Olympics bring obscurity to the forefront

Winter sports are few and far between, likely because many of us want nothing to do with the frigid outdoors. There is hockey, skiing, snowboarding, snowman-making and — how could I forget — hockey. Thus, with only a handful of available options, crafting a lengthy roster of sports for the Winter Olympics must have been a daunting challenge.

Thankfully, there are fringe sports, the lonely cousins of their mainstream brethren. They may happen to have a great personality per say, but we all judge a book by its cover, leaving the unconventional sports on the sidelines. Consequently, this article falls under that same trap — we will judge the merits and the athletic ability required of the most indistinct sports head-on without providing them the trial run they probably deserve.

Ignoring Canada’s favourite niche sport — curling, here are some of the marginal sports at the 21st Winter Olympiad.

Luge/skeleton: Both appear more similar to a death sentence than sports that require vast athletic prowess. In essence, each competitor lies on their backs or fronts, keeping their head down to remain as aerodynamic as possible and hope for the best by steering their sled. In luge, you are feet-first, and in skeleton you see the terror first-hand as your head leads your body.

Besides the crucial start that can make or break a run, these sports seem to be a glorified waterslide, albeit one at ridiculous speeds, bringing to mind the question — who exactly thought a sport necessitating lying down deserves a spot in the games? Predominantly, there are only luge courses where the winter games were previously held, and there are few prospective kids clamouring to have their lives flash before their eyes.

Ski-jumping: If you have ever wanted to see a science experiment with humans as the subjects, you have come to the right place. Imagine placing a variety of differently weighted objects at the top of a ramp, releasing each of them, and then seeing how far each goes! You might even use the scientific formula, force equals mass multiplied by acceleration, to calculate your data. Now ladies and gentlemen, substitute the object for a human being, give the person a pair of skis, sprinkle the ramp with snow and you have manufactured an Olympic sport!

However, heaps of training is required to be a human test-dummy in this manner. For example, technique is imperative as competitors, in the effort to gain distance, place the back ends of their skis together to form a V-shape before making their landing. In fact, I find it adorable. A bunch of young rascals attempting to launch themselves farther then the next and labelling themselves as “athletes.” Cute.

Snowboard cross: If you have seen any footage from snowboard cross, you are entitled to believe it is a futuristic videogame. Essentially, four snowboard racers — who are likely failed freestylers — fly out of the gates and simultaneously race down an inclined track filled with jumps, curves and rolling terrain. Just like everyone’s favourite redneck sport, NASCAR, the most exciting portion is the crashes, and due to the poor snow conditions in Vancouver, there were plenty.

Its real selling point since its first Olympic games in 2006, however, is to gain the young viewers that have made the X-Games a marquee sports property, the same demographic shrieking for skate shoes and everything associated with the word “extreme.” In that regard, snowboard cross and its new incarnation, ski cross, has been successful as it has drawn attention-starved young eyeballs — well, for at least a few minutes before they preoccupy themselves with backyard wrestling or whatever the hip kids are up to these days.

Nordic combined: You know you are desperate for winter sports when you blatantly fuse two of them together ��� ski jumping and cross-country skiing. This “original” idea contains participants soaring off a ramp. Then the athletes cross-country ski, but only start racing based on their own preceding jumping distance. The farthest get an earlier starting point in the 10 km ski race).

Exciting to watch? Maybe. Obscure? Absolutely. Plus the sport was awarded the unsexy name of “nordic combined.” I can imagine it now, gentlemen bragging about their hockey proficiency to the ladies. Whereas one foolish sap will break-the-ice by revealing they compete in nordic combined. Best of luck, buddy.

Biathlon: If there was one sport devised by guys drinking at the bar then by golly, this is it. Legend has it one guy was tired of watching cross-country skiing. Thus, the tale states, a brilliant man found a solution to keep the athletic component of skiing but to minimize it with a trivial activity, i.e. shooting targets with a gun. Applause resounded from drunk listeners and minutes later, it was certified as an Olympic sport by the International Olympic Committee. Sadly, there was no sober second thought.

In reality, the above story makes as much logical sense as substituting athletic talent for the near-inactivity of targeting practice.

Ice Dancing: Yeah I tolerate figure skating, well, at least during the Olympics. However, this deformity of figure skating involves eliminating overhead lifts and jumps, the fun part, in favour of skaters remaining in contact and interpreting their moves through the rhythm of the music.

Sounds like ballroom dancing to me. Thankfully, no one is considering that as an Olympic sport . . . right?