcake puts him for many firmly outside the Olympic movement and its ideals.
Unfortunately for the Games, this one isn’t going to rumble: as Arnie pointed out himself, having lots of bulbous muscles in funny places isn’t actually a sport, and therefore pumping yourself up artificially shouldn’t be considered illegal in Olympic terms.
If there is any objection to Schwarzenegger lining up on the starting blocks on Friday it should be for this portrayal as Mr. Freeze in one of those rubbish Batman films of the late nineties. If anything is going to put you off all things related to snow and ice then it’s this:
Here’s the latest in our continuing “the Winter Olympics is sort of a bit shit” series, Steven Bradbury winning gold in the short-track speed skating during the 2002 Games at Salt Lake City:
There’s something pleasingly un-Australian about the way Bradbury glides apologetically over the line for victory. He should feel sheepish: exactly the same thing happened in the semi-final. It’s definitely fun, but in a slapstick Saturday night primetime way. You can’t help feeling that custard and Stuart Hall should be involved somehow, or at least Bobby Davro in a fat suit.
I shouldn’t mock: it would take me about four days to complete the distance. There’s only so much momentum you can build up if you aren’t able to take your hands off the side of the rink.
Watching the Winter Olympics as a Brit is a bit like going to a party when you don’t know anyone: it all looks jolly good fun but you can’t help feeling on the periphery of things because everybody else is listening to Europop and wearing lederhosen.
If the Winter Olympics was a breakfast it would be that strange collation of cold meats and Emmenthal that is always served in continental hotels. It’s an attractive prospect on a one-off basis, but you wouldn’t be throwing out your Coco Pops in a hurry. It’s just a bit too weird and frightening to digest on a daily basis.
What I am struggling to say is that for the British sports fan the Winter Games has an exotic but not enduring appeal. We’ll tune in every four years, but we won’t be inputting the Nordic skiing World Cup on Eurosport into our Sky Plus consoles.
Still, there is one thing we can all certainly look forward in Vancouver come February 12. The opening ceremony has got to be seriously bonkers to live up to the legacy of its predecessors, which can only have been conceived by choreographers struck mental by the cold. Who can forget Barry Davies in Lillehammer in 1994 whispering in reverential tones as if Nelson Mandela had just appeared: “and here come the night elves”. If there isn’t at least one night elf performing next Friday then I shall want my money back.