Confession: I love the Olympics. I love watching all of the cool sports, especially the ones I never would have otherwise heard about. I love watching the gymnasts and figure skaters perform amazing routines full of technical difficulty and artistic grace.
It’s not something I often talk about—all my friends know is that I have some sort of obsession with stretching every day. I started stretching every day sometime in the summer of 2003 after forgetting to stretch prior to my skating class and not enjoying how my muscles felt. I was also jealous of my sister who had her splits down. Sibling rivalry ends in having two out of three splits down. But that’s not all sports are to me.
Only rarely do I realize that not everyone is as into sports as I am. Not the conventional sports—while I watch a few hockey games each year and cheer hard, I’m not one of those super-fans who buys seasons tickets and knows all of the players and stats. I’ve yet to attend an RPI football game. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s not me. I go to Freakout and pick a few other games to attend with my friends and cheer hard then.
I watched the Opening Ceremony last Friday and listening to what other people were talking about made me feel alienated, almost. The different ideas of what the Olympics is … the misconceptions … agh! For me, the Olympics are very important. They are a gathering-together of the best athletes in the world.
Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to watch much TV. Sporting events, especially the Olympics, was a big exception. I familiarized myself with the sports I participated in over the years—especially gymnastics and figure skating. I learned the history of those sports, top names, how the sport was scored, how athletes got to the top levels, and so on. My middle sister and I watched competitions on TV and looked at scores online. I still have the complete women’s 2003 World Gymnastics Championships results somewhere. And when I say complete, I mean complete.
Several of my leos were signed by 2004 Olympian Annia Hatch, who was at a couple of gymnastics camps I went to when I was younger. I followed gymnastics more than figure skating, but both were important to me. As events were less televised, and especially as US media coverage was focused on the US athletes only, I became frustrated. In 2006, they showed the long program for every single figure skater. It was great to watch the athletes who’d struggled just to get their country a spot in the Olympics (for figure skating, the number of spots a particular country gets is based on how well athletes from that country did at the previous year’s World Championships) enjoy competing at the Olympics. In the US, I think we focus too much on those gold medals. The announcers sometimes remind us that just making it to the Olympics is one of the best things the athlete has ever had happen to them; I think that if I were to be good enough in some sport to qualify for the Olympics, I would be happy to just compete. Sadly, living in the United States and in this time means that I have to be far more athletic and train far harder for a chance at any sport. Also sadly, the US media coverage focuses far too much on the US athletes; aside from the top competitors, other countries’ athletes are not shown on TV.
I lived in sports as a kid. Competitions were when my family traveled. We didn’t usually go to places over the summer; instead, we’d spend an extra day or two wherever one of us had a competition. I’ve been to Hawaii, Indiana, and Florida through these sorts of vacations. Summer was for gearing up for the compulsory-level competition season, which I competed in throughout high school. Practice was several times a week and one of the most important parts of that week to me.
It’s odd sometimes because the sport I compete in now, Ultimate Frisbee, is not in the Olympics. I think it’s headed towards being in the Olympics, but it will be a while. Regardless of how good I get, I doubt I’ll be young enough still by the time it’s in the Olympics to compete at that level. I still figure skate, but only occasionally and not competitively. I love the movement—strong yet graceful. My legs and feet have slowly learned where they are and where my skates are over the years, which helps me if I land a jump weird.
One of the figure skaters for Team USA this year is from my old rink, now called Sharks Ice at San Jose. I’m pretty sure that I skated during public skate sessions at the same time as her. It is completely weird to me, yet kind of cool. Her dad works at the same company my dad does, which is also weird. I skated on the then-Logitech Ice at San Jose junior synchronized skating team for three months before quitting because gymnastics practice was at the same time. Somewhere I have my beloved red sweatshirt with my name embroidered on it in white and the Logitech Ice at San Jose logo embroidered on the other side. Sharks Ice now has four rinks; when I started out there in 2000, there were just two with the third, the South Rink, being built, making it the largest rink facility west of the Mississippi. It’s pretty awesome to think that not only is an NHL team based off of that rink, but now an Olympian is, too.
Between coursework and extracurriculars, I won’t have much time to watch this year’s Olympics. But next Thursday, February 20, I plan to watch the ladies figure skating long program somehow. It’s pretty important to me.