DUFFER.....some new Olympic sports
The Winter Olympics in PyeongChang are not quite a week old as I write this and Canada is already among the leaders in medals won. The pundits are speculating we will experience our best ever medal count this year and perhaps top the world in the process.
One of our gold medals was essentially a “gimme” in the first-ever mixed curling competition. You had to know we’d be on the podium for this one with about a 99 per cent chance of taking gold. I’m not arguing about adding another gold medal to our curling supremacy, but I have to question the wisdom behind this seemingly invented variation of a traditional sport.
The Olympics – whether it’s the winter or summer games – likes to tinker with the sports it offers. Every four years, there is seemingly a new event or two added to the games to generate new interest among viewers and give participants of these events an international platform on which to compete. Coming up for the 2020 summer games in Japan are skateboarding, climbing and surfing.
Surfing? I can hear the commentary now: “Well, it looks like a shark has got hold of him, Jim. This will undoubtedly disqualify him from the next round.”
Back to mixed curling. Purists of the sport are probably scratching their heads about this one. The game is supposed to be played by four competitors per side, each throwing two stones that are swept by two others. Instead, we have one man and one woman throwing a total of five stones (one stone per team is automatically “placed” in a given position). With only two team members, one may elect to remain in the house (the bull’s eye) and call the shot while the poor sap who throws the stone has to immediately get up and chase after it and single-handedly do all the sweeping.
It’s all quite bizarre, but this abomination of curling is now officially an Olympic sport.
I’m waiting for the day when tag team boxing is introduced. Picture this. The first guy is sent in and must duke it out with the lead guy of the other team for a minimum of 30 seconds. When he figures he’s got his opponent on the ropes after the minimum time requirement, he tags in his fresh partner to deliver the decisive blow. But, wait! The guy who’s getting his clock cleaned makes a desperate tag of his own to bring in his fresh partner. And away they go, and so on and so forth.
I’d better stop here in case Vince McMahon is reading this and steals my idea.
Or what about women’s sumo wrestling? It would be the antithesis of women’s beach volleyball in terms of the quality of apparel, not to mention the quality of the athletes wearing that apparel. Nevertheless it would be fun to watch, but not while eating.
There are several Olympic sports that have disciplines of their own. For example, under the umbrella heading of skiing, we have downhill, slalom, freestyle, cross-country, ski jumping, etc. Luge has both a one-man and two-man competition yet the skeleton has just the one-man. Why not a two-man skeleton? The luge requires the competitor to lie on his back and whiz down the track feet first on his sled. The skeleton is essentially the opposite. The guy lies on his belly and goes head first down the track on his sled. So if one guy can lie on top of another guy in a two-man luge competition, why can’t they do it in the skeleton?
In the history of the doubles luge event, it has almost always been two men partnered together, but there have been mixed teams competing against all-male teams. Undoubtedly this happened in the days the Eastern Bloc countries existed, when testosterone-riddled women – for all intents and purposes – were men.
It could prove somewhat awkward if mixed doubles were ever introduced to the skeleton event, especially if the woman was on the bottom. “Uh, Hans, you’re getting a little familiar. Do you think you could shift down a bit?”
Imagine a cross event featuring the bobsled. Wouldn’t that be fun? Design a wider track to accommodate four four-man sleds and watch them go. Yee-hah! Talk about redneck heaven!
The International Olympic Committee must have to make several considerations when deciding what sports to introduce and what ones to drop. Obviously the sport has to be played in a sufficient number of countries to make it worthwhile. Do they take into account the sport’s excitement factor when rendering these decisions, or which ones generate the greatest TV viewership?
Wrestling had been removed from the 2020 Olympic lineup, but has since been reinstated. Was it considered too dull? Tweak it a bit by introducing submission holds and it will never be doubted again.
“Jones has the camel clutch locked in… and the Spaniard is tapping out!”
Whatever brings sports fans to the edge of their seats must always be regarded. Somehow mixed curling slipped through the cracks.
Rod Perry, aka Duffer, is a Niagara-based freelance writer.
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