Watching the Winter Olympics has proved to be an efficient way of working out which sports I will never play. Flinging myself headfirst down a narrow ice tube at 80 mph on a tin tea tray somehow doesn’t cut it. Neither will I whizz round on two knife edges, bum in air, aiming to perform a double Salchow while dressed in a hypothermia skirt. As these tiny skirts and skin-tight leotards are purely to pay homage to aesthetics, soon we will have ice hockey players in boardies and pads or downhill skiers in cocktail dresses, but perhaps not heels.
My first attempts at skating were as a child when rinks were rare. Years later, in Canada, we decided to skate in the New Year on a lake. Here I discovered that, astonishingly, lakes are not flat; less astonishingly, they do not have rails. I also found that although all Canadians possess skates, they do not all have my size feet. Found out what tenderfoot meant, though.
My husband thinks that we should try the two-man bob, or one-man-and-his-wife-bob. I can imagine the pair of us flying down together, him steering, me perfectly positioned for backseat driving. ‘Look out! Ice wall…slow down…we’re losing: speed up… turn right at next bend… sorry, I mean left … careful, check for pedestrians… are we there yet?’
My Russian is improving, so I now know the Russian for hockey puck and cheers (Zdorov’ye!) Should I continue to watch the Winter Olympics, I expect I’ll bank the words snow, jump and another dodgy judging decision.
I mourn the loss of some of the demonstration sports that could have been part of the current Olympics, such as skijoring, where a skier is pulled along by dogs. They must make the course pretty boring: no trees or walls which have been recently been peed on. Dogs less than 25lbs are rarely used, so our neighbour’s shi-tzu would be de-selected, although my cat would probably get through. Fantastic sport; your co-competitor won’t argue back, nor fight to keep the medal. The downside is that he won’t pay for his own drinks either.
Winter pentathlon was demonstrated in 1948; composed of cross-country skiing, shooting, downhill skiing, fencing and horse riding. Riding on ice? What did this consist of? Dressage? Horses sliding around with beautifully plaited tails and reindeer horns strapped on to add a wintry effect. Flat racing? On a course without corners, with a long skid run at the end, then crash barriers. Perhaps they had special horseshoes with little blades on them. Horse jumping? Probably not, as landing would be perpetually tricky, even without equine shoeblades.
Fencing on snow? Dressed in traditional white, fencers might have had a hard time finding their opponent on a snowy background, although the sliding and random poking farce could have been quite entertaining. Maybe the modern day luge owes it’s existence to fencing if a slightly deaf official was asked to put on a lunge competition.
The only sport I’m tempted by is curling. Embarrassingly, it’s not my dreams of Olympic gold that slide me towards the curling piste. I just fancy playing a sport with one slippy and one grippy shoe so I can walk or glide along the ice alternately. And not die.
A scale of likelihood of me taking up any other of the sports performed at the Winter Olympics would range between Desperately unlikely to Me? Oh, come on. I wouldn’t risk life – nor limb – trusting equipment that could give disastrously at any minute. Lost bolt or screw? Kapow! Wire breaks? Crash! A frayed knot? Splat.
So do I have Olympic dreams? ‘Fraid not.