February 12, 2002

Olympic rants and a shameful retraction

After writing my piece on Picabo Street last week I got some feedback; some of it came from readers, and some of it came in the form of afterthoughts upon the actual commencment of the Olympics.

First of all, I've been told by some people that Picabo Street is not all that nice of a person. I want to reject this assertion. It is somewhat baseless on my part, but I want to give her the benefit of the doubt on this one. A reader came up to me saying something about people he knew had run into her at some point and discovered that she was not a nice person. I contend that because of her knee injuries and recovery time after surgery, she was entitled to be in a bad mood at any given time in the past few years. That said, it is disappointing to know that she was not nice to any individual, because it makes her less of a cool person in my book. However, I do have a theory that aids my understanding of the situation given the new facts: another reader contacted me and questioned the accuracy of my claim that Street is an Oregonian. Readers, I have erred. Indeed, Picabo was not born in Oregon as I claimed. It seems our skier friend's entrance into this world took place in Idaho. This explains why she is not really as cool as I had thought. Heartbroken, I move on.

Now for the afterthoughts. During the first day of competition I watched the Men's Downhill competition, interested to see the touted course, nicknamed "The Grizzly" for its ferocity. Additionally, though I was a fan of our former skier friend, Picabo Street, I had not seen many competitions, nor am I a downhill skier by any stretch of the imagination. I can honestly tell you that the downhill event is the scariest thing that I have ever seen.

As I watched the male skiers fly down the course I literally drew back, cringing at what I perceived to be the first stages of a gruesome crash at every jump, turn, and bodily twitch that the skiers displayed, as they hurtled down the mountain at speeds approaching 85 miles per hour. I have a green 1980 Volvo. It is an awesome car, and I love it, but these skiers were going faster at times than the fastest speed on my car's speedometer! My car is a tank, and it also has brakes, whereas these skiers wear nothing but helmets to protect themselves, and have nothing to slow themselves down beyond their own power to turn their skis in just the right manner to stop. Thus, my cringing was fully justified, and I intend to write a strongly worded letter to the Olympic Committee regarding the safety of the event. Actually I might just mention it to my roommate, and he might take up the cause.

Skiers and swimmers both worry about friction a lot

The one factor that makes these skiers go incredibly fast is the ice on the ski path. Forget about soft and fluffy snow to ski on. These athletes glide down on ice that offers no friction to slow them down. This brings me to my next point, concerning University of Chicago athletics. Perhaps no other University of Chicago sports team must think about friction more than the swim team. These athletes depart for the UAA Championships in Atlanta on Wednesday. I've mentioned before how devoted these athletes are, but I think that on account of the conference championships, the comment deserves additional consideration.

Picture this: it is the dead of winter in Chicago (imagine we aren't having unseasonably warm temperatures like this year). You shiver every time you walk out the door. Your natural reaction? Probably not to shave your head (among other things). This is what many of the University of Chicago swimmers did last weekend. They shed their carefully groomed and cultivated hair for the sake of swimming faster for Maroon glory this week. If you see these brave heroes walking around with no hair before Wednesday, please walk up to them and a) tell them how cool they are, and b) wish them good luck at the conference championships.