The Winter Olympics has always been a bit of a poor relation to its older summer sibling. Fewer athletes, too many clothes.
But if there’s one area where the Winter Games come into their own, it’s in the element of danger. Downhill skiers descend mountains faster than the highway speed limit. The lugeys go just as fast lying down. Ice hockey is basically some form of jujitsu on ice. With sticks. And if you tried to jump from the heights the aerial skiers and snowboarders reach, someone would be talking you down in calm, soothing words while dialling 000.
With the exception of curling, just about every Winter Olympics sport poses the threat of carnage. Which makes for compelling viewing. And some ripper stacks.
But at Sochi there have been concerns Russian action man Vladimir “Danger is my middle name” Putin may have gone too far in the risking other people’s lives and limbs department.
Aussie golden girl Torah Bright has been less than impressed with the halfpipe course. “The people who constructed the pipe aren’t the greatest at their craft,” she said. Then she giggled, kind of lessening the impact of her complaint.
No laughs from American champion Bode Miller. “If you are not totally focused and paying attention, this course can kill you,” he said of the Sochi downhill.
Other courses are being described by athletes as ‘really technical’, which is code for ‘I need to change my underwear’.
Meanwhile, the injury list stacks up. A broken femur in Team USA, a broken Norwegian collarbone, a free stretcher ride for a Finnish snowboarder, a Slovenian nose broken on the downhill and no doubt a very bad headache for a Czech snowboarder who split her helmet in two in a fall during the slopestyle final. Not to mention Scotty James’ battered man parts.
In Sochi, where the temperatures have reached a balmy 16 degrees Celsius, there has been the added danger of the snow melting under competitors’ skis. This caused havoc for the ski jumpers, where one stack caused the cancellation of a training session, and also for Aussie aerialist Lydia Lassila, who hit her head three times in training.
And it was soft snow that got the better of moguls skier Dale Begg-Smith, on whose shoulders Aussie hopes rested on Day Three. There are a few terms that follow Begg-Smith around like a bad smell. One is ‘reclusive’, another is ‘internet millionaire’. He is also, apparently, the best moguls technician in history and I hope I’ve said that in a way that suggests I know what I’m talking about.
Unfortunately, after a few years off the slopes, he’s also a bit out of practice and he face planted in qualifying. But he hung around to advise teammates Matt Graham and Brodie Summers through the remainder of the competition, Graham missing the final six by an agonising 0.01 points.
But at least the hosts are happy, securing their first gold medal of the Games in team figure skating, with the Vlad looking on.
They said it
“I just wasn’t feeling it today. I got really sore. I haven’t skied in the soft snow for four years. You’ve got to train in Australia if you want to get some of that.” Might have been a good idea, Dale Begg-Smith
“This is possibly the hardest thing that any skater can imagine happening to them.” Aussie speed skater Daniel Greig, who tripped at the start of his race
“I’m trying to hide from the sun here because I feel like I’m getting red.” British skier Chemmy Alcott feels the heat in Sochi
“To miss the Super Final by 0.01 was heartbreaking.” So close for Aussie moguls skier Matt Graham
“It was kind of a desperate move coming back this year. My body wasn’t there. If you don’t ski for three years you’re kind of hoping for a miraculous performance.” Dale Begg-Smith again