OK, let’s deal with the elephant in the room. If there is one weakness in the Australian sports physiology, it is in the pursuits involving ice and snow.
It’s not our fault. We are, after all, bronzed Aussies. We love a sunburnt country. Drought and bushfire are the natural ravages of our land. Our minds and bodies are built for sun, not snow. It kind of says it all that we won our first individual Winter Olympics gold back in 2002 because everyone else in the race fell over.
In Sochi, there are similar stories of Aussie fish out of water. Townsville luge contender Alex Ferlazzo had never seen real snow until he took up the sport three years ago. He practises on a road. Bobsleighers Jana Pittman and Duncan Harvey were both hurdlers before they took to running really fast on ice and sticking their heads up their partner’s bottoms.
That most suicidal of winter sports, the skeleton — basically the luge head first and face down, complete madness — has among its Aussie contenders former downhill mountain biker John Farrow and Michelle Steele, a surf lifesaver who hails from the rum capital of Australia in balmy Bundaberg. Even a household name like snowboarder Alex Pullin lists Narrabeen on Sydney’s northern beaches as his training base. It has never once snowed there and there’s a snowflake’s chance in hell it ever will.
We, the Aussie spectators, are somewhat out of our comfort zone as well. This time last week, I had never heard of a triple cork but I’m awfully glad snowboarder Scotty James was able to land one in the slopestyle semis without doing further damage to his man parts. By his own admission, they’ve taken a bit of a hammering in Sochi. My otherwise sports savvy eight-year-old, watching the men’s downhill, asked: “What about the uphill?” We’re all in crash course territory here.
So our team has come to Sochi with modest ambitions but hopes of our best Winter Olympics showing yet. Which means we need to win four medals, at least two of them gold.
Moguls skier Britt Cox has put in the best showing so far. She finished fifth in her event after clawing her way into the final six through a series of eliminations not that far removed from a season of Survivor. Torah Bright came 7th in a very chummy slopestyle final, where a hand on the snow basically puts you out of medal contention and did. The good news is that her more favoured events are still ahead of her.
So no medals yet but there’s still a way to go. Our big guns are keeping their powder dry. And you never know what an Olympics is going to throw at you.
They said it
“I wasn’t going to tell anyone, but I hurt my man parts really bad.” Aussie snowboarder Scotty James explains why his voice has gone up an octave
“It’s the best backflip I’ve done on a course so far.” Moguls skier Nicole Parks might have a future in politics
“Just two contestants, a huge hunk of ice and me not understanding the rules.” HG Nelson just loves the speed skating
“Most of the gold in Sochi will go to Switzerland, but into secret bank accounts.” Russian chess legend Garry Kasparov is definitely off Vladimir Putin’s Christmas card list
“You only needed to have a clean run to get a medal at this event.” 2002 gold medal winner Alisa Camplin reckons the women’s slopestyle final could have been more competitive
Finally, a word from Sochi volunteer Vladimir about the opening ceremony
So how you like new Olympic logo? People say we make oops in opening ceremony. They are not understanding sharp Russian mind and quest for new ideas. This is not problem. Five ring old as hills. Is boring. President Putin make new symbol for you. He clever, da? Funky. He hip and happening like snowboarder. He mix it up. He jiggy with it. He Snoop Dogg of international leaders.
OK, I stop now.