When you watch a lot of Olympics coverage, as I do every two years, you become painfully aware of all the large storylines in play thanks to NBC’s god-awful coverage grabbing you by the lips, forcing your mouth open, and cramming the dominant narratives down your gullet to the point you feel like vomiting pieces of Lindsey Vonn’s injured shin all over your coffee table.
So, in the absence of actual quality coverage, you’re forced to find your own little moments to smile at. And my favorite thing from the weekend: The Biathlon Penalty Lap of Shame.
For those of you unclear about the biathlon, the sport naturally combines the exhausting endurance sport of cross country skiing with GUNS~! You ski, then you shoot. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, biathlon began as alternate military training for Norwegian soldiers. Furthermore, “The world’s first known ski club, the Trysil Rifle and Ski Club, was formed in Norway in 1861 to promote national defence at the local level.”
Hell yes. Norwegian militia! I’d like to see those yahoos sitting in lawn chairs on the Texas border strap on some skis and at least keep themselves in shape while hating the Mexicans. Despite being batnuts insane, they could at least spare themselves the indignity of being disgustingly fat.
Anyway, despite the inclusion of firearms at the normally milquetoast Olympic games, biathlon unfolds in largely the same way as any other event. People in brightly colored spandex push through a long track while some announcer you’ve never heard of talks about the weirdo training regimen of some Scandinavian goofball. The rub with biathlon is that in order to be successful, athletes must slow their heart rate and calm themselves after a grueling cross country ski jaunt (Quick aside: Have you ever tried cross country skiing? It’s awful. Like the dry land version of water polo. Just exhausting.) in order to steady the rifle properly and hit tiny targets 150 meters away. If they miss one, they’re assessed a penalty. And what is that penalty? Only the most hilarious penalty this side of hockey’s quaint little penalty box.
For every target missed, competitors have to ski around a 150 meter penalty loop adding an average of 20-30 seconds per lap. I love this. It seems like it was devised by Herman Boone in Remember the Titans. “You miss a target – you ski a lap. You miss another target – you ski a lap. Don’t have an old man, find a drunk and trade him for his sport coat.”
Instead of simply assessing penalty time for targets missed, the sport punishes you with additional calisthenics, which is both more fun for the viewer, and necessitates the inclusion of a tiny little track of shame next to the shooting range. I like to imagine skiers with perfect shooting zipping by the poor saps on the cute little circle of dishonor and mocking them.
“Hey Bjorn! Don’t they teach you how to shoot in Sweden? Au revoir suckass!”
When you fall down in figure skating, they deduct points. When you miss a gate in slalom skiing, you’re automatically disqualified. When you miss a target in the biathlon, they make you work it off.
I freaking love that. It’s the best penalty system in any sport, ever. And I can’t wait to see more disgraced biathletes woefully circling the track of indignity.
17 Feb 2010 E Dagger