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Dreams of the luge and bobsled

Posted: February 20, 2014 10:35 a.m.
Updated: February 21, 2014 5:00 a.m.

If you’ve always harbored a desire to be an Olympic athlete but you have a hard time walking and chewing gum at the same time, I have two words for you:



Rare is the American who hasn’t dreamed of the glory of Olympic gold, standing atop the podium as “The Star Spangled Banner” is played, drinking in the adulation of fellow countrymen.

But let’s face it. Most of us don’t possess even a small fraction of the skill it takes to compete in an Olympic arena.

Except for luge and bobsled. After all, how much skill can it take to slide down a hill?

Hey, I know it takes extraordinary ability to go down hills on a pair of skis. And those guys and gals who go downhill, then uphill, then downhill again -- that’s called the ski jump -- are fearless and talented.

But jumping on a sled and hugging your arms around your body can’t be all that demanding, you think?

Here’s some technical talk for you: luge riders (lugers?) lie on their backs and go feet first. Single bobsledders -- that’s called the skeleton competition -- lie on their stomachs and go head first.

That’s pretty much all you need to know to be an Olympic sliding hotshot.

The officials even make it easy. The curves are banked, and there’s no slush at all. You just have to push off, jump aboard and hang on for dear life.

That’s the exact same advice my friend Waylon Fortenberry of Chesterfield County gave me back in high school a long time ago, but it involved another activity altogether, and we're not going to get into that.

Waylon’s not a big fan of the Winter Olympics. He called me just before the biathlon started and said he thought they ought not to have events revolving around a person’s sexual preferences.

I got him straightened out on that one: “Hey, Waylon, it’s skiing and shooting a rifle.”

Curling’s another winter event I could do without. It’s not much different than geezers playing shuffleboard down in Florida except there’s ice instead of concrete.

Speed skating is my favorite part of the Winter Olympics. Those people are fast, and they have to be pretty smart just to figure out which lane they’re supposed to be in.

And the people who do cross-country skiing? Man, they're masochists, because that makes running a marathon look like a piece of cake.

When it comes to figure skating, you either like it or you don’t. Most men don’t like it. Most women do. Call me sexist if you want; it’s just the truth. I don’t know, or care to, the difference between a triple lutz and a quadruple axel.

In fact, figure skating is about the furthest thing in the world from another sport they play on a rink, ice hockey. I’d like ice hockey if the goal were twice as wide as it is and the scores were 18-17 instead of 1-0. Scoring-wise, hockey's  about like soccer in the Yukon.

I do know Russia lost in ice hockey, throwing the entire country into a vodka-induced coma, which isn’t a lot different than what they do there every day.

And finally, there are some relatively new events that I don’t even understand, like snowboarding and half-piping. The primary requisite is that you have to be able to go up in the air and then turn upside down. I can do that, but I need a roller coaster to help.

Beyond that, I’m not much of an authority on the Winter Olympics, other than hearing from one wag that accommodations in Sochi are so bad, the best hotel in town is the Two Seasons.


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