This Friday, February 12, 2010 the Winter Olympics open in Vancouver, British Columbia. Thousands of athletes from all over the world will compete over 16 days in a wide range of wintertime sporting events.
Odds are, if you grew up in any type of winter climate, you participated in some form of winter sport activity and may even have had dreams of taking part in the Olympic Games and standing on the podium excepting your gold medal. There really are a lot of winter activities to choose from. There is figure skating, speed skating, hockey, curling, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snowboarding and many more.
For the vast majority of us, those Olympic dreams are just that – dreams. It takes a lot of time, training and skill to make it beyond a fun way to get some exercise.
Living in a part of the world that experiences a rather lengthy winter climate – early November through late March or early April in these parts if we are lucky – means that you have to make some choices. You either hibernate and become a couch potato or you put on a few layers of clothing and get out into the elements.
Now I’ve never been much of an athlete. Oh let’s be honest here – I’ve never even been remotely close to being athletically inclined. When it comes to sports – I suck! My balance and coordination are severely lacking. It’s not just my lack of sight, although that does play a large role – it is more my overall ineptness when it comes to sports. As a kid, I did play some sports during phys. ed. class and on intramural teams during lunch hours, but I dreaded every moment of it. If by some miracle I actually did something that helped my team or didn’t come in last then no one was more shocked than me!
Curling was big in my hometown and also in my family. My parents curled every winter, both in leagues and in bonspiels. My maternal grandfather curled in a senior’s league and an aunt was on a senior ladies team that made it to the provincials. My siblings curled for awhile as well. I tried curling when I was in high school. Even then, I couldn’t see well enough to see the other end of the ice but I tried. I got down in the hack and got ready to throw the rock. As I lifted it off the ice, it slipped from my hand and I fell flat on my face. I didn’t do much better on my next attempt. The rock made it almost half way down the ice. Only my dignity was hurt, but I decided that curling wasn’t for me.
I tried cross country skiing in my early twenties. I borrowed my mom’s ski’s when she and dad were away south for a couple of weeks one winter. A friend did his best to teach me the basics, but let’s just say that it’s a really good job that video cameras weren’t too common in the 1970’s! I would have been a hit on Funniest Home Videos or YouTube! My skill with snow shoes was on about the same level as skiing! I felt like I was wearing giant clown shoes! With almost every step, I’d somehow manage to overlap my snowshoes and so kept tripping over myself. It wasn’t pretty but all that falling down and standing up was a good workout!
By far my biggest winter sports failure is skating. If I could choose one winter activity to be able to do just the basics with it would be skating. Many people see skating as the ultimate in being Canadian as skating leads to many winter activities.
It’s the one activity I really wish I could do. I’ve tried many times. When I was quite little, I got a pair of skates for Christmas one year. I don’t recall asking for them, but since we lived beside a creek and everyone else skated, I really wasn’t that surprised. Dad and my brothers would pile snow for a toboggan run and they cleared a patch of ice on the creek for skating. The whole family would have neighbours and friends over almost every weekend during the winter. I sat on a bench by the creek while mom helped me put on the skates and laced them up for me. Dad put an old kitchen chair in front of me so I could put my hands on it for balance and push it ahead of me. I spent most of the time using the chair to pull my butt up off the ice! There was no way I could get the hang of balancing on that narrow blade! My ankles just weren’t that strong. I tried several times that winter, but my feet and ankles hurt like crazy. I even managed to sprain my ankle a couple of times. I tried again in high school, but still couldn’t stand up by myself let alone move!
The last time I tried ice skating, I think I was about 20. There was a small outdoor rink that the students maintained at the post secondary school I was attending. A couple of the guys insisted that they could teach me how to skate. They grew up skating and played on the school hockey team. I had my doubts, but thought how bad could it be with a cute guy on each arm? We borrowed some skates and they took me out to the rink. They laced up my skates and helped me stand up. With one tall, strong guy on either arm, they attempted to glide me across the rink. Actually, I guess it was more that they were trying to hold me up as we stumbled across the ice. I even managed to take both of them down at one point! A third guy joined us to skate behind me with his hands on my back! They were all so sweet about trying to teach me. They insisted on taking me out a couple of more times, but even they eventually realized that I was not a skater. After that, I was pretty much content to watch from the sidelines and admire those who could stand on that narrow blade and glide with any degree of ease and gracefulness across the ice.
So, you see, it is not that I haven’t tried to be a winter sport person. I’ve tried several activities over the years. It’s just that this body wasn’t made for the sporting world. I know that to some, that may seem un-Canadian but, rest assured, I will be cheering on our Canadian athletes on from the relative safety of my couch!