I love the Winter Olympics. The Winter Olympics bring me back to my childhood. One of my favorite shows was ABC Wide World of Sports. It began with the iconic footage of the ski jumper crashing, to the words “The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.”
Everything about that show was amazing. Unlike today, where everything is basketball, football, baseball, and hockey, the Wide World of Sports gave us barrel jumping, ski jumping, downhill skiing, figure skating, curling, and more. I saw the luge for the first time on Wide World of Sports, and that made me a fan of luging at the Olympics. Lugers are insane. No other way to say it.
I saw Ingemar Stenmark and Jean-Claude Killy tearing down the downhill slopes, Dorothy Hamill (The Hamill Camel), and Peggy Fleming, doing things on skates that were amazing. Heck, Dorothy Hamill even started a whole new hair style. We also saw the villainous Red Army hockey team play a series of exhibition hockey games against teams from the NHL, as the Soviet's prepared for the Olympics.
We were able to see these sports throughout the year back then, while now, we only see these events in the run up to the Olympics. The Wide World of Sports made me an Olympics fan for life. These days, the only chance I get to see any of these sports in the years between the Olympic Games are on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), which is channel 9 here in the Detroit area. I actually feel bad for folks that do not get Canadian Broadcasting, which is most of America.
So I have my DVR ready, and will record many hours of Olympic coverage, so that I do not miss one minute of the treasured sports of my youth. I'll forget about politics for a couple weeks, I'll forget about the the usual TV shows I normally watch, and I will immerse myself in the Olympic experience of Sochi.
To me, the Olympics are more than just Gold Medal counts, and USA chants. There are the stories of the athletes themselves. There are the stories of sacrifices made in order to achieve their dreams of being an Olympian. For some the pressure is immense to win gold, and for others, just making the team is their victory. For every athlete it is different.
It seems that every single Olympics, some athlete who had lived in obscurity, rises to become famous, and it doesn't always have to equate to winning a gold medal.
Who can forget the Jamaican Bobsled Team, and their incredible journey to the Olympics. They became legendary just by making it there, and competing. Nobody gave a hoot how they would finish, they won just by being there.
There is also the story of Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards from England. He was a downhill skier who failed to make the British team, so he took up ski jumping because he had no competition for a spot. In 1988, in Calgary, he was the only ski jumper on Britain's Olympic Team.
He had no sponsorship to help with training costs, he lived in cowsheds in Switzerland, slept in cars, and spent a month camping in a psychiatric hospital, thanks to a friend who was working there at the time. This is what he went through in order to train and compete.
He freely admitted that every jump was as terrifying as the last, he had absolutely no style, and he finished dead last in the ski jumping event at the Calgary Games. Truth be told, Olympic organizers didn't like him, and were offended that he would even compete. They felt he was making a mockery of the sport. The rest of the world though, embraced him, and he received more attention than the medal winners.
This brings me to Sochi. So far, one of the compelling stories is about the Barnes twins. Tracy and Lanny Barnes compete in the Biathalon. After the qualifying trials, the US team was named. Tracy made the team, and Lanny, who was sick during the trials, and couldn't compete in all the events, did not make the team. After the trials ended, Tracy and Lanny took a walk, and it was during that walk that Tracy told her sister that she was declining her spot on the team, so that Lanny could compete in the Olympics.
“It shows if you care enough about someone, you're willing to sacrifice everything,” Lanny Barnes said. “This is her dream, what she's been talking about her entire life. It shows true Olympic spirit. The Olympics are not always about gold medals, she showed that with her decision.”
Lanny tried to talk her sister out of this decision, but Tracy would not be swayed. I find this an incredibly amazing story. This is something that an athlete trains most of their life for, and right on the cusp of realizing her dream, she does this truly selfless thing for her twin sister.
To be sure, I will be rooting for my US athletes, and chanting USA USA USA for the next two weeks, but I'll also be enjoying the compelling story lines that will give this 2014 Sochi Olympics her character.
Medals will be won and lost, but the stories will define the legacy of Sochi...