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Not all Olympians are apoplectic over the Beijing Games


 Aaron Blunck takes a tumble on during the men’s freestyle skiing halfpipe final.

Aaron Blunck takes a tumble on during the men’s freestyle skiing halfpipe final.
Image: Getty Images

I tried. I tried to focus on the competitions and athletes at the Olympics instead of wallowing in the politics, conditions, and COVID of it all. No longer. I can’t take it anymore. The men’s skiing halfpipe final was more scary to watch than it was fun because gale-force winds (probably an exaggeration) toned down tricks and took down skiers.

Ten of the 12 participants crashed during one of their three trips down the halfpipe that commentators dubbed the “tube of terror.” New Zealand native Nico Porteuos’ gold medal celebration was muted because Aaron Blunck, the last skier of the day, crunched against the wall of the pipe during the final run of the competition. The crash looked so gnarly it prompted American teammate David Wise to sprint halfway up the pipe in ski boots to check to see if he was OK. (Blunck was able to ski down on his own.)

“I think the contest should be suspended right now, but the trouble is we’re two runs in,” Eurosport commentator Ian Findlay remarked during the broadcast. “It’s not ideal. I don’t think these are the right conditions for an Olympic final.”

“If FIS cared, they would suspend and postpone the men’s halfpipe with these conditions,” he added.

Even though Wise and fellow American Alex Ferreira completed medal-winning first runs, finishing silver and bronze respectively, neither could get going as the wind intensified throughout the day. The judging sounded scatterbrained, as well. Ferreira’s second run was more difficult than his first even with the small hiccups, but the judges didn’t concur.

Despite all that, both Americans were pretty jovial afterward.

“So impressed with the heart people showed today. Wish we could have had better conditions,” Wise tweeted. “But that’s the nature of competitive sports. Thanks for all the support everyone.”

Ferreira, returning from injury, gave reporters a response with a similar vibe.

“Everybody in the field planned out much more difficult runs, but when we have this kind of wind and this kind of conditions, you just have to do the best you can possibly do and I came out there and I did my best.”

Longtime staple in free-skiing Gus Kenworthy, competing for Great Britain, fell incredibly hard and gave a pretty non-jaded assessment after his last Olympics.

“The wind was the deciding factor for everyone,” he said. “Even the guys who are on top, they put down incredible runs — it was awesome to see — but they have all scaled back from what I think they were hoping to do.”

I keep wondering why there hasn’t been an even larger onslaught of athlete negativity over this clown shoe operation that is the Beijing Winter Olympics. The snowboarders got mad about the judging, the Russian figure skaters melted down, and multiple athletes and coaches have complained about food and shifting COVID goalposts, but I’m amazed more of them haven’t teed off on the conditions when the media has given them that avenue time and time again.

We’ve written about it. There’s a built-in excuse, and we’re all saying, if not encouraging them to say, this isn’t fun, and China is to blame. And as true as it may be in some cases, it’s not true across the board.

Wise was looking for three straight Olympic gold medals. Ferreira won silver in Pyeongchang and has trended up since then. They weren’t even able to go full send. They should be on tilt.

If you put yourself in their ski boots and skates, at first you would think it’s gross and unfair that these Games have been such a fucking disgrace. They worked four years for this opportunity; how can they not be bitching and whining. I definitely would be.

Then you think about it like this: They’ve worked incredibly hard to get there. This happens once to four times a lifetime. How would you feel if you waited, worked, and toiled so long to get somewhere only to show up and everyone is miserable and everything sucks? This is supposed to be the culmination of years of sweat and training and all that stuff, and just because everyone else is pissed, they have to be as well?

Nope. I don’t blame them if their mind frame is, I’m going to enjoy my fucking achievement even if I did have to ski in a tornado to get it.

Part of me is glad that NBC smiles through the agony. (The other part of me is livid, and you can find that part complaining about such infuriating coverage on this very site.) The people who love the Games and these weird sports are trying to make the most of a deplorable situation. It is the Olympics, and we get to watch it every four years, but most athletes only have a few fleeting weeks a couple times a decade to revel in their relative glory — granted their career lasts that long.

If you want to be mad for them and tweet about how shitty the Games are, that’s completely fine. I’m just saying it’s also fine if people are trying to enjoy it regardless of the nuclear power plant backdrop.

I know this is a 180 from the outraged start of this piece. “Pissed off blogger finds compassion mid post.” I tried. I tried to write a scathing end all. That would’ve been easy. It also would’ve been unfair to the competitors who aren’t bullshitting when they tell you they’re “stoked.”

The natural state of a lot of extreme sports athletes is stoked. They’re happy to be skiing or riding, they’re happy to be outside, they’re happy to be doing what they love, they’re happy to see their peers progress the sport even if it means they lose, they’re just generally happy.

How they feel is more important than how we feel, and I’m glad not all of them have been ground down to tears of frustration and bitterness.

“To be an Olympic champion… is pretty incredible,” Porteuos said after the competition.

I’m sure it is. Bravo. 



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