Peril lurks un­der ev­ery snowflake

Nelson Mail - - SPORT -

The chance of death is high. With adrenal glands the size of small Pa­cific is­lands, they take to the sport­ing arena armed with blades, boards and spikey poles. They are the gnarli­est of the gnarly, slid­ing and slip­ping their way to to­wards a podium fin­ish - if the ice doesn’t get them first. Who are these crazy wizards of win­ter?! No se­ri­ously, who are they??

Ev­ery four years the Win­ter Olympics jumps onto my TV screen and scares the hell out of me. First a con­fes­sion; the only ice I have ever mas­tered has been in a glass of gin. With this in mind it’s not sur­pris­ing I have no idea who most of the ath­letes are, even the 21 Ki­wis. Why is this when you could ar­gue that a skier on the pants-wet­ting ski jump or snow­boarder in the half pipe is just as in­cred­i­ble to watch as Usain Bolt? New Zealand, why do we not take win­ter sport more se­ri­ously?

I won­der if our en­thu­si­asm lev­els are in di­rect cor­re­la­tion to the num­ber of medals won? It’s al­ways a downer when you can count your coun­try’s en­tire medal tally with your nose. It’s sad that many of us could prob­a­bly name ev­ery player in the Su­per Rugby teams but would strug­gle to recog­nise our top speed skaters. Like a sport­ing Hal­ley’s Comet, we for­get all about it un­til the pretty white pic­tures ap­pear on the telly ev­ery four years. It’s not as if we don’t get snow and good qual­ity at that, but I get the feel­ing, as a na­tion, we treat it more as a hobby which is also what our ath­letes have been ac­cused of.

Four years ago in Sochi some in the news me­dia crit­i­cised the Ki­wis for hav­ing the at­ti­tude of well, Ki­wis and tak­ing it all a bit easy. The team seemed un­trou­bled by its lack of suc­cess and looked to be en­joy­ing a hol­i­day at the tax­pay­ers’ ex­pense.

Noth­ing riles a fan more than see­ing an ath­lete lose and still look they’re hav­ing a good time. I be­lieve the pro­to­col is to be dis­ap­pointed but not to wal­low in self- hate or cry, be­cause that will also make staunch fans un­com­fort­able. Per­son­ally I don’t blame them for look­ing happy. I too would be thrilled I was still alive af­ter some of these events.

Our cur­rent crop of win­ter won­ders may have learned the PR lessons from the past. You also get the feel­ing our na­tional reps have set the bar higher. Chef de mis­sion Pete Wardell is say­ing the things fans love to hear such as ‘‘no-one re­mem­bers who got fourth’’. It was not long af­ter snow­boarder Car­los Gar­cia Knight and speed skater Peter Michael fin­ished top five af­ter briefly be­ing in medal con­tention.

He knows the team could be judged more harshly by the fund­ing au­thor­i­ties than the pub­lic so the team must per­form. And there are more chances to come. An­nelise Coberger wasn’t sup­posed to win sil­ver back in 1992 but she did. Ice is slip­pery stuff and pres­sure can be lethal.

New Zealand is still on the learn­ers’ slope when it comes to un­der­stand­ing what it takes to be a win­ner on snow and ice. In the north­ern hemi­sphere, woolly- jumpered Yo­das have passed their ex­per­tise and knowl­edge down the gen­er­a­tions.

Teams of ath­letes train with and against each other, grow­ing in skill and con­fi­dence. Even Bri­tain, the land of gen­tle slopes, has given its skele­ton rid­ers the lat­est ver­sion of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary skin suits that have helped the cy­cling team dom­i­nate the last three sum­mer Games. Ki­wis have high ex­pec­ta­tions on wa­ter, a sec­ond medal might just build be­lief in our skills on snow.

I for one am on board. Af­ter a few days watch­ing the PyeongChang ac­tion, I have de­cided to switch my al­le­giance from the sum­mer to win­ter Olympics.

I may ex­cel only at fill­ing ice trays but I’m in awe of peo­ple who do bats..t crazy things to push bound­aries and win medals. It’s the liv­ing life on the edge at­ti­tude that sets win­ter ath­letes apart. I have been hap­pily bam­boo­zled by terms such as cab 720, McTwist and things called back­side triple corks, which I can as­sure you has noth­ing to do with mulled wine, I checked.

So turn up the air con and em­brace those win­ter chills.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Car­los Gar­cia Knight got close to a medal in the slopestyle.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.