Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fire and Ice

I'm sitting here watching the women's downhill skiing, rooting my ass off for Lindsey Vonn, knowing how much pain she'll be in, and the last two women have crashed.
Their bodies looked like rags attached to spandex as they slammed down the crusty surface. I would imagine rolling out of a car at 30 mph wouldn't look much worse.
They walked away, but I watched each run a little bit harder after seeing those.
If the Summer Olympics is about power, speed and maybe a little grace, it seems to me the Winter Olympics is about danger.
Power, speed and grace, too, but definitely far more danger than the summer games. And that's part of their allure too.
That was apparent even before this year's opening ceremonies, when Nodar Kumaritashvili died on a juiced Luge track. I hate to admit this, but it made me watch Luge a bit more, too.
One of my favorite events is the short track skating. I love the speed, the passes and the elbow-throwing, but I also love the fact that they're racing on blades that could be used by Jason to hack up teenagers during one of the Friday the 13ths. American JR Celski won the bronze just months after one of his blades slashed his leg in a crash. It took 60 stitches to close it, and an inch or two deeper, and the cut kills him.
Holy Cow. Another ski crash. This one by one of the top skiers (so I'm told), and she just destroyed one of the gates after flying a football field down the hill.
She walked away too, though that one had to hurt.
(Man, they're tough. Are they all like Vonn? And I think distance runners are tough? I'll have to remember them Saturday, when I run 16, farther than I've ever run before.)
I know what they're feeling. I've done a few climbs with knife edges and long miles and a more than a couple moments where my heart was in my throat. I will probably not do a few of them again. People love danger, and yeah, I do too, in some ways. One of those climbs was Capitol Peak, one I did this summer for the second and probably last time, and my article on it got more hits and reads than any other story I've done on my climbs.
But then again, I don't know the intensity of a downhill, a luge or even a short-track race, and that's a big reason why we watch, I think, even if we don't want to admit that. What is it like to stare a scare like that and dominate it? We'll never know. But we can't turn away, even when the course wins. Because the course may win.
I'm watching as Vonn just let out a scream as she tore up the course and crossed the finish line. It was not of pain. It was of joy, and maybe, a little bit of relief.
Yeah, I hear you, girl, and I'm with you.

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