The BBC TV program “Ski Sunday” introduced me (as a child) to the thrills and spills of downhill skiing, and ski-jumping. Later on I would discover freestyle skiing and snowboarding. And ever since I witnessed John Curry take the Men’s Individual Gold in 1976, I have adored watching figure skating. With the exception of skiing with its “fastest” winner takes all approach, all of the disciplines I enjoy watching have an element of artistry involved in deciding a winner. Ski-jumping not only involves distance jumped but has a style component built in as well. Ice-skating is a subjective sport as a whole, as are the newer ski sports of snowboarding (half-pipe, slopestyle) and freestyle skiing (moguls, slopestyle). But snowboard cross manages to replicate the thrills of downhill skiing, with as much drama occurring before the first past the post winner is crowned.
Not for me the long arduous endurance events, or the frantic pace of ice-hockey on the rink. I’ve grown to very much enjoy the sedate but cut-throat world of “Chess on Ice” otherwise known as Curling. Who can forget Rhona’s last stone going “centre of the house” to secure Gold in 2002? I’m also quite fond of the luge and skeleton events which although based on a cumulative time score, does in my opinion, have an artistic quality to it. The luge gloves with their sewn in mini spikes to help give purchase on the ice, are a work of art in themselves. From a paddle start in luge, an athlete lies flat on their back travelling feet first down a meandering bank of ice. In skeleton a running start has the athlete hurtling head-first down the same course. Effectively both are performing on something akin to an over large tea-tray with skate blades. To do this convincingly has to be an artistic endeavour at least-and a very brave one too. Lizzie Yarnold took Gold in the Women’s Skeleton to win GB’s second medal of the games.
So during the first few days of competition in Sochi I’ve enjoyed the spectacle of my artistic sporting events. The Figure Skating Team competition began on Day minus one and ended on Day Two, with Russia victorious. It was nice to see some camaraderie in the figure skating for a change, as it’s normally such an insular sport. I’ve also delighted in witnessing the sheer exuberance, freedom of expression and friendly relaxed nature of the newer Olympic sports as well. Snowboarders seem to combine the balance of a skateboarder with the dexterity of a gymnast. Jenny Jones a pioneer of her sport here in Great Britain won our first ever medal on snow/in Sochi. She took Bronze in the Snowboarding Woman’s Slopestyle Final, a new Olympic event. Women’s Ski-jumping (normal hill) also made its debut and Carina Vogt of Germany with a score of 247.4 took Gold.
Intriguingly knitting made an unexpected debut in the Olympics, making a striking appearance in the starting gates of both Snowboarding Slopestyle finals. A volunteer could clearly be seen holding a pair of knitting needles with the beginnings of a potential scarf on them. How on earth did they get through security I wonder? Another unexpected viewing has been the pre-opening ceremony entertainment, when The Ministry of Internal Affairs Choir performed Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. In formal military style uniforms these guys “let loose” with gusto, (Russian style), and it was a sight to behold. Seems their rendition has proved very popular on the internet, though it remains to be seen if this new found popularity, will be enough to land them a berth in the official closing ceremony.