The 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver are almost here, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I love the Winter Olympics just slightly more than the summer.
That’s because my first sports memory was of the 1980 games in Lake Placid, and Team USA’s “Miracle on Ice” against the Soviet Union. Jim Craig was my hero – yes, I eventually became a goalie, but in the Arizona roller hockey rinks rather than Chicago’s ice rinks. Tony Esposito eventually replaced Craig as my hero, but Craig came first.
Anyway, to celebrate the coming spectacle in Vancouver, here are my five favorite events (I’m equally happy watching men or women in all – also I want to know YOUR 5 favorites!):
Hockey – After that intro, I’m sure you had no doubt it would be my top pick. I understand hockey better than I understand any other sport. I see goals before they happen, and am rarely surprised when a puck goes in. There’s nothing cooler than seeing a goalie make an awesome save, or an old-school defender delivering an open-ice hip check. Sure, I love all the scoring and the “odd tussle” (as Don Cherry might say). But give me a tense, low-scoring game with a pair of brilliant goalies dueling it out.
Bobsled – I shouldn’t even have to explain why this Winter Olympics sport is cool. Really, skeleton and luge are also awesome. But the bobsled! Bullet-shaped, heavy, fast – there’s nothing like hearing it hurtle down a twisting, banked course. I can see why the Jamaicans wanted to do this so badly (and kind of bad, too). These cats are always on the ragged edge of control. More than any other sport, too, this is the one that I want to try. When I visited Park City, you could take a ride for $200. That’s a bit stiff, but I may cave in one day. It’s just too awesome.
Curling – I know, from two of the fastest sports to one of the slowest. But curling is way more awesome than you realize unless you’re Canadian. Watch the movie Men with Brooms and you will begin to understand the appeal. Bonus points – the Swedish women’s team picked the song “Hearts on Fire” by their countrymen and friendly local power metal band Hammerfall as their theme song in the last winter games. So what did Hammerfall and its likeable lineup do? They shot a cheesy-but-hysterical video with the team, of course! If only all bands were so self-deprecating. For the record, some of the team members were pretty hot. I’m just sayin’, guys …
Giant Slalom – This event rocks. Those skiers are freakishly awesome. If you don’t already know that, try skiing on their courses. They do runs at high speed that scare me at a granny’s pace. They are brave, skilled and super-strong. And it’s just flat-out fun to watch them rip down the course. I have to admit, crashes can be fun, too – but only if they don’t get hurt. There’s also incredible drama and tension with each run. It’s totally unpredictable.
Biathlon – Cross-country skiing + shooting = awesome. If you’ve never strapped on a set of cross-country skis, you may wonder why it’s a big deal. Well, it’s freakin’ hard. And it’s even pretty fun! The downhill sections will make you whoop for joy, but you don’t have the consequences of blazing down a black-diamond run on downhill skies and losing control. And this is a cardiovascular workout. It must be really rough to have your heart hammering and thighs burning while trying to shoot a target. Bring your gun up, take a deep breath to steady your nerves, put your finger on the trigger … that all gets harder with your heart rate soaring. You’ll soon have a new appreciation for this Winter Olympics sport.