fitness · Olympics · skiing

A flurry of feminist fitness: one evening watching the Olympics

I have a love/hate relationship with Olympics TV coverage– it’s thrilling to see such a wide variety of sports, but annoying that shows focus on the #26 American competitor at the expense of seeing a great final that doesn’t include any US athletes.  Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that this year’s coverage is better; we get to see more big chunks of events, rather than just snippets of individual performances.  Here are some tremendous victories from female athletes that just blew me away:

Marit Bjoegen of Norway skied to victory in the final leg of the women’s 4 x 5 (km) relay cross country ski race, winning her 13th career Olympic gold medal.  That ties the Olympic record (with fellow Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen).  Here she is, crossing the line:

Marit Bjoergen of Norway, crossing the line to victory for her 13th Olympic gold medal.
Marit Bjoergen of Norway, crossing the line to victory for her 13th Olympic gold medal.

Bjoergen is 37, a fact that was mentioned by the commentators approximately every 17 seconds during her final leg.  Sweden’s Stina Nilsson, who is 24– “13 years younger!” the commentators kept exclaiming– was hot on her heels, but couldn’t hang on up the final hill.  The Norwegian team is a powerhouse, and Ragnahild Haga set up the team for victory by erasing a 30-second deficit in the third leg to set up Bjoergen.

What a race!  I was moving my feet in unconscious solidarity with the skiers, and marveling at their stamina and strength and technique and speed.

Speaking of speed, how about Korean short-track speed skater Choi Min-jeong?  She’s 19 (it’s very important we know how old everyone is, it seems), and just blew the doors off of her competition in the 1500-meter final.  I don’t know much (by much, I mean anything) about short track speed skating, but it seems balletic and also impossible– the skaters create an instant pace line, with some of them occasionally moving to the front.  There’s all sorts of strategy (completely unknown to me), but it continues on, so graceful– they are fluid and consistent in their motion.

Olympic women's 500-meter short track speed skaters in motion.
Olympic women’s 500-meter short track speed skaters in motion.

Then all hell breaks loose, and I’m a bit confused, very excited, and trying to look everywhere at once.  Choi Min-jeong had made her move, skating on the outside with explosive speed to take first place, and continued accelerating as she crossed the finish line.

Choi Min-jeong, winning the gold in the women's 1500-meter short track speed skating final, with the rest of the pack way behind her, wondering what happened.
Choi Min-jeong, winning the gold in the women’s 1500-meter short track speed skating final, with the rest of the pack way behind her, wondering what happened.

Speaking of wondering what happened, how about that Ester Ledecka, the Czech world-champion snowboarder who also competed in super-G giant slalom? She WON the competition, using someone else’s skis– apparently she borrowed them from American competitor Mikaela Shiffrin.  Whoa.

Ledecka (along with the announcers and the entire crowd watching the event) was initially confused about the outcome.  Here she is, trying to parse the information:

Ester LEster Ledecka, looking at the results board.
Ester Ledecka, looking at the results board.

When it became clear that she had won, it finally started to sink in.

Ester Ledecka, her arms up in a V for victory gesture.
Ester Ledecka, her arms up in a V for victory gesture.

By the way, she’s 22.

All this enormous effort– a tiny show reflecting years of hard work and privation– and the joy it brings makes me happy about my own movement triumphs. And it motivates me to get out there (wherever there is…) to set my own records, however I see them.

Does the Olympics affect you in your plans and feelings about your own movement?  I’d love to hear from you.

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