I love the winter Olympics.
Not surprisingly, I’m not a very sportsy person. I was always a bit more bookish than athletic, so I don’t relate as well to that world as some people.
But the Olympics are different. It’s got a lot of other stuff wrapped up in it. National pride, the pressure of the entire world watching, and let’s face it, nobody’s going to get the big endorsement money because you won bronze in curling, so it’s worth watching even if you don’t know anything about luge or an axle jump from a camel spin, which I don’t.
So, my favorite moment came Tuesday night when I was up late, late, late (hey, the panic over the ice meant I didn’t have to get up early Wednesday) watching the competitions and saw the end of the snowboarding competition.
So, here’s the set-up: Shaun White, media darling, rock star and multi-millionaire, the single-most famous snowboarder in the world, the wise old man of his sport at 27, was going for his third gold medal. He went into the finals in first place and crapped out on his first attempt, but there were two shots at this, so no problem, right?
In his second attempt, White cracked up again, and only because he did some spectacular stuff before he had his epic fail did he even place fourth.
That left the Swiss competitor in first. He’s a 25-year-old named Iouri Podladtchikov, born in Russia but representing Switzerland where his mathematics parents moved when he was a kid. The other snowboarders call him “IPod.”
When it became clear that IPod had won, he ran up to White and it was White who comforted the younger athlete, hugging him, patting his head and congratulating him. He was the definition of a good sport. Podladtchikov’s hero worship was evident in every move, but White was absolutely gracious and looked like he couldn’t have been happier for IPod.
When, in fact, he probably wanted to clock the kid.
I was disappointed in the media, who crowed about the upset as if it had been the 1980 hockey game between the USSR and the USA. It wasn’t that monumental, except that everyone loves an underdog and the guy who’s famous and rich who doesn’t live up to the reputation is going to take some hits when that happens.
But in my view, he did live up to the title of champion. How many of us could be that magnanimous SECONDS after failing that spectacularly? It was a really cool Olympic moment between two young men who should both be celebrated, if for different reasons.
Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at email@example.com. Want to “Soundoff” to this article? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I love the winter Olympics.
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