02/15/2002

 

Currently Listening To: Marilyn Manson and Metallica. I'm in one of my major "noise" modes.

Currently Watching: The Olympics. See entry.

Random Picture of the Week:

Hmm. This is interesting. What's this? Whatever could it mean?

(I'm being highly disingenuous here, of course. There's something I've been keeping hush hush because I'm afraid of jinxing the whole thing. And yet I want to tell people.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olympic Special Edition.

I never heard of Simon Ammann before Sunday. I'm sure I won't see him again unless he makes another Olympic appearance four years from now in Italy. But he's turning into my favorite Olympic athlete. His is the kind of story everyone secretly wishes would happen to them. He's a 20-year-old Swiss ski jumper with a previously undistinguished competitive history. He gets all banged up in an accident a short while before the Olympics, making people think he'll never be able to get in enough training time to do much of anything at the Games.

I turn on ski jumping on Sunday afternoon and drop in on the middle of his story: after the first round of his competition he's in a very unexpected first place and if he can land one more amazing jump he'll get the gold, edging out older and more experienced veterans. The cameras show him pacing at the top of the hill, breathing into his hands, his face whiter than the snow beneath his feet. I want to hug him. There's no way he'll pull this off, I figure -- he's too nervous.

And then he does it. He sails through the air and slips the surly bonds of earth for a few seconds. When he finds out he's won the gold, he explodes. His teammates dogpile on him and knock him to the ground in one big exultant heap. A few hours later he shows up at the medal pavilion with tousled brown hair and glasses and a huge silver overcoat that makes him look like Harry Potter meets Star Trek. And he jumps up and down on top of the medal stand. It should be off-putting, but from a geeky kid bursting with excitement over what's happening to him it's somehow endearing.

And a few days later, he does it all again. He's no fluke.

Stories like Simon's make me want to watch the Olympics nonstop in the hopes I'll see more people like him. After months of watching planes crash into the World Trade Center again and again and again, I can't get enough of seeing people experience sheer uncomplicated joy.

Stories like this whole Olympic pairs skating controversy make me want to turn the games off and bury my head under a pillow until they're over and gone. There's still a war in Afghanistan, John Walker Lindh pleaded not guilty, Daniel Pearl is probably dead, but too bad for them -- the Canadians got robbed. This is a national scandal here in the U.S., a matter of utmost urgency.

Why?

I'll never figure out why certain stories seem to obsess the nation beyond all reason. Perhaps because I actually watch skating more than once every four years, I can't think of a single big skating competition in recent memory that hasn't had at least one result that was hotly debated. Where was everyone during the world championships last year in Vancouver, when Jamie Sale and David Pelletier defeated Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze even though Jamie messed up her double axel? How come nobody pressed that judging panel to see if everyone there was on the up-and-up?

The French judge at the Olympic competition apparently said she felt pressure to vote a certain way and her federation's saying we can't blame her because she's fragile. (What does that mean, exactly? Is she made out of porcelain?)

Okay. Judges in skating have been known to cut illicit deals in the past. If they're dumb enough to actually get caught while they're fucking around with an athlete's career, they definitely deserve to get jettisoned from the sport. The most infuriating thing about this to me is that Anton and Elena are beautiful skaters who are more than capable of winning on their own; they most certainly didn't need this "help," and I believe it's going to hurt them a lot more than it's going to hurt Jamie and David in the long run.

So fine; ban the stupid French twit from judging, throw out that judge's mark, consider the four first-place votes for each pair a tie, give Jamie and David gold medals, and bloody move on already.

The amount of fuss this is causing has gone completely over the top. Judging problems deserve attention within the sport, but should they lead off the news every night? I think not.

The next entry.

Previously, in Insomniaville...

Back to the main page.