Sunday, February 9, 2014

Shalom Slalom and Lots of Lutz

Imagine whizzing down your favorite icy freeway at 80 mph with speed bumps and mandatory lane changes. Don’t try it without a note from your mother. You must have bravado, strength, agility and a touch of self-destructiveness. I shall never understand the impulse to stare down death to feel alive, or more alive than the rest of us mere mortals. So it goes with giant slaloms and moguls.

Is it Mt. Olympus they are racing down after consorting with the gods? Maybe they pass Sisyphus on his way up. It looks life and death to me but not to Norwegians or Alpine skiers who probably regard the steepest slope as little more than a hill of beans.

As for the Lutz it involves reaching back, vaulting and rotating but on the outside rather than inside of the skate. A trained eye is alert to a mere flip which cheats by turning on the inside of the skate. This has become known as the Flutz. I now know more than I did twelve seconds ago.

Being a world-class Klutz I can’t imagine a Lutz. But I honor and respect all the athletes from 80 countries. Every one of them doing things I’ve never tried from skiers to skaters to sledders….even the three-time lugers who give mortality the finger at 96 mph.

The winter Olympics is both a coming together and a coming apart; a gathering of nations with good will and friendship and a fierce exercise in nationalism. Better to compete than blow each other up.

The opening ceremony was both buoyant and flamboyant. (Ras)Putin strutted his stuff with a pageant of Russian history and cultural heritage. We got the white-washed Disneyfied version minus serfs, pogroms, purges, gulags, Stalin or Lenin but that's all right. We couldn’t expect any better from the Texas school board’s redacted version of American history. Putin was hardly recognizable with his shirt on. I almost expected him to jump out of the stands bare-chested and wrestle a Siberian tiger. In fact earlier in the week he was photographed cradling a leopard.

Aside from power on display we were treated to references from the Russian pen of Pushkin the playwrights and novelists. It was topped off by ballet dancers choreographed with artistry and technological brilliance.

From where I sit transfixed on the couch watching the human body extend itself twisting, speeding, soaring beyond the imaginable everyone looks like a perfect ten. I don't want to hear about the ice dancer who performed with grace and verve but her twizzle fizzled while I'm still having my razzle dazzled.

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