I’m not much of a sports fan; I might watch a spot of tennis during Wimbledon fortnight and I have been known to shout at the TV during certain Six Nations rugby matches. But, mostly, all that running and jumping and the chasing of balls around pitches leaves me a bit underwhelmed.
I find the Winter Olympic sports somewhat baffling. Take the luge, for example. As if appearing in front of the world’s media wearing skin-tight lycra isn’t scary enough, you have to hurl yourself down a frozen mine shaft in a glorified roasting tin as well?? And as for the skeleton luge… Who first came up with that crazy idea? And how on earth did they persuade other people to get involved?? (“Here, just slip into this giant condom then lie down flat on this teatray and, see that deep, icy crevasse over there?? Well, I’m gonna heave you down it at great speed, head first, towards certain and grisly death at the bottom, okay??”) Absolute madness.
And the same could be said of many other Winter Olympic events:
“Why don’t you try sticking these two long, thin strips of aluminium onto the bottom of your feet and then chucking yourself off the top of his mountain?”
“Erm… will there be something soft to land on at the bottom?”
“Not really. Only some ice packed so hard it’s just like concrete.”
“Right. Yeah, okay then.”
As for hurling… I am utterly bewildered! It looks like the sort of frantic housework one undertakes when one’s mother-in-law is about to pay a sudden visit!
Thankfully, not everyone feels the same way I do and millions of avid spectators have been absolutely glued to their TV screens, loving the highs, lows and moments of breath-taking excitement at the 2014 Winter Olympics. And there are hundreds of hugely talented and committed athletes for this audience to marvel at. These sportsmen and women have made endless sacrifices and trained impossibly hard for the last four years to be at their very best, for a few short weeks of competition and for the most fleeting chance of glory, of a gold medal…
While I was slumbering beneath my snugly duvet or lazing on my comfy sofa with a plateful of chocolate biscuits, they were rising in the early hours, fitting in gruelling training and fitness regimes around jobs and family and real life, maintaining strict diets, pushing themselves ever onward, ignoring pain, injuries and adversity just to represent their country in Sochi right now.
I might not share (or even understand!) their passion, but I recognise achievement, bravery and endeavour when I see ‘em. Massive congratulations and big respect to all the athletes, medal winners or not, who had the stones to step up. I salute you.