Saturday, June 23, 2018

Olympic Observations

COACH WAYNE’S CORNER


 

 

I have spent my entire life residing on the Gulf coast at an elevation that has been either at or below sea level. Because of this fact, I have never had the opportunity to participate in any type of winter related sports.

I refer to these sports as being any activity that includes snow, ice or mountains as part of the playing surface, field or arena. Therefore, I am not qualified as a coach or athlete, in regards to the expectations of the athletic aptitudes required of the world class athletes who compete in such sports.

With those facts out on the table, I am going to give my perspective as a regular Joe spectator; who is for the most part, unfamiliar with the proper fundamentals and strategies involved with the different aspects of the activities and competitions that make up the Winter Olympics.

 

 

As an average Joe viewer, I will attempt to curiously and honestly give my opinion on which events I see as real athletic competitive sports, and which ones I view simply as a performance, as well as those which I quite honestly wonder, why they are even in the Olympics.

I Googled “Winter Olympics,” and acquired a list of all the events offered at the 2018 games. Most of these events I am familiar with from watching past Winter Olympics, however, there are one or two events I have never even heard of! These events are, in alphabetical order:

Alpine Skiing
Biathlon
Bobsleigh
Cross Country Skiing
Curling
Figure Skating
Freestyle Skiing
Ice Hockey
Luge
Nordic Combined
Short Track Speed Skating
Skeleton
Ski Jumping
Snowboard
Speed Skating

So here we go, let the games begin! Let’s start with events which I believe are truly competitive in their nature.

They are; Alpine Skiing, Bobsleigh, Ice Hockey, Luge, Short Track Speed and Speed Skating. I have watched all of these events in the past. Basically speaking, I enjoy them because they all involve speed, as well as the athletes’ abilities to control that speed, and compete in and (hopefully) complete the event without critically injuring themselves.

Alpine Skiing. This event includes a variety of separate activities, which all basically resemble drag racing. Fundamentally speaking, it’s who can get from point A to point B in the fastest time without crashing. And while all of the Alpine Skiing events have the speed factor (which intrigues me), I’m just not sure if I am OK with not being in some type of vehicle, when going that fast.

Bobsleigh and Luge. As a Formula One racing fan and driving enthusiast, I would really get a kick out of attempting/ participating in these two events. The occupants of these vehicles are required to find the correct apex of corners and utilize as much speed as possible throughout the course, just the same as F-1 drivers have to accomplish when racing through the streets of Monte Carlo. And anything that includes speed, as well as the strategies of racing, is right up my alley.

Ice Hockey. Like any other “rock um/ sock um” team sport, put me in coach, I’m ready to play!

Speed Skating. It involves outright speed and racing strategies, so once again, right up my alley.

Along with and in addition to the above-mentioned events, there are events, which in my opinion are just down right terrifying to attempt. And even more scary, to spend years training to become accomplished in! These events are Ski Jumping (which is part of the Alpine Skiing events) and Skeleton.

Just as I would never consider jumping out of a perfectly good flying airplane, (either with or without a parachute), I would never have the guts to go flying off of a ramp, to the bottom of a giant hill, going 70+ mph, hoping to land safely and not end up becoming the agony of defeat!

Also, while it looks like a lot of fun, I think I would have to include Snowboarding, along with Ski Jumping, as events that I would not care to attempt. Maybe I’m just too old school and not “gnarly dude” enough to want to participate in such a sport.

As for the sport of Skeleton, the name alone scares me! Basically, you are laying on your stomach, face down, two inches from a nose plant into the ice/snow, riding on a sled that looks like a modern version of Rosebud, from the movie Citizen Kane and you are flying down a bobsleigh course, at speeds up to and over 80 mph. Along with all of that, and after watching several runs by the competitors, there appears to be very limited (if any) steering or braking involved in riding the sled.

So, it is safe to say, that I am obviously, not including any of these activities to be part of my bucket list.

Now for the controversy (and any/ all of my readers are free to agree to disagree with me on this). There are some events that although I understand, respect and appreciate the tradition and history of their existence (as well as the physical coordination, commitment to conditioning/training and the emotional stress and pressure required by the athletes involved in competition), I must admit that I don’t actually consider them to be combative/competitive athletic sports. These events are Figure Skating, Cross Country Skiing and Curling.

Figure Skating. I believe there is a major difference in events, which requires a true combative/competitive challenge by the participants, as opposed to events where participants are being judged on their individual technique in the execution of their performance.

I see this type of event as more of a skills competition, rather than a head to head challenge. While it requires a commitment of training and athletic agility, as well as the participants having to deal with and conquer the emotional nerves and pressures of Olympic competition, it just does not qualify (in my personal opinion) as a sport.

Cross Country Skiing. While I appreciate the conditioning and training required by these athletes to go the distance, I don’t really care for watching the sport. It’s like a marathon foot race, and up until the final lap to the finish line you are basically just watching a group of people jogging.

Biathlon. I am on the fence about this one. This event is basically Cross Country Skiing (and as I have just stated), a sport I don’t really care for. However, as someone who enjoys an afternoon of skeet and target shooting, I can truly appreciate the skills of the biathlon athletes having to control and monitor their breathing and heart rates in order to hit the bullseye.

Curling. It is my understanding that they are considering including bowling, as an event at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. So, I’m going to just leave that one alone, and let you form your own opinion. However, I think you can probably guess what mine is.

And finally, while I did not get a chance to view the opening or closing ceremonies, I can only assume that like the Super Bowl halftime show, they were probably very spectacular in regards to production and presentation. That kind of thing is just not really my cup of tea.

Well there you have it. My insights, opinions and feelings on Winter Olympic sporting events which I have never participated in. Many of these events are ones that I would consider to be on my bucket list and some of them are of no interest to me whatsoever.

As stated before, you are welcome to agree with some of my opinions and statements, and I encourage you to disagree with others. That freedom of having your own opinion, along with the opportunity to challenge me, creates an environment which has always attracted me to participate in any and all forms of competition.

Wayne Clark is a certified professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction. He has been the head instructor at The Marco Island Racquet Center since 2001. The Racquet Center offers clinics, private and group lessons for both tennis and pickleball. Coach Wayne’s Island Kids Tennis/ Sports Juniors programs run year round, and offer classes for players ranging from kindergarten through high school. Contact Coach Wayne by email at coachwayneclark@aol.com or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.

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