Trying to keep your balance in hectic race to the line
Assuming you don’t fall the whole thing is over in a minute and 20 seconds
Eva Samkova of Czech Republic celebrates after winning gold in the Snowboard Cross at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park at the Sochi Olympic Games.
Eva Samkova has a moustache. Painted on her top lip in red, white and blue, the colours of the Czech flag. When she is asked about why that should be, she shrugs and says, “It’s just a regular moustache.” Matter of fact, she actually seems a bit irritated to be asked about it.
The Irish Times suddenly feels like the oldest, fuddiest, duddiest square on Rosa Khutor. Resolves to start snorting derisively at anyone who doesn’t have a painted-on moustache for the rest of the games. Thinks about kicking it up a notch and painting a moustache on palm of hand to brandish at them. Talk to the ‘tache, you uncool no-moustache-having dorkwads.
Won’t work. Can’t work. Eva Samkova is able to swank about with glorious indifference to the unpainted world because she is now the Olympic snowboard cross champion. The Irish Times , to a frankly comical degree, is not.
There are certain sports at the Winter Olympics that you look at in envy, itching to have a crack at yourself. Snowboard cross is not one of those sports. Six boarders at the top of a hill, a 750m course of 22 jumps and bumps and corners ahead of them, first to the bottom wins. Assuming you don’t fall, the whole thing is over in about a minute and 20 seconds. That, it turns out, is a pretty big assumption.
They fall all the time. They fall overtaking, they fall getting overtaken. They fall on landing, they fall in turning. They fall trying to make up for a bad start, they fall out front on their own with no one close to catching them. Just because someone is in the lead doesn’t mean they’re safe. More often than you’d think, it’s a hare-and-tortoise kind of thing.
And sometimes those hares end up hurt. Twice in qualifying here yesterday morning, the action was stopped as fallers were stretchered off the mountain. Coming in the wake of the horrific damage done to the Russian ski-cross athlete Maria Komissarova on Saturday on the same course, it lent a chill to the whole enterprise.
Even as Samkova and the rest were swish-swooshing down the course, Komissarova was recovering from a six-hour operation on a broken back sustained in training the previous day. Norway’s Helene Olafsen and Jacqueline Hernandez of the USA both left the hill on a stretcher as they fell coming down it alone in the seeding round. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with the course, just the price of doing business in a sport where you’re only ever in partial control of where you’re going.