From the grandstand – Winter Olympics

Col Hennessy It’s only right that I devote this column to the winter Olympics in that city which few can pronounce correctly. I must say I know next to nothing about this event so I did a bit of research and I can at least sound slightly informed. All I know is that these games are always contested in (our) summer and how fortunate are we that the powers that be in the Olympic movement always put it on to fill the gap between the end of the cricket season and the start of the football season…very considerate. So how many sports could you name? You can win a year’s subscription to the ‘Independent’ if you can name ten events. I only came up with five and most of those as a result of movies I have seen like ‘Cool Runnings’ and ‘Eddie the Eagle.’ Actually there are fifteen sports contested but what I didn’t know is that initially there was no such thing as Winter Olympics and events like figure skating and ice hockey were in fact contested at the summer Olympics. It wasn’t till 1924 that the winter Olympics came into their own. What a shame it is that dog sled racing has ceased. They have equestrian events of all sorts so I do not know why the canine variety of sports ceased. The winter Olympics are becoming more important to all of us in the grandstand. We like to be winners and over the last decade we have been doing better each year culminating in two gold medals four years ago. On that note, guess who has won the most medals at winter Olympics. You could rightly assume as I did it would be the US or Russia but no, it is Norway. They have won over 300 medals while the US is under that figure. Half of those for the Nordic nation are in cross-country skiing, which the US usually ignores (they have machines for that sort of thing). As a nation we pride ourselves on how well we achieve in the sporting arena but here is a nation of only 5 million who are at the top of the tree. Believe it or not there have been five athletes who have won medals at both summer and winter games (only one person has won gold in both). I immediately thought of our own Yana Pitman who went from 400 metre hurdles to practising for the bobsled. What eventuated, I do not recall. One of my favourite events is the curling. Whilst it looks like a great hunk of cheese, it is in fact a 20kg piece of granite especially brought in from Scotland. It reminds me of our local croquet and bowls players except I would defy any cranky players to pick up the ball (rock) and throw it away in disgust. Anyway, enjoy the games and next time you see the local teenagers down at the skate park don’t scoff at them as it could be a forerunner to them heading to the ski slopes and doing half walls on ice.