I’m a big fan of the Olympics, winter and summer. The season doesn’t matter to me because this is the real version of reality television.
The speed of downhill skiing, jumping the length of one and a half football fields on a pair of skis, the stamina to cross country ski at a ridiculously quick pace or the precision to ride inches above the ice on a sled simply amazes. It seems like the action and adventure in a James Bond movie, but it actually happens.
This time, it looks like Sochi could turn around and host the summer games in March, given the 60 degree temps and lack of snow outside of the mountain peaks or ski courses and trails.
The sheer emotion at the end of a run, like the one made by skier Julia Mancuso who won a bronze medal ,is what reels me in every time. On the flip side, I felt the pain as snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis fell for the third time in as many Olympic games in the snowboard cross competition.
Seeing the joy just in finishing among the best in the world, is special. And to be named an Olympian, what an honor.
On the ice and snow the competition has been entertaining, to say the least. Learning about the different personalities is what really sets the Olympics apart from other events.
I came into the games looking forward to the epic men’s downhill ski course and it lived up to its billing with some wicked turns and insane jumps.
Now, I can’t wait to see how the hockey games, both men and women, turn out. The U.S. women lost a tough pool game to Canada and the men stayed perfect through Sunday’s pounding of Slovenia in the retro 1960 white USA uniforms.
Team USA defeating Russia in the shoot out thanks to Jonathan Quick in goal and T.J. Oshie scoring is already a highlight for me, although I thought the comparisons to the Miracle on Ice were a stretch on so many levels. Everyone on both rosters in Sochi is a professional hockey player either in the NHL, KHL (the Russian equivalent of the NHL) or another European league. Back in 1980 Team USA was a group of college kids going against the absolute best hockey players in the Soviet Union.
Still, I believe the idea of pro hockey players competing in the Olympics is a fun wrinkle to the games but might be best reserved for a tournament outside the Olympics. A perfect comparison is soccer. Every four years the best national teams converge for a World Cup, comprised of best players from each country. The process to get to the World Cup takes all four years and the build up to the tournament is a thrill.
For the Olympics, the soccer players must be under-23 except each team is allowed three older players, regardless of amateur status.
Setting an age limit and allowing a set number of additional players might help return the Olympic hockey to be more team focused, and less of a glorified all-star game.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of the best players in the world competing for their nation instead of a club (or NHL team) but I don’t know if the Olympics is the best stage for that.
Of course, the idea of a true amateur Olympian is more of an illusion than reality, given the endorsement deals and publicity money thrown at many athletes. I’d like to believe pure competition and a chance to represent their country serves as more than enough motivation for these competitors to give it their all.
Jason Olson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org