Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Winter Sports and the Olympics

I have enjoyed watching the Vancouver Winter Olympics when I have been able to do so. This year I have particulalry enjoyed viewing the cross-country skiing and biathlon events. The cameras have taken beautiful videos of these events and you can gain a large appreciation for the athleticism and ability of the these highly trained athletes. It is also much more interesting than watching the figure skating! I had missed seeing one event that I had heard was quite inspiring and dramatic: the men's 30K Pursuit. In a Pursuit the skiers complete 15K skiing using the classical style and then change skis and complete a final 15K using the skating method. In this race, one Swedish skier takes off after switching skis and tries to hang on to his lead through the final lap. I was able to see the video here on the NBC site. It is the live feed, but without announcers. You can easily skip parts of the race as it is over an hour long. However the videography is wonderful. It is like watching the Tour de France with all the close-ups and changing camera angles. Here is a recap of the race.

It got me to thinking that wouldn't it be great to get snowshoe racing events in the olympics? Either that or put snow cross-country running in the olympics. I bet that those Yaktrax runners could do some damage or just get some super spikes to race. Since winter Olympic games have to involve snow or ice, just set up a running course on the snow! If you think that sounds unusual, don't forget that in 1992 down the road at Franklin Field in Boston the World Cross-Country Championships were held in the snow. New Hamshire's Lynn Jennings won her 3rd World title in the race. John Ngugi of Kenya won the men's race and his fifth title. Paula Radcliffe won the women's junior race and Haile Gebrselassie finished second in the men's junior race. That is quite a list of champions. It might be a great way to get some of those Ethiopian and Kenyan athletes to start winning some winter medals too!

Watching the cross-country skiing also reminded me of a high school cross-country skiing trip I took back in 1975 at the The Stony Brook School. We had an excellent outdoor education program. For less than $5 you could sign up to go on a weekly trip (we even had an outdoor ed. teacher). I went canoing a few times and downhill skiing, but my favorite was this cross-country ski trip. Usually you got out of school on a Wednesday and returned on a Saturday or Sunday. On this trip we left Stony Brook (on Long Island) and traveled to the Adirondacks. We arrived after midnight and were told to put on our backpacks filled with our gear and ski to a hut in the woods. Was it 3 miles away? It took forever as we skiers kept crashing, breaking through the crust, and then having to be pulled out of the deep snow. We hunkered down for the night in a cabin and woke to the scariest thing ever.

It was complete dark and rifle shots sounded outside the cabin, just feet from where I was sleeping. Waking up in the complete dark in an unknown cabin deep in the woods to the sound of gunfire is never really pleasant. My imagination ran wild and I was not picturing pleasant scenarios. Eventually it was learned that this was our wake-up call from whomever was going to take us to the next lodging place. For the next few days we had immense fun learning to ski on these wonderful trails and playing games in the place we were staying at night. Here are a few pictures from that trip.

back: Doug Alexander, Mr. Terry Harrison, me. Gayle Anderson-Murray, Karen Fromm, Mr. Bob Cordz.
front: Lisa Andrews, Barbara Long
Barbara Long, Gayle Anderson-Murray, Karen Fromm, Doug Alexander, Bob Cordz

Mr. Terry Harrison (great teacher), Lisa, Barb, Karen, Doug, Bob, Rosemary

Doug Alexander (usually we looked like this)
Barbara Long (and then this!)

Rosemary McConkey, Lisa Andrew, Karen Fromm (sometimes like this)

Doug Alexander (off trail-rarely like this)

me (a little off focus)

That experience was a lot of fun, and I still like playing around in the snow! None of us were Olympic material,  however. We probably did not know that they even raced cross-country skis in the Olympics.


Anonymous said...

Skiing that first time, for hours on a pristine snow trail under the moonlight, was a mystical experience.
Thank you so much for writing about it - and sharing the photos!
~Karen Fromm Russell

Rosemary said...

Its so funny that you published these pictures...I have been thinking a lot about that cross country trip while watching the Olympics. I don't thing anyone can fully appreciate the strength and conditioning required to compete at that level. I was in good shape back then when we went on that trip and I was in a lot of pain. You use muscles you never knew existed. But the views and wilderness definitely made it all worthwhile. Thank you so much for the wonderful memories!


Dave said...

I was an on track official in 92 for that. I shoveled snow the day before to get ready and watched Lynn do sprints into the stadium. So when the race was a three way tie going into the stadium, who did the best sprint, Lynn.