Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It's luge time

The Olympics are the height of athletic achievement, and this year the best in the world will be right here in good old British Columbia to compete in a variety of events that take place on various forms of frozen water.
Most Olympic events have historical and traditional aspects to them and while some of them are newer, they are still popular enough to make it to the global competition.
However, in both the summer and winter events there are a couple of odd ducks floating around I do not understand.
The summer competitions make sense, except for one – the pommel horse, which is the strangest event in the Olympics and a sport I have mentioned in the past. Big, strong men swinging around by their arms on top of a “horse” is an odd sport indeed and I often wonder how someone decides they want to dedicate their lives to such an obscure event.
Javelin, pole vault and discus throw are also some out-of-the-norm sports, but at least I can sort of see the historical connection, such as the javelin being bred out of throwing spears for hunting or warfare.
That's an easy one.
The pole vault could have been used by soldiers to breach a wall and overthrow the evil king. The discus could be used as a weapon I suppose, a cumbersome, inaccurate, short-distance weapon, but still there is some historical merit to it, maybe.
But the pommel horse is just plain weird and I don't get it.
When it comes to the Winter Games, hockey is king (and queen considering how kick ass our women's hockey team is) so there is no need to explain any sort of value to the event. It is simply the greatest game ever and deserves to be in the Olympics. Is football in the Olympics no? Is baseball? Well, yes, but I find it so boring I can't watch for more than two minutes before my brain goes numb so I won't count it.
One of the somewhat stranger winter competitions is the luge. When I was a kid we called it sledding, so I suppose that is where it's historic sporting value comes from. Kids have always raced each other down the hill and the luge is an extension of that to the tenth degree. Besides, it takes a set to go ripping down an icy tube at 100-plus km/h, but what baffles me is the two-man luge.
Not even once as a kid did I say to my buddy, “Hey man, why don't I lay on my back on this sled and you can lay on top of me and will go down the hill real fast. Then when we are done, we can pick out curtains together.”
How did the two-man luge come to be? If you know, please tell me because I don't get it.
I also noticed there is not a two-woman luge for some reason, and unlike the women's ski jumping debate, I have not heard of any ladies complaining they want to lay on top of each other wearing spandex unitards while blasting down a the tube of doom at a gazillion miles an hour.
The other popular sliding sport is the bobsleigh. They are simply a kid's sled on steroids and the more people you pack into one, the faster you go.
It is like loading up a toboggan, except in the case of the toboggan you always made sure the fat kid sat at the front where he could benefit everyone in a number of ways. He can block the snow from blasting those in back and he can be used as an air bag of sorts in the event of a rapid deceleration of the snow craft due to contact with an immovable object.
He should also be in front so he does not squish everyone should the rapid deceleration result in the accordion effect, which is where four people are forced to fit in a space typically large enough for two.
You not only have fun, but you learn about planning ahead and physics all at the same time.

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