Sunday 17 November 2019

Putting sleep on ice for Olympic thrills

Weird Wide World of Sport

Gold medalist Perrine Laffont of France during the Freestyle Skiing Women’s Moguls finals
Gold medalist Perrine Laffont of France during the Freestyle Skiing Women’s Moguls finals

Dave Devereux

Last week I was typing this column with leaden eyelids having stayed up to some ungodly hour watching the Super Bowl, but unfortunately I haven't seen the error of my ways and learned to hit the hay at a reasonable time.

So what's keeping me from enveloping myself in the warmth of a duck down duvet on these chilly evenings?

None other than the Winter Olympics beaming its way from a far chillier South Korea. I've complained once or twice about the cold as I sat in a stand watching a couple of National League matches of late, but our temperatures are simply balmy compared to the minus 25 degrees or so they're having to suffer in PyeongChang at present.

We should suck it up and thank our lucky stars that we can attend a sporting event without the need for three or four layers of thermal underwear.

I've always been willing to give pretty much any sport a watch, particularly in the wee hours when an eerie silence creeps over the house, and you never know what magical pastime a bit of channel-hopping will unearth.

From the World's Strongest Man, to board breaking, to underwater boxing, it's all there if you delve deep enough (literally), and the Winter Games is never going to disappoint on that peculiar front.

For example, curling always makes interesting viewing, an intriguing, yet odd, mix of sport and housework that I only tend to see when the Winter Olympics rolls around.

When the commentators talk of curling stones, brushes, the house and the skip, it may sound like a long overdue spring clean clear-out, but it somehow manages to draw me in and hook me like a ten-pound bass.

The snowboarding is thrill a second stuff, with more somersaults on show than Dele Alli in the penalty area after some defender had the audacity to breathe on him.

If it's break-neck speeds you're after, you'd want to be madder than a hurling goalkeeper facing down an Anthony Nash piledriver than the completely crazy folk that partake in the skeleton or luge events.

Hurtling down a winding course on your stomach on a carriage the width of a gentleman's handkerchief might be exhilarating for some, or lying on your back thinking of Ireland as you tear downhill on the luge.

However, when I'm horizontal I prefer to have a foot or so of mattress to lend support, rather than a bunch of manic, screaming, flag-waving spectators.

Then there's the mayhem of a cross-country skiing race, when a glut of competitors hurry across the ice, akin to a waddle of penguins scurrying to reach warmer climes, or similar to a bunch of thirsty twenty-somethings rushing to the bar when the light is flashed for last orders.

The Winter Olympics is always sure to throw up an Eddie The Eagle-style tale of overcoming all obstacles to realise a dream, like a Hollywood happy-clappy feel-good movie.

Tongan flag-bearer Pita Taufatofua made quite a name for himself when he competed in Taekwondo in the Summer Games two years ago, as he entered the Maracana bare-chested in traditional dress.

The 34-year-old is now competing in cross-country skiing, having only seen snow for the first time a couple of years ago. His prowess on the slopes mightn't be great, but he managed to turn plenty of heads again time around by braving the cold in his minimalist attire at the opening ceremony, similar to beer-bellied Newcastle United fans that strip to the waist on an icy January evening, although admittedly he's a little more lithe and oiled up than the jelly-bellied folk from the north of England.

The Nigerian bobsleigh team are also adding a sprinkle of fairy dust to the occasion as they are the first from the continent of Africa to compete in the event.

If you're in need of something to get you feeling all romantic for Valentine's Day, you need look no further than a bit of figure skating - it's graceful, poetic and beautiful as well as being full of sporting precision.

Throw in some speed skating, ice hockey, freestyle skiing, ski jumping and you've a shed-load of fun and excitement to keep you entertained for hours on end.

This sleeping lark is over-rated anyway.

Wexford People

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