Wednesday, February 10, 2010

We're Better Than Liechtenstein!

The Winter Olympics are coming soon to a television near you.

Canada is expected to earn 20 to 30 medals. Some of the small Euro-nations represented here may only garner 2 or 3. Let's hear it, "We're better than Liechtenstein!"

Here are a few little-known facts about some of the sports in these winter games:


It's interesting to note that this means of traveling at breakneck speeds on a course of ice and snow did not originate as a sport at all. It was a mode of transportation for Swiss men to commute from their homes in the Matterhorn down to their workplaces in the villages below. The early 2, 3 and 4 man bobsleds were just a way to "sledpool", so people could save money on transportation expenses. How these men got back home at the end of the day is anyone’s guess.

Speed Skating

Due to events in 1527, near the Dutch town of Slipsen Falls in the northwest Netherlands, a Christiaan Utrecht is given credit for being the world’s first speed skater. While on a leisurely solo skate on the frozen Zuiderzee, Christiaan successfully skated for his life when the dike holding back the North Sea broke. Accounts from bystanders on shore suggest that Mr. Utrecht’s speed exceeded 80 kilometers per hour that day.

Snowboarding: Halfpipe

This isn’t really a sport. It’s just some skateboard kids having fun in the snow. It is fun to watch, though.

Figure Skating: Ice Dance

Introduced as a medal sport in the 1976 Olympics, the Ice Dancing event consists of three competitions: compulsory dance, original dance, and free dance. The fact that Ice Dancing became a medal sport is surprising considering its shaky start as a demonstration event at the 1972 Sapporo games. The compulsory competition that year contained the ill-advised flamenco dance. The resultant chipped and chopped ice surface required several Zamboni teams to work overnight in order to complete repairs.


Now this is a sport where Canada really shines. The great thing about curling is that you do not have to be an athlete to compete. Think of it as a glorified game of shuffleboard on ice (my little old grandma used to play a mean game of shuffleboard). Supposedly the teams alternate possession of a hammer, though I’ve never witnessed any tools used — other than brooms — in the matches I’ve seen. The strategy, apparently, is to throw up a few guards during the first nine ends of the game, and then try to smash hell out the opponent's rocks in the last end.

Ice Hockey

This is one of Canada’s two national sports (Lacrosse, with its similarly brutal style of whack and hack play, is the other). Not surprisingly, Canada does very well in this Olympic event. In 1998, players from the NHL were finally allowed to play in the games. Since then, there has been speculation about making Ice Punching an official Olympic sport. With the presence of NHLers, Canada would be virtually guaranteed a top podium finish.

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