Contradictory sport combinations

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform their free dance in the ice dance portion of the team figure skating event at the Sochi Winter Olympics Sunday, Feb. 9, in Sochi.

By Patrick Ledwell (Guest Opinion)

What is it about the Winter Olympics that makes me totally lose my mind?

Two weeks before the Olympics start, I couldn’t give a triple salchow for whatever’s happening in the figure skating world. But as soon as the Olympics arrive, I perform a full 360-degree rotation. My heart leaps in my chest whenever our Canadian pairs attempt a triple Lutz twist lift. I don’t even know what that means.

When I analyze it, I’m most drawn to the Olympic sports that pull together unrelated and even contradictory skill sets. Like figure skating. Artistry and force. Strength and grace. Wearing fancy outfits, and then trying to jump higher than you can consistently manage, even in practice.

What other life activity asks people to first dress up in formalwear, and a little later, sprawl all over the place? In Atlantic Canada that’s called a wedding, and trust me, it’s hard on everybody.

I respect figure skaters. You would never go to the ballet and see dancers try leaps that risk turning tutus into swiffers, wiping out into the orchestra pit. Well, I never go to the ballet, period. But I might, if ballet dancers put as much on the line as figure skaters.

Or biathletes. Talk about your activities rigged to fail. In biathlon, one half of the sport gradually ruins the athlete’s ability to do the other half of the sport. First, let’s get you skiing until your heart is pounding like a jackhammer. And now let’s try shooting this target the size of a jackrabbit’s left nut.

I respect biathletes. If Canada is ever invaded in winter, immediately after a heavy snowfall, but before the tanks and planes have been plowed out, I know who I want in my corner.

The mind-boggling contradictions of biathlon make other sports seem humdrum. It’s like boxing, but then having to read an eye chart between rounds. Can’t pick out the bottom row? Sorry, that’s going to mean some demerit points. Try not getting hit in the face so much.

That wouldn’t seem fair. But that’s just it. There’s drama in athletes thrust into a contradictory world that’s stopped making sense. And we recognize our own fight against futility in their stronger, higher outlines.

Who hasn’t felt like a figure skater, all dressed up with nowhere to go but down? And who hasn’t felt like a

biathlete, given two unrelated things to do that don’t help each other in the least?

So that’s why I’m awake and glued to the set, watching the Canadian athletes who represent us. I want them to emerge triumphant from their years of obscure toil, and march victory straight out of the jaws of contradiction.

Whose heart wouldn’t glow at the sight of that?


Patrick Ledwell is an Island comedian and writer living on the Loyalist Road in Milton. This excerpt is from his book “I Am An Islander” published by Acorn Press.

Organizations: Acorn Press

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, Loyalist Road, Milton

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