Are you watching it? The Winter Olympics? I watched the men’s singles Luge yesterday. A catapult on ice. Terrifying. The stuff of nightmares. A quick push before he or she jumps into a cradle on two blades and tucks himself in, becoming the projectile in a human slingshot, hurtling to an uncertain destination. The German, Felix Loch, the one with two gold medals already behind him, he who has hit a speed of 96 miles per hour in the Luge in the past, was tipped to win. He didn’t. Lost it to the Austrian. A big upset, you’ll know, if you’re up on such matters – which I am, now that I’ve watched 20 minutes of it. They must have a fear bypass, these slippy fellows. Maybe I’m projecting it onto them, but just before they set off, before they lie down, before they flip down the visor of their helmet, you can see their faces, and in their eyes you see it: the fearlessness; the madness.
Then there’s that young American boy, Red Gerard, who won gold in the men’s ‘Slopestyle’ event – basically doing tricks on a big skateboard without wheels on the snow. Launching himself off a ramp and into the sky, he looked like a plastic bag blowing about in the air, suspended in the sky for too long. I kept thinking he was going to fall to earth, and then he would twist and turn, higher, further and roll, twist, spin and blow and float and move and then gently descend. A whole new take on the ‘snowflake generation’, because that’s the closest I’ve seen to a human being morph into falling snow. Amazing, beautiful and quite, quite mad. Gone are the days of nibbling your nails down to the quick with the thought of ‘Eddie the Eagle’ smashing his over sized glasses and ending up with a splint on his leg. One false move for these lobotomised lunatics and it’s surely game over. Don’t they have fathers who could have taken them fly-fishing when they were young?! Don’t they have mothers who could have made them learn the piano? I thought fear was an in-built necessity to keep us alive, it seems not. Seems that the absence of fear is a necessary in order to win gold medals.
Watching the summer games two years ago, there was something about Mo Farah and his graceful strides that, whilst breathtaking and uncatchable, I could watch and think: I can understand that. I can run (either in the past, now or in the future), maybe not like Mo, but the action is in keeping with the human form – we all look like we are made for it. Yet with the winter games, the majority of events I watch seem to be for suprahumans, performing beyond any normal scale or realm. Like the Speed-Skating statuesque Dutch man with thighs bulging from his sprayed on one-piece; could it be possible he is connected to Duracell batteries that keep him going round in circles at that speed?
Not that it is ever going to happen, but if ever I were to compete in the Winter Olympics it would have to be Curling. I played lawn bowls with my big brother many years ago when he went through a stage of playing it (he claimed) in an ‘ironic’ way – nothing ironic about it, he was just practicing for his old age! Also, I’m good at sweeping the floor and Curling looks like a cross between lawn bowls and housework with absolutely no hurtling required; it’ll do me! I’ve also discovered the best curling stones are made from granite from the Ailsa Craig. I like the desolate romanticism of that place; you can see it from the Belfast-Cairnryan ferry, the massive rock rising from the Irish sea on the Ayrshire coast side. I always look out for the gannets, but now I’ll be looking at the granite and thinking of Curling!
I’ll leave you with an icy little poem in keeping with the subject matter of the day.
‘Fire and Ice’, by Robert Frost
“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.”