Why you should have watched the Winter Olympics

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An ode to those who didn’t see last week’s SCAN article on why you should watch the Winter Olympics, Imogen provides a run-down on the greatness you’ve missed out on.

 

While you may be able to recall more Olympians than winter Olympians this is definitely not a reason to have avoided watching these colder games. You may question the athleticism or desire to stick to the traditional but from what I have observed it is well worth sitting down to embrace the spectacle created by such amazing snow-faring athletes. My knowledge of most of the sports like Half-Pipe is very limited- my experiences of snow are sledging and very poor attempts to ski and yet I have still been able to appreciate the skill and dedication it takes to maintain records and succeed. My lack of ability, in fact, enhanced my appreciation of the athletes and the tricks they can perform on such a slippery surface. So why should you have watched an event like this, especially considering the lack of British Athletes in this games?

 

Despite the minimal number of British athletes in the games (59 athletes across 11 sports) this was the largest team Great Britain had ever taken to a Winter Olympics. Even though we had some difficult defeats, losing in the curling semi-final to Switzerland, within this small team there are some mighty competitors who prepared long and hard to take on the challenge in Pyeongchang. Some of our successes include: Dom Parsons won bronze in the skeleton (Britain’s first medal in the games); Isabel Atkins won bronze in the Freestyle Skiing and Izzy Yarnold who won gold in the skeleton on Great Britain’s record breaking day. She became Britain’s most decorated Winter Olympian ahead of the famous ice-skaters Torvill and Dean. Another record was broken for Britain on this day, it was the first time Britain have won three individuals medals on one day, surpassing the two won in 1924.

 

One of the drawbacks I found, while finding time to watch these games, was the time difference. Most of the action is live at night or the early hours of the morning and often there just isn’t enough time to catch up during the day. The sports can also be hard engage with and feel inspired by, as the equipment needed to practise or learn them is often very expensive and the weather conditions are vastly different to those which we experience for most of the year here in Britain. However, there are affordable ways to learn many of the sports, such as dry slopes, like those in Rossendale (North-West of England) where beginners can learn the basic techniques for different snow sports. Even if you don’t intend to participate or cannot afford to, watching the games is a great alternative.

 

If by this point you still need more convincing that the dates should have been in your diary then, I offer you my final argument. This year’s games were filled with enough drama and excitement to satiate the shaking palms of any adrenaline junkie- from crazy crashes to close call competition, this level of drama is rarely sustained, to the same degree, by the Summer Olympics. As I sat down to watch the final of the men’s Half-Pipe I was unsure what to expect. I had never witnessed a spectacle like it, the pipe sides are higher than an average house and competitors are expected to ski up and down its sides completing complex and dangerous tricks in the air after they race up its slopes.  The excitement of this event comes from the predictability of the run; as competitors are aware of each other’s runs this creates suspense and pressure. As a result, it becomes even more difficult to keep your cool and produce a faultless run. It’s all about what happens on the day. The winner was a record holding American who was the bookies’ favourite to win but the surprise medallist was Nico Porteous- a 16 year old who claimed New Zealand’s first in 26 years. The scores were close and there were multiple crashes that resulted in hospital trips which made the medal race even more intense.

 

One of the main things I took away from my time watching these games was the ‘super hero’ skill of the athletes, and the idea that it’s possible for anyone. Winners came in ages as young as 15, which is a testament to the dedication of everyone who participated in this Olympic journey. From coaches to officials and contestants to spectators it surpassed my expectations and I will definitely be watching when the Winter Olympics begin again.