The Winter Olympic Games feature some of the world’s most dangerous and potentially deadly sports. Athletes risk life and limb every time they take to the snow or ice and provide fans with edge-of-the-seat thrills for 16 days every Olympiad. One sport, however, provides more risk than all other sports combined: Figure Skating.
Any time a shredder lowers their pants and straps a snowboard to their feet, they slide into a world of risk. Fearless young dudes and dudettes hurl themselves down mountains and over impossibly large obstacles to the beats of their favourite playlist. To create even more excitement for the kiddies watching online, they invented Snowboardcross and put six lunatics onto the same downhill obstacle course at once. Guaranteed carnage. Snowboarders even list major injuries on their biographies and Markus Schairer can add a broken vertebra to his palmares after the Austrian fell in the quarterfinal of the snowboardcross in Pyeongchang – and still finished the race.
Schairer might share a Seoul hospital ward with Yuto Totsuka (JPN), who landed harshly on the lip of the halfpipe and was stretchered from the snow.
Alpine Skiing. (Speed)
Downhill and super-G skiing events are so risky competitors are obliged to wear a back brace in competition. This complements the helmet, which is the only other protection offered to these crazy, lycra-clad souls who fly down super steep slopes at more than 100km/h.
Winner of the Men’s Downhill in Pyeongchang, Norwegian star Aksel Lund Svindal, missed large parts of the last two seasons after a severe crash during competition, while Youtube is eternally grateful to Austrian legend Hermann Maier for his spectacular multi-disciplinary, skiing, skydiving, acrobatic, gymnastic, bodysurfing, head-over-heels-over-head-over-heels-over…. crash at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. He returned three days later to win gold in the super-G. As you do.
Luge is a mad sport. Competitors can only control their sled with their body weight, or perhaps their feet, as they reach ridiculous speeds that exert huge G-Forces. It’s so crazy, its medals are normally reserved for real men with real names, like Goerg, Guntis, Gerhard or Wolfgang.
But, no, Luge wasn’t crazy enough, so organisers created Luge Doubles; double the fun, double the risk. Then, taking insanity even further, they challenged athletes to go down head first, just like a big brother challenging his little brother to jump off the cliff into the ocean: “Go on, dare ya to do it headfirst!”
They call it Skeleton. In anticipation of the state of the participants at the end of the race?
Bobsleigh is equally daft. The guys at the back can’t even see where they’re going and teams actively recruit elite sprinters so that the sleigh can barrel down the ice even faster.
Short-track Speed Skating.
Someone always seems to fall in a short-track speed skating race. Always. So common is falling it gave birth to a piece of Australian slang, to “Do A Bradbury”. This means to win by default, after speed skater Stephen Bradbury won Australia’s first Winter Olympic gold medal in 2002. Every competitor in front of him in the final fell over and he sailed across the line to victory. Normally, when one falls, so do others and many skaters have suffered severe cuts from their own or their competitors’ razor sharp skating blades slicing through raw flesh.
How do you clean blood off ice?
Up, up, up…up…the ski jumpers climb the hill, the smaller of which is called the Normal Hill. They can only come down, launching themselves off enormous ramps and into the air in an attempt to land with perfect telemark technique more than 100 metres down a hill. Perfectly normal.
Almost as normal as strapping a pair of skis to your feet and hurling yourself over mountainous moguls or vertical jump ramps before turning upside down and all around in Freestyle Skiing.
The saying goes: “I went to watch a fight and an Ice Hockey game broke out.” If that phrase doesn’t images of pure violence and bloodlust, try referring to the sport as Ice Hockey (instead of Hockey) in front of a Canadian and see what happens.
Competitors in the Biathlon, meanwhile, are the only ones who carry a weapon, yet the serene, graceful, balletic art of Figure Skating possesses more danger than other winter Olympic pursuit. The choreographed narratives featuring diminutive dancers in sequined splendour, gliding poetically across the ice to orchestral music are the only Winter Olympic discipline in which participants run the risk of having their kneecap bludgeoned with a baton.
Thanks Tonya Harding.
Images. Filip Mroz, Bruce Christianson.
P.S. This article is satire, it is intended to be humorous. It does not diminish the real tragedies of the Olympic Games, including the deaths of competitors Ross Milne (AUS) in Alpine Skiing and Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki (GBR) and Nodar Kumaritashvili (GEO) in the Luge. R.I.P.