Every two years I spend two glorious weeks watching the Olympics. Despite the fact I get sucked in and watch the games when the time rolls around, and seeing the best athletes, I still get blown away by the athleticism they demonstrate. Each seems that at each game there I watch a sport I never gave a chance to before and end up as a fan. For these games the sport to claim that title is cross country skiing.
After getting sick and being sent home from work I found myself with the opportunity to plop on the couch and watch some Olympics. But to my dismay it was cross country skiing. After scrolling the guide and realizing my only other options were judge shows, daytime talk shows, or that awful family sitcom with Jim Belushi (I miss John) it was clear cross country would be my best option. If anything I figured I could get a nice nap.
Cross country always struck me as the marathon of the winter Olympics, just a long ass race that is not interesting until the end. It lacks the speed of alpine racing or the jumps of the moguls. I could not understand how or why people would watch this event.
It seemed the perfect event for a nap and as it started, with each competitor coming out of the gate one by one in 30 second intervals and trudging along the first part of the course I knew for sure a nap was eminent. But it didn’t take right away and I got caught up in the competition.
By the time half of the competitors have started the first ones are out in full force, and we get live shots from the course from cameras I assume are set up like they’re hunting Bigfoot. Then the guy in the lead sets the time and suddenly you’re watching skiers race the clock. The commentators will point a guy and I found myself rooting for him to beat the time in a certain stretch. Never in my life have I given a crap about Austria, except maybe during Kindergarten Cop, but for some reason I was hoping he would get to the top of the hill in 26 minutes and 33 seconds. Then he does and suddenly I’m hoping for whatever skier they point out next gets there in 26 minutes and 32 seconds. A crazy competition where I hope each guy does better than the last. With all other events I’m U.S.A. all the way, but not this one.
But what became even more incredible to watch was how effortless some of these guys made this look. While watching, it becomes clear cross country skiing takes a lot of stamina and effort, but these guys are pushing up hills and against less than ideal terrain with such ease. I was getting worn out watching it. At one point there was a coach or official or something running along side a skier and he was running full speed and couldn’t keep up. The skiers don’t look like they’re going that fast. I completely underestimated these guys. Their efforts show as they all collapsed as they crossed the finish line. Nothing makes you feel more like a slug than lying on the couch watching people push themselves this hard. The Olympics make me feel bad about myself.
Cross country skiing has been the biggest surprise for me thus far these Olympic Games. And oddly enough I would like to watch more.
See ya lurking in the trees…
16 Feb 2010 Lee S. Hart