Olympic analysis | AspenTimes.com

Olympic analysis

Roger Marolt

I have a few observations about these Winter Olympics: First, I don’t get figure skating. In theory it has all the makings of an incredible event. There is an absurd amount of athleticism involved. It takes strength, coordination, flexibility, concentration and stamina. It incorporates speed and daring. The athletes are continually pushing limits, attempting impossible maneuvers on ice.But, when the boots are laced and brassy notes sounded, speculation fails. Figure skating becomes a tragic comedy, at best. At worst, it’s a joke. I grimaced through the “men’s” short program. “Men’s” in quotation marks is not homophobic derision playing on the common belief that most contestants are gay. It is commentary on the apparent mental maturity of the participants, which is similarly observed in boyhood. I watched with incredulity as a “man” dressed in a skin-tight leotard, patterned to resemble a frilly tuxedo, skated to the James Bond theme song firing a black-gloved hand at the audience, like a gun. On the back of his costume was stitched “007.” Can it get more ridiculous than that? Well unfortunately, yes! The next contestant was decorated in a glittering, form-fitting, reddish outfit that was supposed to help him impersonate a matador. In a regrettably aired pre-routine pep talk his “coach,” festooned with a white-checkered jacket of his own, faced his protégé, holding both of his hands, begging him to believe: “You are strong!” He wasn’t. Then there’s the bad boy of figure skating, Johnny Weir(d). He brazenly proclaims that: “I say what I want, when I want to.” He defies conventionalism by telling us that he’s a threat to right-wing America, while all of America wonders, “Who is he?” He blames his poor performance on a missed bus. He commands the world to “bite it,” whatever “it” may be.Women’s skating is nearly as bad, redeemed slightly only because we are accustomed to seeing females in skirts. Suspense is left at wondering which judges are on the take, which couple will air the next tiff, or which phony smile will soon be awash in real tears. The sport with so much promise doesn’t keep it. Competitive dramatics is a lethal mixture that should be left to misbehaving children. Meanwhile, the endless hours of coverage are killing me. Second, Bode Miller is strong. We have adorned him with adulation, millions of dollars, and an overall World Cup trophy for his skiing prowess, convincing ourselves in the process that we can take his personality away. He won’t let us. And, he tells us so with a calm candor that makes us uncomfortable.We retaliate with criticism. We would rather that our heroes lie, leaving ideals untarnished so that we can sell them to our children. That’s easier than demonstrating them through our own actions and words.Did we really believe that ski racers don’t party? Is there anything wrong with nonchalantly putting a bad ski run behind you without letting it ruin your life, or even the rest of the afternoon? Should he change who he is for the sake of a sponsor? Is it acceptable that he’s not motivated by money, even if we are? What’s wrong with encouraging kids to participate in sports for pure enjoyment?Bode lives his life on his terms. We should all have that audacity.Third, they need to stop testing for performance enhancing drugs. Don’t legalize them, just stop the testing. It doesn’t work! It creates far more liars and resourceful cheaters than it vindicates or aides honest athletes. The current impotent testing program misleadingly exonerates users who easily beat they system and exploit the implied and meaningless stamp of approval to make more money (which helps them afford the latest version of very expensive synthesized, undetectable drugs). The best way to combat this problem for now is by encouraging open and honest discourse with the many high-level athletes who are using drugs. We need to know what they are taking, in what quantities. We need to be able to study the long-term effects of usage. We need trained medical professionals to monitor and supervise the inevitable practice to protect these young people. Most importantly, we need to provide information to our children so that they have realistic expectations about the difficult choices they may have to make if they choose to pursue high-level athletics. Higher, faster, farther … it comes at a price.Fourth, we need to go easy on Lindsey Jacobellis, the woman who crashed after adding a little flair to a jump in the women’s boardercross event within sight of the finish line, losing a huge lead and a sure gold medal.Gold medals are worth a whole lot more to those of us who could never win one. Jacobellis is the best in the world at her sport. All of her competitors know it. Anyone who follows the sport knows it. She knows it. Her crash in the Olympics didn’t change any of that.Snowboarding has gained popularity with its defiant culture. When the day comes that boardercross athletes start wearing skin-tight racing suits and cease performing method airs off the big jumps as a show of exuberance, solely to gain a competitive advantage, I’ll be the first to turn it off.Jacobellis said that she’s not unhappy about the move that cost her gold. Her excuse for the whole episode is that she was overcome with joy and wanted to have some fun. She has no regrets. How presumptuous is it for us to have any for her? Finally, an Olympic moment occurred after Swiss rider, Tanja Frieden passed Jacobellis to win the gold medal. In the finish area, the Italian woman was met with hugs and kisses from Seth Westcott, Jacobellis’ U.S. teammate in the men’s event.In striking contrast to the inane international medal count that is referenced every few minutes in the television broadcasts and which appears multiple times daily in the newspapers, how heartwarming and hopeful it was to see love prevail over nationalism. Roger Marolt loves to talk about Winter Olympic events because, for the most part, they are things we know nothing about. He’s waiting for his marks at roger@maroltllp.com