I grew up in western New York. About fifty miles from Buffalo. Needless to say snow, and lots of it, was part of my childhood. As a result, the winter sports were a big part of what we did. I think I went roller skating once as a kid. Ice skating? I went every chance I got. I loved it. Cross country skiing? Well, we didn't have to go far, that's for sure. We would walk out the back door onto the porch, put the skis on, and make our way out the backyard and into the fields and hills beyond. Not exactly a lot of pre-planning required... Although I've never been on a luge or a bobsled, they have their roots in the sleds with metal runners we grew up using and the big old wood toboggans that we'd use on the big hills.
As I got older I found a passion for Alpine skiing. By the time I graduated from high school, I was quite good. I never raced in any formal events, but I did race against a friend in a timed event called the Jeep Downhill Challenge or something like that. If I remember correctly I beat him by .01 second on one course, and he beat me by .01 second on the other course. Hey, at least we were consistent, if not terribly fast compared to the rest of the field. Having tried a lot of the events, or some semblance of them, makes it a lot easier to understand just how impressive what these athletes can do. And if you haven't tried these sports, trust me, these athletes are very, very good.
The first winter olympics I remember watching was 1984, mainly because we were living on Yap when the 1980 olympics happened (in New York state!) and there were no tv's there...
I caught a HUGE passion for the winter olympics when Bill Johnson came out of nowhere and won the olympic downhill, becoming a bit of a hero of mine. I've been hooked ever since, and every four years when the winter olympics comes on we watch as much of it as possible. In 2002 we actually went to Salt Lake and went to the events live, which was a tremendous thrill.
This year was a record year for the US, winning more medals than at any prior winter games with 37. That is very strange to me. In 1984 we won eight medals total. In 1984 the soviet union won 25 medals and east germany won 24. Both of those countries do not exist anymore (WILD!).
But the olympics are over now. I miss the competition. I miss the patriotism. I miss the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. So now back to life, and we wait another four years for another round, this time in Russia. I honestly hope Russia has a HUGE showing at their own games. I kinda miss being the underdog...
PS - The most impressive moment of the olympics came on the last day. Click here and watch the video of Peter Northug of Norway sprint for the finish line at the end of a 50km cross country ski race. Ask yourself this question after you watch it: Do you really think you could ski that fast at the end of a 1 kilometer race? Now imagine doing it after fifty!