Column

Oliver: Olympics offer outlet for sports fans everywhere

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

For those of us who love all things sports, particularly those that rarely make it onto network television, these Winter Olympics are a giddy time. When else can we indulge our desire to watch skeleton, short-track speed skating and luge?

And whoever thought we’d be able to claim that our own area would be represented at the Winter Games? Doesn’t it make your heart swell to know that the Norge Ski Club has sent three ski jumpers to the competition? I get a little misty-eyed every time I think about it.

Congratulations to Mike Glasder of Cary, Kevin Bickner of Wauconda and Casey Larson of Barrington, as well as to their families. We are so proud of you. Bickner’s top-20 finish in both the normal and large hill competitions was just icing on the cake, and a sign that the U.S. ski jumping program is heading for even greater things.

The time difference with Pyeongchang, South Korea, is making it tricky for me to get my complete Olympics fix, but I’m catching events here and there. NBC’s coverage, spread over several channels, also has been a bit confusing. I’ll hear a score in the morning and then turn on coverage and either get something for which I already know the outcome or see a repeat of something I saw the night before. Still, I’m basking in what I can see.

Take, for instance, the men’s figure skating competition. This year provided everything a fan could want. First, there was a repeat champion in Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, who skated one of the best short programs I’ve ever seen.

Then there was the epic comeback of the United States’ Nathan Chen, who found himself in 17th place after a disastrous short program. He also had struggled in the team competition, despite being a favorite to challenge for the gold in singles.

Not only did he come back strong in his long program, but he also made history, landing five quad jumps on his way to an eventual fifth-place finish. I’m old enough to remember when triples were a big deal.

Meanwhile, teammates Adam Rippon and Vincent Zhou, who finished 10th and sixth, respectively, made one of the stronger showings by the U.S. men’s team in recent memory. Rippon’s performance, despite lacking the technical elements of the top skaters, was as dazzling as the sequins he wore.

Snowboarding also has provided some of my favorite highlights. To think that 17-year-old Red Gerard is an Olympic champion in slopestyle is mind-boggling. Then again, so were his runs to capture the medal. And then there’s Chloe Kim in halfpipe. She was good enough for the Olympics three years ago at age 13, but was too young to go. Now, four years later, she got her gold medal. Wow.

The list goes on and on of all the interesting storylines, whether they are of triumph or disappointment. Throw in a little political drama with the unified hockey team of the Koreas, and there’s something for just about everyone.

Happily, I still have a few more days of competition, including watching Carpentersville’s Bradie Tennell try for gold in figure skating, before I have to start counting down to the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. In the meantime, I’ll be watching ice hockey and short-track and bobsled.

Oh, and trying to figure out curling, which I’m afraid I still don’t understand. But there’s still time.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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