Filled with the Sochi spirit

Published on Thursday, 20 February 2014 00:14 - Written by Vanessa Pearson vpearson@tylerpaper.com

I often joke that I only care about two kinds of sports: the Jayhawks and the Olympics. So right now, I’m in hog heaven with the basketball season rocketing toward my favorite thing of all — brackets for the Big Dance — and the Winter Olympics playing out a world away in Sochi, Russia.

I am so excited for all the athletes there — the Americans (of course), the famous Jamaican bobsled team, the Russians on the home field, even the countries that sent just one or two.

I’m rooting for all the Olympians. I want everyone to go to the games, have a good time, not fall down, not hurt themselves and give the performance of their lives. I don’t care who takes home gold or comes in last or even which country leads the medal count.

Apparently, this is an odd opinion.

On Friday, my boss, News Editor Joe Buie, told me it was unusual but said that I probably have the proper Olympic spirit.

I suppose I am filled up with the spirit because if I’m at home, I’m probably parked on the couch, book in hand, watching some winter sport or another.

In my youth, I always followed figure skating closely, all the crazy scandals and soaring triumphs in the 1990s. And when the summer games rolled around, I followed the swimmers and the gymnasts.

But this year? I’m watching all of it.

I started with the opening ceremonies and kept watching.

I saw the Americans skate in the first team figure skating competition and take bronze and Hannah Kearney nearly in tears when she couldn’t repeat gold in the last games of her career and took home bronze instead on the moguls in freestyle skiing.

I watched woman after woman wipe out on the alpine Super G course and the athletes zipping at top speed with sleds at the Sanki Sliding Center. After the men started their 2-man bobsled runs, I jammed to Jamaica’s “The Bobsled Song.” (Check it out at bobsledsong.com.)

As a night owl, I’ve been awake when the curlers played 10 ends in the Ice Cube. I’m talking probably nine hours of watching U.S.’ John Shuster and the other teams shove a 40-pound “rock” across the ice, plus all the time I spent reading up on the rules and equipment of “Chess on Ice.” (I’m even taking curling lessons in Dallas on Sunday. I think I’ve got my delivery stance ready.)

On the weekend’s afternoons, I watched the cross-country skiers compete for relay gold and learned about when the skiers want to be in the tracks and when they needed to forge their own paths through the snow.

The only things I’ve missed are biathlon and hockey, and I’m sure I’ll get to them before the Sochi Olympics wrap up on Sunday.

I watched the end of Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko’s competitive skating career. His head lowered, he wore a look of pain, betrayed by his body on home ice when he had to drop out of the men’s figure skating program moments before he was to skate. It was one of the saddest moments of the entire Olympics for me — especially when the commentators kept talking about his 31-year-old body breaking down. (But maybe that’s just a touchy subject because that’s how old I turned today. I wanted to yell through the TV, “That’s not old.”)

I’ve repeatedly watched the clip of Russian skier Anton Gafarov fall twice during a cross-country sprint, breaking his ski, and the Canadian coach Justin Wadsworth rush out with a new ski so the Russian could finish.

The coach told The Toronto Star, “I wanted him to have dignity as he crossed the finish line.” Wadsworth said he didn’t think it was a big deal to help the Russian out.

Gafarov might have finished three minutes after the leaders did, but he finished and to me that’s all that matters.

I’ve been breathless every time an athlete took a spill, especially when the Czech Republic’s Sarka Pancochova went down on the slopestyle course. Her body looked like a rag doll and her helmet cracked with the force of the impact.

When Swiss skier Dario Cologna won gold in the cross-country 15K classic Friday, he waited 30-plus minutes for the last-place finishers to cross the line — Nepal’s only competitor, Dachhiri Sherpa, and Peru’s Roberto Carcelen, who became his country’s first winter Olympian in 2010 and was competing with a broken rib.

That’s the Olympic spirit, and I’m filled up with it. I’m sad it’s ending so soon because I will have a 2 ᄑ year wait until I get more Olympics in my life when the summer games head to South America for the first time.

Rio 2016, I’ll be waiting.