Monday, February 13, 2006

Citius, Altius, Fortius

The Olympic Motto: Faster, Higher, Stronger.

I love watching the Olympics, winter and summer, but I think the Winter Olympics are my favorite. That is mainly because I was a competitive figure skater while growing up. When I first started lessons I had those Olympic dreams that so many young girls have when the start skating. Obviously, that wasn't in my future, but skating was a great experience anyway.

I feel bad for Michelle Kwan. She had to withdraw from this Olympics due to a groin injury. This was her last chance to get the one title that she lacks, that of Olympic Champion. But apparently, that was not in the Plan for her. I think she'll be just fine with all the other accolades she's earned over the last decade. Perhaps her lesson in this is to be happy with the achievements she has had and not to mourn too much for what has eluded her. That's a good lesson for all of us. And that's one reason why the Olympics are important for more than just the athletes who compete. We all can learn lessons in sharing these experiences with these athletes.

Another reason I love watching the Olympics is because I am amazed at the extremes to which people can push their physical abilities. And it's interesting how each sport's athletes are built for those sports. Look at the light, thin bird-men of the high jump. These guys are all tallish and very thin which makes it easier for them to glide longer and farther through the air. Some of these guys have the height and weight of supermodels, i.e. 5'10" and 135 lbs. I do wonder if they starve themselves to stay light and keep that advantage for their sport. This athlete anorexia isn't uncommon, but I hope that it's less common now than it was in the past. Then you have the downhill skiers who are bigger and heavier which helps them gain more speed. Some of them are 5'10" and weight nearly 100 pounds more than those bird-men. But they have to be that big and strong and sturdy to be able to go 80 mph on just their legs and slabs of fiberglass, metal, and whatever else skis are made of. Can you imagine? I don't usually drive that fast. I just can't imagine skiing down a huge, steep mountain going faster than a car. With only my legs. Wow!

And many of the Winter Olympic sports have evolved from the apparatus that people developed to move through cold, snowy environments. The bobsled and luge might seem purely recreational now, but they come from practical sleds that people used to get around. Who was the first person to decide that it would be fun to start racing their sleds down icy tracks? Most of these sports involve an element of dare-devilishness. Maybe they should add 'Fearless' (Impavidus?) to the Olympic motto?

And I'm a fan of the newer events too. The snowboarding events are fun to watch, and I'm glad that the Olympics are evolving with the times to include these newer sports. But there are also events that are no longer part of the games. One is the figures portion of the figure skating competitions. I kind of hate the demise of this event because it requires such precise control of your body and skates to make these circles and turns and to be able to retrace them exactly. But in these days of flash and daring and TV ratings the triple jumps and freestyle skating have taken over.

I wish good luck to all the competitors in Torino. I'll be watching!

And here's a question: If you were a Winter Olympian which sport would you choose?

EDIT: The kids are home today because the roads were icy this morning. Their being here has upset my ability to concentrate (hey, it sounds like a good excuse to me!), and I've decided that I did not express myself well enough in this post. I meant to better explain that one of the cool things about the Winter Olympics is that it illustrates as much people's ingenuity in improving their apparatus as it showcases their physical abilities. I meant to give examples of the ways in which the equipment various sports use have been improved over the years to help improve the athletes' performances. It is truly an exhibition of the collaboration between man and his implements. Okay, not that I'm expressing myself any better now, but I just wanted to add that little bit.


Kat said...

I would chose figure skating. It is like watching a dance. And I could wear cutesy little costumes!

DHammett said...

I've gotta disagree with you about Michelle Kwan. I don't feel sorry for her at all. She won 9 national titles and 5 world championships. She had two olympics in her prime to get the gold and didn't get it done. To have the olympic committee place her on the team at the expense of someone else who earned her way on was just wrong. The olympics are like anything else in bring your best and try to get it done. If you can't, the torch is passed to someone who can.

I don't think anything is a better example of the evolution of real life into an olympic "sport" than biathalon. Come on...skiing and shooting a rifle? And did curling evolve from somebody sweeping their floor? I love the curling scene in the movie Help!.

Bobsledding seems to me like the most fun thing to do out of the winter sports. Luge looks pretty good (one man, not two) but it seems like it's way too out of control. Hockey's good, too.

Rae Ann said...

kat, it's not too late! You could take lessons now and wear a cute little outfit!

dh, I didn't mean to sound overly sympathetic about Michelle Kwan. I'm not. I agree with you that she rightly stepped aside for the girl who is going to take her place on the team. And I just knew some smarty would make a comment about curling! LOL Don't they have shooting and archery in the Summer Games too? Yeah, I've always thought the bobsled looked like fun too.

Debi said...

OMG Curling is my favorite...ok not really...but ya know...someone has to like it right? Love your post today Rae Ann. :)

mr_g said...

Believe it or not, I've always been a sucker for watching women's gymnastics...though I doubt I'd be able to compete there...the penis and all, you know.

I agree with dhammett about Kwan. Apparently there's some young girl who now gets a shot at her dream because of this, so it all works out for the best; and Michelle Kwan can go back to her West LA house (probaby a 2-3 million $$ house) and lament by the pool as the East coast freezes.