Winter Olympics are intriguing mystery

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 11, 2018

In case you missed it last week, the Olympics started again, this time the winter variety. The international sporting event always gives me the momentary dream, “I could do that if I tried or had had the chance to learn.”

Moments later the reality sets in and I realize, even if I were born in the shadow a German luge track, the likelihood that I had the skills let alone the intestinal fortitude to hurdle down an ice track at 90 mph is slim to none.

And let’s not even talk about the skintight outfits top lugers wear. Donning one of those with a body like mine would take serious guts or the influence of some kind of artificial courage.

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If I had any chance earlier in life of competing in an Olympics, it would have likely been one of a myriad of summer Olympics sports. That’s far more feasible to imagine — at least when I was younger and had hair.

Mississippi has had several Olympic competitors through the years. In the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio, Ole Miss pole vaulter Sam Kendricks and Gulfport native long jumper Brittany Reese were among several people with Mississippi connections in competition.

Mississippi’s winter Olympics competitors are far fewer, for obvious reasons — most of us don’t like the cold and the nearest ski resort is hundreds and hundreds of miles away.

As a native Mississippian, however, the winter Olympics has always been an intriguing mystery.

Up until the recent “global warming” caused us to have snow about every year or two, the majority of the first 30 or so years of my life were virtually snow-less.

Time was marked in the family photo album by rare South Mississippi snowfalls.

My aging recollection is that before I grew up and headed out into adulthood, I’d seen perhaps only three or four instances of snow in my life, most the slushy, wet kind that quickly melts.

Perhaps if you grow up in an area in which snow is on the ground much of the year and the terrain is steep, skiing, luge, ski jumping and other such sports are just second nature.

They all seem so incredibly foreign to me.

Several years ago, I saw first hand some of the former Olympic venue used during the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002. Several years after its glory day, cold-blooded athletes were using the facility to train. The sheer gravity defying moves of people practicing the snowboard halfpipe was enough to make me long for the solid and thawed ground of Mississippi.

This week, our family will probably watch some of the Olympics from the warm confines of our house where multiple layers of clothes are not required to prevent frostbite and a snack is just a few feet away.

The Olympics have lost a bit of their polish and patriotism-stirring ability through the years. Few Olympic clashes have come close the underdog USA hockey team besting the Soviet Union in 1980 during the “Miracle on Ice.”

Drug scandals, athletes who sabotage others to get ahead and other such things have dulled what was once a picture of pure athleticism mixed with home country pride.

Despite all that, seeing an American take home the gold is still fun and pride-stirring. Let’s hope Team USA has a fine showing this week. I’ll see you all on the couch.
Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or