Going for Gold – Feeding my Olympic Addiction

gold

I love the Olympics and just can’t get enough of it. Over the past week and-a-half I have fallen into a rhythm of following every moment of the PyeongChang Games. As I watch athletes fly in the air and speed down the hill I am amazed by what the human body can do. Whether an Olympian competes for gold or for a personal best, a big kudos to them all.

There’s only a few days left of the Winter Olympics, and I know that on February 26th I will have to go through a tremendous withdrawal. I will admit it: I’m obsessed. I just can’t stop watching, listening, reading and checking my CBC Olympics App (which by the way is fantastic). The wall-to-wall 24-hour-a-day coverage fills my addiction, and I love it.

I, like so many other people around the world, suddenly become a huge fan of sports and sub-sports that I would normally ignore. I have watched hours of competition and feel like I have become an expert on everything from Snowboard halfpipe to two-man Luge to twizzling in ice dancing. Here are some of my favourite moments so far:

Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir win gold in ice dance

How can you not love this pair? They have become the darlings of not just Canada but of the Olympics. With their gold medal win in the ice dance competition, they have five medals from three Games and are the most decorated ice dancers of all time. This team’s unique style and connection with each other is something special.  Even though the free skate was just 4 ½ minutes long, I could have watched them for hours. Smooth. Silky. Confident. Amazing.

Snowboard Halfpipe

This event is just crazy. I don’t understand how a human being has the ability to fly up and down this gutter-looking path. And they go many feet into the air, often upside down, flipping and contorting. We were excited to watch this event in my family as the lone Canadian competitor, Derek Livingston, trained early on in his career where we ski, at Alpine Ski Club. The person who first taught Derek on the halfpipe is now my son’s snowboard coach. No, I don’t encourage Matthew to pursue a career in halfpipe. These guys are nuts.

Two and Four Person Bobsleigh

If I am going to travel down a curvy icy track, I will choose bobsleigh any day over luge or skeleton (don’t get my started on this one which terrifies me). At least the pair or foursome is protected inside a giant metal tube.  I will admit this event looks a little fun. I don’t think I’m interested in traveling the speeds these athletes do as they go for gold, but I would consider jumping in a bobsleigh and testing it out.

Short Track Speed Skating Individual and Team Relays

This is a roller derby on ice. It’s every man or woman for him or herself. You have to be aggressive and fast. A bunch of skaters jump on the ice and go around in circles over and over again, almost making me feel dizzy. Sometimes you win because everyone else was disqualified or fell. I can’t stop watching.

It goes on and on. Ski jumping. Speed skating. Aerials. Ski Cross. When an athlete performs at his or her best and wins gold I feel the excitement with them. And I just want to watch more and more. What am I going to do next week when it’s all over and the athletes have gone home? Do I go back to House Hunters and Top Chef? I guess so. Well, at least I have a few more days to enjoy the Olympics and cheer on a few more elite athletes as they go for gold.

I’m Glad that Children Like to Climb Trees

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My son participated in a couple of snowboard competitions this weekend. Competition is new for him, and I told him to try his best and have fun. Competitive sports can be challenging for children (adults too!), causing undue stress to achieve. Matthew took it all in stride. He pushed himself to try something new, and I think he went out there, on the race course and terrain park, and had a good time. On the drive back to our country house, after a long day of skiing and snowboarding, in the middle of other conversations, Matthew started to talk about climbing trees, and it got me thinking.

What does a snowboard competition have to do with climbing trees, you may ask? Nothing really. But then again, as I think about it, and one thought leads to the next, they have a lot in common.

As parents, we expect so much of our children. We want them to be responsible, mature and to achieve. We push them, sometimes through competitive sports, maybe a bit too hard. It occurred to me that sometimes kids just want to be kids. I don’t know at what point during our lives, maybe it’s a sudden moment or gradual change, when we grow up. What I mean by that is, when does it happen that we don’t want to climb trees anymore?

Before the big renovation and addition that our family undertook at the country house last year, there was a huge evergreen tree beside the house. It had big branches and had grown over the years in a slightly abnormal manner. it was a magnet for all children to climb. As adults, we considered the idea of climbing this strange-looking tree out of the question. How many times did my father yell at Matthew to stop climbing that tree?

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This is my mother, circa 1991, just after this famous tree was planted.
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My three children in front of the same tree, 26 years later, days before the tree was cut down to make way for the addition.

But a kid is a kid, and most kids like to climb trees. And jungle gyms, And furniture. Sometimes they climb on their parents, or poles or fences. As adults, we scorn this behaviour and sometimes look on and scream in horror. But didn’t we do this too when we were children?

I don’t ski all that fast, and when I look at the jumps in the terrain park I feel like I may have a stroke if I even attempt them. But when I was ten years old I wanted to learn how to go fast and to fly high in the air anytime I saw a jump on the ski hill. I climbed the three giant trees with my brother and sister in our front yard, usually because the adults told me not to.

I did cartwheels across my backyard and kept practicing until I could really do the splits with my legs. My brother and I played baseball and hockey in the middle of my street, and I always thought it was cool to ride my bike with no hands.

The best activity at a restaurant was taking an empty glass and filling it with various liquids and condiments within reach. Have you ever tried orange-coke-ketchup-mustard-soy sauce-salt-pepper drink? My aunt says it’s tasty!

Snowboarding at top speed, doing a 180 degree turn over a jump, and climbing trees have a lot in common. They are what kids love to do. And I love that kids, especially my kids, love to do them. I don’t know when the day will come that my son will slow down and slide through a jump on his snowboard or stare at the beauty of a tree instead of climbing it, but I hope it doesn’t happen anytime soon.

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Matthew flying down the hill at his competition this weekend

**Quick note: the airborne child you see in the feature photo at the top of the story is my nephew, Max. He really loves to fly!