By CARA COOPER
A couple of months ago, I wrote a column asking the important question “what is the coolest move in sports?”
Well, since it’s Olympic time and that’s literally all I’ve watched or paid attention to for the last 13 days (not an exaggeration), I thought I’d ask the question again – what is the coolest move in Winter Olympic sports?
We have to amend the rules a bit. The original rules were that the move had to: be able to be learned in a month or less, be all one motion and not be aided by extra equipment. None of those apply to anything Winter Olympics related. You could maybe learn how to do something in a month, but let’s be honest, the things they do in the Olympics are incredibly difficult and insane and take years and years and years to build up to.
Also, Olympic moves aren’t like dunking a basketball or spiking a volleyball where it’s one swift motion. So we’re taking that rule out too. And most of these things you need a board or skates.
So there’s only one rule for the coolest Winter Olympic move – it has to look cool.
There’s been quite a few videos out that show just how much Olympic moves have evolved over the years and what makes them just so impressive. When snowboarding debuted at the 1998 Nagano Games, the gold medal winning halfpipe run by Gian Simmen was basically just him going back-and-forth on the halfpipe grabbing his board every time. He won on back to back 720s (two rotations), mixing in little half flips here and there. I know, this is very technical speak that I’m giving you. And you could hear the crowd ooo and ahhh as he did it like it was so incredible.
This year, Shaun White performed two 1440’s back-to-back. In 1998, the idea of a 1440, literally four rotations in the air, wasn’t even considered. Plus, did you see how much air he got?
In men’s figure skating, the first quad jump was landed in 1998. The 2010 gold medalist Evan Lycacek didn’t perform any quad jumps, and in 2014 only two skaters attempted more than one in their free skate. Friday night, American Nathan Chen attempted six and successfully landed five (the other he stumbled a tiny bit on the end and put his hand on the ice). Chen finished in fifth place. Granted, that was in large part because he messed up terribly in his short program the night before, but if someone lands five quad jumps in one four minute skate, and has the guts and stamina to attempt another, give them all the gold medals.
I think often about how quickly sports are evolving and wonder when we will hit the wall. When do we reach the absolute limit of what the human body can do? How many spins are too many? How much air is too much? I don’t know the answer, but I know what we’re seeing now is absolutely unreal. So with that, (in no particular order) here are the absolute coolest moves in the Winter Games:
- Speed skating
Is this one move? No, but hear me out. The other day I turned on the men’s speed skating 5000 meter gold medal race. I thought “oh, that’s a 5K, so like 3 miles.” Olympic runners can do a 5K in something like 14 minutes, and I thought skaters are probably a little bit faster, so maybe this will take like 10 or 11 minutes.
The gold medalist finished that race in six minutes! That’s two minutes a mile! On skates! When I’m on a bike, I consider it a huge accomplishment to get a mile done in four minutes. Speed skaters can reach up to 35 miles per hour. That blew my mind.
And they make it look so easy too. You watch a long race and think “why is he slacking? It looks like he’s not even trying.” But actually they’re skating so fast they would get pulled over in a residential area. Speed skating is nuts.
- Ski aerials
This is the one sport where I’m positive I could do that. Everyone has that one sport you see and think “that’s my Olympic sport. If I was going to the Olympics, that’s what I would do.”
Ski aerials is my sport. No offense to snowboarding or freeskiing, but, at a basic level, ski aerials is by far the coolest of all the board sports. All it is is the rider stands at the top of a hill, skis down, goes on a giant ramp and does like a bunch of backflips and twists and stuff in the air (again, sorry for the super technical terms).
It is my biggest goal in life to do a backflip on skis. Well actually just do a backflip on anything and everything. I should mention I’ve never been on skis before in my life. Doesn’t matter.
- Ski moguls
I’m putting ski moguls on the list because it is the most impressive of the downhill ski events. The other downhill events are about pure speed, but moguls throws in a bunch of little hills you have to bounce on, while also trying to go as fast as possible. Do you know how insanely strong you have to be for that? You think about quads and leg muscles but think about how strong your abs have to be. I bet ski mogulers (technical name) just live in a constant state of always doing ab exercises.
- Figuring skating long spin
The axels and lutzes get the attention in figure skating, but I think the most impressive move they do is that long spin at the end of the program. They spin for up to 15 seconds straight. How do they not throw up? I know there’s a trick where they focus on one point and that’s supposed to make them not dizzy, but they’re spinning so fast and also trying to lift their leg above their head. It blows my mind they’re able to just skate off and not barf everywhere.
- Ski jump
I mean, it’s crazy right? People who ski jump are a little bit crazy, I’m pretty sure.
But hey, anyone who decides to focus and dedicate their entire life to jumping off of a mountain and seeing how far they can get is the best kind of athlete. Mad props to all of them.
This story first appeared in The Martinsville Bulletin.