Monday, February 10, 2014

Watch the Winter Olympics!

A break away from the usual science and nature blogging to remind everyone that the XXII Olympic Winter Games are currently taking place in Sochi, Russia.

I love the Winter Olympics.  I was too young to remember the 1980 Lake Placid Games, but since the 1984 Sarajevo Games I have eagerly awaited the arrival of each Winter Olympics.

The Winter Olympics feature few sports that are familiar to most Americans.  Most of the sports are never shown on the major American broadcast networks with the exceptions of ice hockey, alpine skiing, figure skating, and snowboarding.

But, once very four years we are reminded of other winter sports such as bobsled, luge, cross country skiing, ski jumping, skeleton, etc.

My favorite moment of the Olympics so far this year was watching 40 year old Ole Einar Bjørndalen win a Gold medal in the 12.5km Pursuit (Biathlon).  This marks Bjørndalen's 7th Olympic Gold medal (and 12th medal overall) in the biathlon.  He has competed in every Winter Olympics since the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, Norway. In 2002, at Salt Lake City, Bjørndalen won four Gold medals. Since then he has been on of my favorite Olympians.

For those that don't know, biathlon combines cross country skiing and target shooting with a small bore (.22 Long Rifle) rifle.  Imagine skiing as fast as you can then coming to a complete stop to shoot at a target 50 meters away that is no more than 4.5 inches wide from the standing position or 1.8 inches wide from the prone position.  Then go immediately back to skiing at full effort.  To make it worse, if you miss a target you have to complete a lap around a penalty loop - one loop for each shot you miss.

Another exciting moment (to me at least) was watching long track speed skaters form the Netherlands go 1-2-3 in the Men's 5000m.  I also got a thrill from watching the greatest Olympic wrestler of all time Aleksandr Karelin carry the Olympic torch during the opening ceremonies.

I eagerly anticipate the rest of these Olympic Games.  I hope everyone will tune in to watch the games and support the athletes from every country as they pursue their Olympic Dreams.  Unlike professional athletes in basketball, football, and baseball, most of the athletes in these sports will never become rich.  Many of them work other jobs during the year to support their participation in the sport.  They compete for the love of their sport.  Passion like this is something to aspire to.  In other countries besides the United States, Olympic competitors and especially Olympic champions are celebrated as national heroes.  Unfortunately, this is something we do not do very well in the United States - once the games are over these athletes go back into the shadows where they continue to work to improve so they can represent their country int he sport they love.  These men and women should be revered for their athletic prowess and devotion to something that they love. 

Watch the Olympics!  Be a fan and supporter of all Olympic athletes.

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