Part of the fun of watching the Olympics comes from putting your own head on the bodies of the athletes. Who among us hasn’t watched the couples figure skaters flinging each other across the ice, and then turned to their partner and said, “We could do that?” Isn’t that the allure of the games, the great possibility that it’s not too late for any of us to win a medal?
OK, maybe not with couples figure skating. The women in those pairs weigh 90 pounds, max, and I weighed more than that in fifth grade. The singles figure skaters don’t have to be lifted over anyone’s head, so they can be a little larger, but that’s not going to happen for me either.
The TV coverage does a good job of setting us up for this feeling of longing. With all the human interest stories that accompany the competition, NBC tells us these athletes are just like the rest of us.
But of course, they aren’t. Have you seen the female snowboarders and skiers up close? They are supermodel-superhumans – all of them. Their teeth are, literally, as white as the snow. Watching them, I never put myself in their boots and say I could do that. And probably never could have.
What about the other events? Watching the speed skaters last weekend, I still felt a twinge of competitiveness: I could do that. My legs are strong, I have stamina, and the endurance sports are the bailiwick of more mature athletes, aren’t they? Sadly, I would look terrible in the Spider-Man suits.
For a brief moment, I thought I might be good at cross-country skiing. They don’t have to do flips, and you rarely hear about them breaking a bone or anything.
“Look, they’re just shushing along on the flat ground,” I told my kids. “I could do that.” And just then, the camera angle changed to show they were shushing up a hill.
Well, there’s the whole downhill track realm, which seems to be pretty much a frozen water slide. Bobsled would be out of the question, because it looks like you’d need narrow hips to fit in that thing. Luge and skeleton? I am too much of a chicken.
Ice hockey? Even I am not that delusional.
Which brings us to curling. It’s not that the competitors aren’t fit and athletic – but they look more or less like the rest of us. Can I sweep a floor? You bet. Would I be able to get down into that low stance to push the stone across the ice? Perhaps with help. Could I wear those snazzy pants?
I’d not just wear them, I’d rock them. And I have a pair of those teethy things you strap on the bottom of your shoes to keep from slipping. The Olympic curlers don’t need them, but maybe I would, just so I don’t break anything.
But it turns out curling is as hard as any other sport. The curlers were training and competing for years. Even if I were to start now, I wouldn’t qualify until maybe the 2030 winter games. And by then, I wouldn’t look so great in the pants.
As they say on television, my Olympic hopes are fading. I will never know the thrill of victory, just the heartbreak of defeat.
Beth Dolinar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.