An Analysis of the Olympics

Every four years we come together (well, every two years with different sports) to celebrate -- what? Winning? Losing? Being in the middle? What? Amateurism? Athleticism? What? Media sponsorship? Independence? What?

I intend to analyze all these questions in this essay. I've pondered this for a long time. As a former figure skater who competed at approximately this level but never made it to television, the Olympics or anything, I feel I have some insight into some of this, having been around it for a while.

I saw a great deal of what goes on behind the scenes in modern figure skating. I am deliberately remaining anonymous for a reason. Skating doesn't like people like me. The image has overshadowed the reality. No one wants to hear it. Sorry. I'm speaking. And I'm sure some of you will recognize me. I must say this. If I were going to be yelled off the Web, it would have happened by now. I'm still here. This site don't budge.

I owe it to the skaters going out there. Emotionally and sometimes physically, they put their lives on the line for this sport. I want to make sure someone pays attention to them as human beings. Not as Barbie dolls. Not as floodlit playthings. As human beings. I know some of you recognize me now.

On with the show. What are the Olympics about? They are for each individual athlete. Spotlight or no spotlight, glory or no glory, they're still there. At the bottom of this page you will find links to the national federations of three winter sports that don't get enough recognition in this country. On for two shows every four years, and then no more. I will make a challenge to all readers of this essay. The first is to go investigate one of these sites.

What do we want from our athletes? Do we feel that they should make us look good? For what? Playing couch potato all day while they bust their butts in the freezing cold? Get out there and make yourself look good. One hour a day. For a week. Athletics. Moving around. Playing. Having fun. Rediscover your body. Have fun. Then you have the right to ask Michelle Kwan to skate for you.

What else do we want? A feeling of vicarious achievement? Sorry. That ain't good enough. I don't skate for Daddy, I don't skate for Mommy, and I don't skate for you. Go spend 40 hours a week for two weeks doing something you enjoy, something you are really good at, and something you can accomplish something with. Then you can sit down on the sofa and watch Tara. You'll have earned it.

What do we want from our athletes? A sense of national honor? What about Katarina Witt? She won two gold medals for mighty East Germany. Anybody remember them? That old Communist sports system? All the perks of being a star athlete. Even in America it is hard to beat what she was offered. That arena reserved for her sole use was the least of it. She'd earned it.

But the Wall fell. Crunch. Another kind of crunch that changed lives irretrievably. Many of East Germany's star athletes didn't take it well. They crumpled, at least internally. What, no system? Katarina went for it. A couple of ice skates, a pretty face, and, "Here I am, America!" Sometimes the amazing advantages are counterbalanced by amazing liabilities. All you have is yourself.

Now I'll bet she's even more of a household name than she was. And she's worked for it. Doing nothing that might damage her reputation. I didn't say image, I said reputation. There's a difference. An image you leave in front of the cameras. A reputation you take home with you. Against who can know what pressure. But she did it. Came back for a third Olympics. And gave you the chance to rediscover her.

I believe that's all I have to say.

Oh. The fourth challenge. Do what Katarina did. For yourself. Alone. In the cold. With no one to support you. Reinvent your life with one talent, a bit of image, and nonstop determination.

Very good. Now you may have your ticket to Stars on Ice.

Homework: Who were the second and third-place finishers in that competition? Where are they now and what are they doing?

Only one girl got to face her home country after that night with a gold medal in her hand. The others had to face all of the United States and all of Canada, respectively.

One of those girls is the most brilliant technical skater I have ever seen. Identify her and back up your statement. Use words like position and edges. Where is she now? Why is she not skating?

The most brilliant technical skater we have ever had?

And no, I don't mean Tonya.

Chicken. You picked up the remote.

It won't happen this time. Too many people are angry.

Let's appreciate our skaters, shall we?

There. I think that's analysis enough for now.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled skating program.

If you have a choice of remembering the advertiser or the skater, remember the skater.

Just once.


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