With the Winter Olympics opening in earnest today, I thought I’d reminisce over my favourite Winter Olympics memories, reflect on how they influenced me, and then outline which events I’m particularly looking forward to seeing this year. Here goes…
I’ve always been fascinated by the Winter Olympics. As a youngster, watching the Summer Games, I knew that I could just pop outside to sprint down the street, launch a stick javelin, or long-jump over a neighbour’s herbaceous border. The Winter Olympics are different. From the sheer craziness of the skeleton bob and ski jump, to the weird and wonderful world of crown green ice bowls (aka curling), these were events that even an imaginative 8 year old struggled to realistically replicate from the confines of home. Consequently, this incredible collection of events has always held a special place in my heart.
Looking back, I have many vivid memories of Games gone by. First among them has to be Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards, surely the most celebrated last placed finisher in the history of sport. What he did, by proving countless people wrong, was show that dreams are there to be chased and realised. During the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, every kid in every school in the UK waited with baited breath to watch him soar like an eagle. He may have finished dead last in both of his events, but he inspired a generation to look at snow sports differently.
1988 seems to have been a pivotal year for me because my next favourite memory of the Winter Olympics is of Alberto Tomba. Winning gold medals in both the slalom and giant slalom, he stuck out as being slightly different from your average technical skier. Until he came along they seemed more agile, dainty almost. His big, bruising physique, by contrast, seemed to power down the course, beating everything in its way. He was also a master at getting the crowd on-side and I remember the raucousness when he took to the mountain. He always seemed to ski on the very edge – something that can be blamed on him for the way that I ski today haha.
Despite being a skier and not a snowboarder, my third most vivid Winter Olympics memory is of Jenny Jones winning slopestyle bronze in Sochi in 2014. Like Eddie Edwards, having a Brit, competing on the world stage in this exciting event, really captured my imagination. I was picking up technical lingo that I’d never before heard of and commentating on her runs without even realising it. With statistics showing that so many girls give up sport from the age of 11, I’m pretty sure Jenny Jones went someway to redressing that.
So, which events am I looking forward to this year? First up, we have the men’s downhill. This blue ribbon event promises pace, power, technique, and on-the- edge- of- your- seat excitement. If this isn’t enough for me, I go skiing in a week’s time so the 8 year old in my head needs somebody he can pretend to be. Come on, we’ve all done it!
The next events that I’m really looking forward to are the freestyle events such as slopestyle. It blows my mind what these skiers and boarders are capable of and what they put their bodies through. It’s part elite skiing, part gymnastics and part madness. But, that’s what makes it so enthralling.
The final event that I’m really looking forward to is ski cross. This exciting, rough and tumble event promises genuine racing, plenty of thrills and spills and is one of those events where literally anything could happen. Blending technique, aggression and nerves of steel this is not one to miss.
Lastly, I’ll be tuning in or catching up on any event with a British interest. My most vivid memory of any Winter Olympics, Eddie the Eagle, didn’t come close to winning. However, by competing proudly and fiercely, he lifted a nation and inspired a generation. My generation. Therefore, I want to witness who is going to inspire my kids and the next generation of snow sports enthusiasts.