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Observing the Olympics

I'm tired.

And it's all because of Chad Hedrick, Hannah Kearney and Shaun White.

Never heard of them? Then you should be ashamed. They - along with many others - are our representatives on the world's sporting stage in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

I have stayed up way too late since Friday night's opening ceremonies, watching the competitions that never see the light of day on television around here. Excuse me; they do, just once every four years.

I confessed in this very space my Olympic addiction during the 2004 Summer games in Athens, Greece. Admittedly, living in the South, I am much more familiar with the warm weather sports, but when it comes to gold medals, that doesn't seem to matter.

As long as there's competition going on during the quadrennial event, and there's drama, the pressure of performing for your countrymen, I'm there. The Winter games are particularly fun because people are going fast, very fast.

With humans sliding on ice and snow, these competitions end up taking place at a much higher speed than say even the 100-meter dash or the 50-meter freestyle swim. Skeleton, bobsled and downhill skiing all reach speeds around 80 mph.

But it's not just the speed. As strange as it may seem to American eyes, I would sit and watch curling for hours at a time. (Just to catch everyone up, that's where they sweep in front of a heavy stone as it glides along the ice, aimed at the center of a shuffleboard-type playing field.)

Other events rarely seen in North America are just as interesting to me, too. Take speed skating for example. I used to slide around the kitchen floor in my socks as a kid, imagining I was skating for gold like Dan Jansen. Or what about ski jumping? I remember imagining I was flying down the mountain after jumping off the end of the slide in my back yard.

Those are just a few fond childhood Winter Olympic memories. It was always so much fun dreaming of competing in sports I had never heard of or seen as a child.

I do think the best thing the International Olympic Committee ever did was stagger the Winter and Summer games. Now, I don't have to wait four years to get my fix of unusual sports that are popular elsewhere in the world.

Seriously, I think sometimes we operate with blinders on in this country. For one, we only support basketball, baseball, football and even NASCAR.

And two, when we do have people competing for our country in the Olympics, we forget their names just as soon as the games are over.

I for one have tried to do better in both of those categories. I just wish other American sports fans would too.



Web posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2006













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