Every time the Olympics come around a couple things always happen. We don’t watch nearly as much as we think we will, and we have heated conversations with friends about what sport we could get good enough at to make the Olympic team. In the summer games I usually go with handball, a game as simple as its name. Besides the fact that I have an arm for a cannon and would’ve won state had coach put me in during the big game, it looks like anyone could walk onto a handball court and not look out of place.
That’s why it usually seems even more impossible to think you could compete in any of the winter games, or so I thought. As far as winter sports go the obvious and most common answer is curling, shuffle boards’ cousin from the North. The guys competing come in all shapes and sizes and don’t seem to do much more than weegie the fuck out of the ice. However these most recent games have turned my Olympic aspirations upside down and made me think bigger.
One of the reasons why becoming an Olympic athlete seems much more attainable now is the fact that it’s becoming ever more popular for athletes to compete for countries that they don’t actually call home, but have just gained citizenship to. That’s huge for us underdogs. The biggest obstacle to my Olympic dreams has always been how badass all of America’s teams are. There are tons of qualified athletes that don’t even make it onto the squad, but are still incredibly talented and look at the sport like a full time job. I mean even our curling teams are made up of hard bodies who spend more time on ice than land. (Btw.. Is ice considered land? Now that’s something to think about!)
However the same can not be said for the likes of countries with warmer climates like Mexico or Spain, who don’t have an endless supply of athletes competing for spots, and actually don’t even have enough qualified athletes to have someone represent them in each sport.
So, they have mediocre filler athletes qualify even though they know they’ll come in dead last. Some of these filler athletes have actually become some of the biggest stars of this winter. Take Mexican cross-country skier German Madrazo. The 43 year old Olympian picked up skiing last year and proudly carried a Mexican flag as he finished 115th out of 115 in this year's men’s cross-country skiing race. Or everyones favorite greased up olive skinned Tongan, Pita Taufatofua, who not only qualified to compete two years ago in Rio, but also qualified to represent Tonga in cross-country skiing during these games. The shiny islander picked up skiing around 6 months ago and finished 114th in the race, just ahead of our good friend German. And ofcourse you have one of this years’ most talked about athletes, Elizabeth Swaney. The Oakland native represented Hungary in the women’s freestyle skiing halfpipe competition. Her incredibly lackluster first run is uncanny to what an average skier could do if thrown onto the halfpipe course. It was an inspiration to all of us Jerry’s who can’t do tricks, but can get like a sick foot of air if we’re really feeling frisky.
So here’s the thing, I think I could pick up cross-country skiing better than a 43 year old. I’ll buy a shack in Mexico, get a licencia, and represent our southern neighbors loud and proud. And the shirtless Tongan guy, he said he had two goals for his race: “finish before the lights get turned off”, and “don’t hit a tree”. I can accomplish those goals! These guys picked up their sports within a year of the games, and we’ve got 2 years till the summer games in Japan. That means I have PLENTY of time to find a sport, find an athletically challenged country, and make history. My first thought, surfing. I don’t know how to surf, but I have a feeling no one in Tajikistan does either. Plus this is the first year surfing will be in the Olympics, which means my chances are better than ever. So if anyone’s looking for me, I’ll be a little east of Turkmenistan and just south of Kazakhstan. If you hit Kyrgyzstan you’ve gone too far. Japan 2020 or bust!