I don’t much understand the Winter Olympics – we didn’t get to do much skiing, snowboarding or speed-skating when I was growing up in South Wales. Then again we didn’t do a huge amount of rowing, dressage or modern pentathlon round my way either and I like the Summer Olympics quite a lot, so maybe my disinterest is less that the winter games are full of sports I’ve never played and don’t understand and more the fact that not many of my compatriots are very good at them either.
Time was, of course, that British medal hopes in both the Summer and Winter Olympics were minimal, but thanks to a ruthless funding campaign, abusive and bullying coaching strategies, and questionable interpretations of the Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) to legitimise the use of performance enhancing drugs, we Brits have become serious medal contenders at the Summer Olympics. Alas those same strategies aren’t going to make the UK more snowy and mountainous so success in the Winter Games will always be more elusive.
Norway seem to be pretty good at winter sports. Maybe as part of our Brexit deal we could join forces with the Norwegians, who already find themselves outside of the EU, and then I could enjoy the Winter Olympics a bit more.
Although a Norwegian style deal seems to be off the table and instead we’re hoping for ‘Canada +++’. I don’t actually know what that means, but the Canadians are also good at winter sports, so I’m OK with forming an alliance there too.
Then again, it’s not like we’ve never had any success at the Winter Olympics. We seem to be alright at curling, which is perhaps not the most exciting of the ice-based sports but it does make for strangely compelling TV, and there’s been some success in the skeleton, which seems to involve going really fast downhill on an ice-track supported by what is essentially a tea-tray. Which is madness really.
Historically, there is even a history of British success in figure-skating. After all, who can forget national treasures Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean? Well no-one can, because every Winter Olympics the BBC appears to be obliged to show footage of their gold medal performance from 1984. And obviously they’re involved in ITV’s Dancing On Ice, which is like a less popular and more hazardous version of the BBC’s flagship show Strictly Come Dancing.
We did have an ice-rink nearby when I was growing up. I remember ice-skating being a ‘thing’ people did for their birthdays during my teenage years. I went once with a group of friends and, for the hour or so we were on the ice, I was utterly petrified. I never went again and so died that Olympic dream.
I fared better on my one skiing holiday as a teenager, in that I did actually enjoy that. Sadly though, in my one week of skiing I didn’t quite manage to hit Olympic qualifying standards.
Which seems like a missed opportunity on reflection.