Oh, speedskating, how I have missed you!

I loooooove the Olympics.  I am one of those people who hears the fanfare they play on NBC, and it gives me the chills.  I love the random sports that capture everyone’s attention for two weeks, the hype, even the soft-focus back stories that tell you why you should care about this particular athlete.  It’s all part and parcel of this big wonderful thing that we only get to experience every four years.  Yes, I know, there are the summer Olympics, too, but somehow they just don’t seem as amazing.  I think they need more weird sports.  The Winter Games have this wonderful impossible quality about them – where else can you see people doing these things, all together in the same place?  Maybe it’s just that I grew up on a swim team, so the Summer Games feel normal to me – it’s just one more big meet.  Or maybe I need to go to the Summer Games to realize that they are something more.

The Winter Games will always have a special place in my heart, for two reasons.  First, they always land around my birthday, so when I was a kid, that meant I was usually in Colorado with my Dad and his parents, and sometimes my aunt and uncle, too.  We would all go skiing for the day, and come back sore, exhausted, and happy, and turn on the Olympics.  I can remember hanging out in my pjs, lying on the floor, watching Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen tear up the ice.  What a fantastic way to spend your birthday.

The other reason I will always love the Winter Games is that my aunt took me to the Salt Lake Games in 2002, as a birthday/graduation present.  I was excited, but more for the long track skating and the nordic skiing than anything else.  The first thing we went to was the short track skating, and I have to say, I was a little nonplussed.  I was not expecting to get excited.  But on the way there, we saw some of the huge fabric animals from the Opening Ceremonies, and we bought some toasted cinnamon almonds, and it began to snow, and suddenly it was magic.  I was at the Olympics! And then we got inside, and the hockey arena was packed to the ceiling, and suddenly the event began, and I found myself totally swept away.  I have never screamed like that in my life.  What a thrill!

As soon as I got back home, I snuck onto the family computer and looked up speedskating.  Where could I learn this amazing sport?  A week later, and I had ordered a pair of racing skates from Australia.  They were inlines, not ice blades, but that didn’t matter.  They were amazing.  And I was off – and today, I can sit down to watch the Olympics, and understand perfectly what the announcers keep trying to drill into us.  This is why the Olympics are important, why they are so special.  They can take a normal, slightly gawky high school girl and inspire her to do something completely new, completely unheard of, and turn it into something personal and amazing.

So guess what I’m doing with my Sunday afternoon?  I’m going skating, y’all, in Texas, no less, so I can be closer to the Games up there in the great white north.  And if that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.

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