Archive for Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympics Blog, Day 4: Intro to curling, and Lindsey Jacobellis

February 16, 2010

It’s not exactly bocce ball on ice, but that’s the feeling I had while watching the United States women battle Japan in a curling thriller this evening.

The USA held a lead after four ends, but Japan rallied and won 8-7 in a match that came down to a laser measurement — curling’s equivalent of a photo finish.

I’ve heard people claim that they could compete in the Olympics in curling because it requires no athletic ability, and I admit I got that same vibe during the first few minutes. How hard could it really be to slide a chunk of granite across the ice and place it near a target? The more I watched, though, my perspective changed. I withheld texting a friend and saying we should begin training for the 2014 Olympics, and instead I tried to figure this thing out.

First, you must have strong knees and impeccable balance. You also need nerves of steel.

You also need to know strategy, little of which I could figure out while watching.

Still, for an event that I’ve foolishly cracked jokes about in past years without having watched, I’m glad I’ve finally given it a chance. I will watch more, and I’d like to give it a try.

HONOR IN DEFEAT

Back in 2006, so much was made of Lindsey Jacobellis costing herself a gold medal when she attempted to showboat near the finish line, fell and ended up placing second.

NBC had a sit-down interview with Jacobellis that aired Monday night asking her for one final time about what happened in 2006. To her credit, she didn’t pout about it or make excuses. She admitted she wished the fall hadn’t happened, but she also explained to snowboard novices like me a bit about the spirit of snowboard culture. In a sense, snowboarding is for free spirits and rebels who like to cut loose and never lose sight of having fun. She was simply having a good time on the grandest of stages, and things didn’t work out as she’d hope they would.

This year she was again one of the favorites to win the gold, but another unfortunate stumble — this one early when she veered off course after landing an early jump — earned her a disqualification in the semifinals.

Again, instead of pouting, Jacobellis gathered herself, got back on her snowboard and finished the run anyway. While NBC was showing replays, Jacobellis reached the final jump and gave the rabid crowd something to celebrate as she unleashed a two-handed truck-driver grab.

Then she went back up the hill and won the consolation race for a meaningless fifth-place overall finish.

Later she talked to reporters and tried to put on a strong face. She focused on the positives — she didn’t get hurt, she got to continue on and do another race, and she’d enjoyed her Olympic experience anyway (she mentioned, among other things, walking in the parade at the opening ceremonies).

Certainly she’ll shed some tears later, away from the TV cameras. Still, despite being the goat at a second straight Olympics she managed to shed some light on snowboarding culture for those of us not in the know — that the spirit of the sport should never be diminished in the heat of competition.

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