"Instead they are given commemorative gold-coloured shoes. And cake."
February 26, 2018 4:02 AM   Subscribe

Doing okay. In the Winter Olympics just concluded, Norway (pop. 5.3 million) surpassed USA's record of most medals won at a single Winter Olympics with 39 (14 gold, 14 silver, 11 bronze). “This is our moment, when we can show the world what we are. Although without boasting too much about it, of course. That wouldn’t be very Norwegian.” Their success is based on grass roots sports, and a “no jerks allowed” team policy. “We’re a small country and we kind of all know each other”. Curling pants and when to steal a painting. 'He also admits Norway is blessed with many advantages for Winter Olympics dominance, like snow, a history of excellence in sports like biathlon and cross-country skiing, and free health care, which helps keep young athletic talent in good shape.' (Fanfare)
posted by Wordshore (72 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Huh. Looking back, Norway has topped the medals table at eight winter Olympics, including the last time it was held in the USA, and when it was held in Germany and opened by Mr A. Hitler.
posted by Wordshore at 4:18 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


This is great (from the "no jerks allowed" link):

“Our vision is sport for all,” Tvedt says. “Before you are 12 you should have fun with sport. So we don’t focus on who the winner is before then. Instead we are very focused on getting children into our 11,000 local sports clubs. And we have 93% of children and young people regularly playing sport in these organisations.”

Youth sports should be all about getting kids active. Every kid should get equal play on the sport surface and every coach and parent that feels like screaming at the kids can be shot into the sun. (and families shouldn't have to pony up hundreds of dollars in gear/fees to join youth sporting leagues)
posted by NoMich at 4:53 AM on February 26, 2018 [41 favorites]


It's not a terrible idea for adult sports either. Obviously for top-notch competitive stuff like Olympic qualifiers, pro leagues, etc., you'd keep score, but for rec sports like beer league basketball or company softball, there's no real need to keep score. And I wonder how many enthusiastic but mediocre players are kept away because of the competitive aspect.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:40 AM on February 26, 2018 [12 favorites]


I love you, Norway.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:42 AM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Uff da.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:57 AM on February 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


there are questions being asked about their overuse of asthma medication

https://www.rt.com/sport/418122-norway-pyeongchang-2018-asthma-drugs-stash/
https://www.rt.com/sport/418239-norwegian-olympic-skiing-asthma-diagnosed/
posted by lloyder at 5:59 AM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


A little more specific about not keeping score

"But how is a country that’s home to just 5.2 million people so successful? One possible answer: Norway doesn’t keep score.

This might sound bizarre, but it’s a strategy that clearly works, according to Tore Øvrebø, Norwegian Olympic Committee director of elite sports. The idea involves encouraging children to play sports without letting them keep score or count who’s winning and losing until they reach the age of 13."
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:00 AM on February 26, 2018 [12 favorites]


It also is of benefit, that we Norwegians as a folk are extremely shy introverts brimming with anxiety for anyone or anything that could possibly strike up a conversation. We only feel comfortable alone on our very own mountaintop. The only way to get one for yourself, is to sleep with your skis on, get up at 4 am, run as fast as possible up the highest mountain before anyone else can get there. Typically, there is usually already somebody there, and you have to continue on to the next mountain.

This is called "friluftsliv", its what we do every single spare moment.
posted by gmm at 6:38 AM on February 26, 2018 [72 favorites]


I've always loved Norway, but Ragnhild Mowinckel's unbridled glee at besting Lindsey Vonn was the highlight of the games for me.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:38 AM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


The Venn diagram of people with an asthma diagnosis and top tier endurance athletes looks like a bullseye. Current Tour de France champion Chris Froome is dealing with the exact same scandal.
posted by cmfletcher at 6:46 AM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


It's interesting that everyone in the top 4 medal leaders has more gold medals than silver and bronze (or equal amounts, in Norway's case). I wonder what a "get the most medals, but they're all bronze" strategy would look like for the olympics.
posted by dis_integration at 6:54 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


there are questions being asked about their overuse of asthma medication

Questions predominantly asked by RT and Sputnik News.
posted by zamboni at 6:55 AM on February 26, 2018 [11 favorites]


there are questions being asked about their overuse of asthma medication

https://www.rt.com/...


That's some Grade A irony in Russia Today, of all "media" (*cough*) organisations, bigging up the (legal) use of asthma meds by teams that are winning medals who are not Russia. Especially at these Winter Olympics where screened Russian athletes had to participate under an independent banner because of widespread drug use, and even then two of them still failed tests. Another level of irony.
posted by Wordshore at 6:59 AM on February 26, 2018 [19 favorites]


My understanding of the asthma medication situation is that yes, Norway admits to it, but they feel like they're complying with the rules (and that athletes taking the medication have a legitimate need for it). There may be some shenanigans going on there, but yeah, Russia being the primary one to call this into question is ... suspect.

I loved Norway and I love the Norwegians I've met. I didn't get to ski the last time I was there (I'm bad at downhill anyway) but maybe next time.
posted by darksong at 7:00 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


He also admits Norway is blessed with many advantages for Winter Olympics dominance, like snow, a history of excellence in sports like biathlon and cross-country skiing, and free health care

I feel like this is just rubbing it into the face of American reporters in a way that I absolutely approve of.
posted by Merus at 7:02 AM on February 26, 2018 [24 favorites]


But it's a polite way of highlighting the differences between the Norwegian way of life and the US centric way of living. They wouldn't go so far as to say the US is doing it wrong but they are leaving it up to others to make that interpretation.
posted by vuron at 7:30 AM on February 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I don't know how anyone looks at Norway or Canada and thinks "thank God I don't live in that hellhole full of free health care."
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:40 AM on February 26, 2018 [11 favorites]




It helps that Norway is the only country to have defeated the "resource curse".
posted by chavenet at 7:48 AM on February 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


That's some Grade A irony in Russia Today, of all "media" (*cough*) organisations

It's the message they're going to be feeding everyone through at least the next several years. Other nations do exactly what we do and we're the only country getting punished. Good thing we have Vlad to stick up for our superior russian athletes that the rest of the world is afraid to face on the field of sport.
posted by cmfletcher at 7:48 AM on February 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


I wish people would stop pushing the idea that Canada is some sort of free health care utopia. It isn't, really. Health care is also handled at the provincial level, and varies from province to province.
posted by howling fantods at 7:49 AM on February 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


That's some Grade A irony in Russia Today, of all "media" (*cough*) organisations

IIRC, some of them accused the US team of putting the dope in their food. So now we all have to have poison tasters?? Argh. *smacks head*
posted by Melismata at 7:58 AM on February 26, 2018


Uhh, Norway only dominates one event at the games, and that event has a multitude of slight variants that result in many many medals being awarded. Remove results from Cross Country Skiing and they are in the middle of medal standings.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:07 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


I wish people would stop pushing the idea that Canada is some sort of free health care utopia

The attitude comes from places where the health care is significantly uneven due to income levels or where the "every person for themselves" attitude prevails. While true health care in Canada can be uneven and certainly the issue of wait times, a lack of dentistry being covered, lack of medical professionals in remote communities, endemic racism towards First Nations people, poorly covered care for mental illness and drug costs are issues - the average person isn't going to be forced into a choice between death or poverty because of something like an emergency caesarean section.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:10 AM on February 26, 2018 [24 favorites]



Uhh, Norway only dominates one event at the games, and that event has a multitude of slight variants


True, but we could pretty much say the same thing about the US when it comes to swimming or track and field in the summer Games. It remains interesting to think about how the "no jerks" or youth involvement/access could benefit other countries. (The flip side being: why on earth is the US so generally unsuccessful at cross country skiing, given that we certainly have people who are good at running and other kinds of skiing?)
posted by TwoStride at 8:15 AM on February 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


Remove results from Cross Country Skiing and they are in the middle of medal standings.

And if you disregard all the winter-related events, Norway would REALLY suck.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:15 AM on February 26, 2018 [20 favorites]


Uhh, Norway only dominates one event at the games, and that event has a multitude of slight variants that result in many many medals being awarded. Remove results from Cross Country Skiing and they are in the middle of medal standings.

That sounds like the weird selective different-universe scenarios of e.g. "If you ignore the votes in California and New York then clearly Donald Trump easily won the popular vote. Therefore he obviously was the most popular candidate!" It's also not even accurate - take away their CCS medals for some weird reason and they are still left with 25 - only two countries have more.
posted by Wordshore at 8:18 AM on February 26, 2018 [15 favorites]


Wordshore, thank you so much for rounding up all these articles - I have read every one and thoroughly enjoyed them!

As a Norwegian and rabid winter Olympics fan, I am just starting to come down from the high of the last 2 weeks. It's been absolutely amazing. And it's not just the medals - though of course, we absolutely love them - it's that we're so proud that our way of life is able to produce such amazing results. The articles in the FPP go into this in detail and they're worth a read.

I would have more to say, but I now need to catch up on all the work I have been pretending to do for the last 2 weeks. It's been fabulous - no regrets.
posted by widdershins at 8:26 AM on February 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


Uhh, Norway only dominates one event at the games, and that event has a multitude of slight variants that result in many many medals being awarded. Remove results from Cross Country Skiing and they are in the middle of medal standings.

Ah! Still puzzled by this fallacy, noticed that one of the countries that would then be above Norway is ... CanadaLand. Which, by an amazing coincidence, is where your profile points to. Unfortunately, using the (*cough*) "logic" of this approach and removing the results of the sport America's Top Hat sorry Canada did best in - Freestyle Skiing - from their tally moves Canada (pop. 35.2m, bad dress sense) back below Norway (pop. 5.3m, still doing okay). Must fallacy harder! :)
posted by Wordshore at 8:43 AM on February 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


It also is of benefit, that we Norwegians as a folk are extremely shy introverts brimming with anxiety for anyone or anything that could possibly strike up a conversation. We only feel comfortable alone on our very own mountaintop.

Is this genetic? Because that would explain so much...
posted by elsietheeel at 8:53 AM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


"why on earth is the US so generally unsuccessful at cross country skiing"

This is the thing I wonder about every single Winter Olympiad. It makes sense why we're not good at most winter sports: we refuse to invest in infrastructure. There are only two long-track ovals in the entire country. There are only two luge tracks. There are only a handful of ski jumps. Even alpine skiing, which has more facilities, is still primarily a regional activity centered in the northeast and Colorado/Utah. Participating regularly in these events, even on a recreational and non-competitive level, requires relocating to one of the Olympic training centers. Most Americans, especially youths, don't have that kind of commitment to a sport that they only see once every four years.

But cross-country skiing doesn't require that sort of specialized infrastructure. There are groomed trails available in almost half the country, pretty much anywhere that regularly gets snow. There's also a widely-available indoor trainer (NordicTrack) for when outdoor training is not available. There isn't anything stopping most Americans from intensely training for cross-country skiing (except, of course, for the usual impediments facing all athletes). Is it an outreach issue? Does US Skiing just not care? I'm mystified.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:57 AM on February 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


Youth sports should be all about getting kids active. Every kid should get equal play on the sport surface and every coach and parent that feels like screaming at the kids can be shot into the sun. (and families shouldn't have to pony up hundreds of dollars in gear/fees to join youth sporting leagues)

Or fucking travel teams. It's like the intent is to make everyone as miserable as possible while devouring the maximum amount of family free time. All so kids in Columbus can play kids in Cleveland and vice versa instead of just playing with the other kids that live nearby.

Sometimes it seems like we go out of our way to spoil having fun.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:08 AM on February 26, 2018 [21 favorites]


the average person isn't going to be forced into a choice between death or poverty because of something like an emergency caesarean section.

I have to remind family back home in the US that we don't have free health care; it comes out of our taxes but it's a system that everyone pays into that way everyone can have access to health care. In other words, no one goes into debt or delays putting off going to a doctor because they can't afford the time or the money. It is not a perfect system, but it's loads better than the US one.
posted by Kitteh at 9:19 AM on February 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


While I was never very good at any sport, I nevertheless participated in alpine and cross country skiing, ski jumping, soccer, and badminton. I sucked at them, but I hat a good time because there was never any real pressure to perform. That probably helps to recruit talent.
posted by Dumsnill at 9:22 AM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Uhh, Norway only dominates one event at the games, and that event has a multitude of slight variants that result in many many medals being awarded. Remove results from Cross Country Skiing and they are in the middle of medal standings.
This is also what would happen to all the "492 medals in these Olympics" Swimmers, where the athletics equivalent would be also having the 100m/200m running backwards, hopscotch and other ways of going from point A to B that are slower than just running. I remember one time making up an athletics program to mock Swimming that between those, also included a different high jump competition for Fosbury Flop and Western Roll, Glide and Spin Shot Put, Regular and Spanish Javelin throw, etc and came up with an Athletics program that had over 100 events (the only one that I actually thought was a good idea were mixed relays).

why on earth is the US so generally unsuccessful at cross country skiing, given that we certainly have people who are good at running and other kinds of skiing?
Arguably because there are no sponsors, and if someone has the skills to become a top athlete between a sport they have to scrounge for money to pay coaches, training, travel, etc, and one there's immediate support, they're going with the later unless they're really in love with the sport. Remember when Comedy Central-era Stephen Colbert sponsored the US Speedskating team after a Dutch Bank went broke?
I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of NFL players would have rather gone to the NBA, but if it's hard to make it to the NFL, the NBA is even harder. Or how a lot of Wide Receivers with wet clay for hands could have been better employed as track stars, but it pays a lot more to be a shitty receiver in the league than to be a good-but-not-world class sprinter.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:25 AM on February 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


(also, this is not a slight on Norway or the number of events on Cross-Country, that seems pretty regular to me)
posted by lmfsilva at 9:40 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


If I recall correctly, one of the most common threads among the top athletes in their sport is that they really love that sport. That gave them to motivation to practice and train because they liked doing those things.

I think Norway's approach allows for more kids to try sports and find the one they like most on it's own merits. Not necessarily the one they show the most natural talent for or the one where they had the most early success but the one they just like to play and practice for. For some it'll just be a fun hobby but others will find that they really love their chosen sport enough to become one of the best in the world at it.

More kids take an interest in a sport so I think it naturally follows that more kids will become elite athletes in those sports.
posted by VTX at 9:54 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have asthma. Cold weather makes it so much worse. Breathe well, my Norwegian friends.
posted by Ruki at 10:24 AM on February 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


The US is big enough that sports preferences vary from region to region and state to state. I suppose if you grew up in western Colorado and were athletic, the big push is to ski. If you are from Minnesota, the glory sport is hockey. And so on.

Many of the Olympic sports in the US do not get the best athletes. The kids pick the sport that their family favors or that the older popular kids are playing or what the school is funneling them into. We see runners like Usain Bolt and wonder why the US doesn't dominate it's because if Bolt grew up here at some point someone would have asked, "you're pretty fast kid, think you could catch a football on the run, or play center field." Just queue up vids of Billy Hamilton or Byron Buxton highlights and picture the track coaches that just wished they could have gotten their hands on them.
posted by Ber at 10:44 AM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Uhh, Norway only dominates one event at the games, and that event has a multitude of slight variants that result in many many medals being awarded. Remove results from Cross Country Skiing and they are in the middle of medal standings.

While it's certainly true that being very good at the relatively obscure skiing sports is an excellent way to boost your medal count, the US took another path to juicing its medal count in the Winter Olympics, which is getting the IOC to add 20 events over the last 25 years in disciplines that it similarly dominates, namely snowboarding and freestyle skiing. Those two by themselves make up half of the medals the US got this time, and none of those events were even on the roster before the late 80s.
posted by Copronymus at 10:59 AM on February 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


I wonder if this is why I developed a lifetime hatred of sports. I have an irrational distaste to them and to how we treat people who play with a ball like they are national heroes. We focus on the team that "won one for X." Whenever there is a tragedy or someone dies or whatnot, that team always wins for that cause, like this makes up for the loss. "This one is for Timmy, who passed away from cancer." We never talk to the chess club kid and see if he won one for anyone. I have never understood why we venerate these people to the level that even after they cover up horrific crimes like pedophilia we still have people defending their statues.

I think sports are often fun. I like skating. I could imagine playing some sort of hockey, but if you had people upset at my level of play, people who believed the score matters, it would suck the fun right out of it. I used to do Tae Kwon Do, because when I sucked, I was only letting myself down, when I got my ass kicked it was because the other guys was better, not because someone on my team "dropped the ball." I switched to fencing in college because I was a 6 foot 250 pound guy and no one expected me to be any good. It was an unpopular sport, so they were grateful someone would constantly show up and be willing to be beaten over and over again. I loved it. I especially loved it when I found someone just as equally as sucky as me and we could go off and not care together.

Competition often ruins an otherwise enjoyable activity.

One time, when I was at "Joe's Chicken Shack" in Minneapolis, the super bowl was on, and some drunk at the bar asks, "Who's your team?" So I'm like, "Excuse me?" and again he asks, "Who you for?" So I think I told him I didn't much care or have an opinion, and I think he insisted, so I said I was for "whoever has the ball," and I meant it. I find offense way more interesting than defense. I think maybe I tried explaining this to him, and suddenly he wanted to fight me, so I said, "Vikings. The Vikings are my team!" This mollified him, but he was still all sulky like I'd personally tried to affront him.

Even now, I will have people come up to me, start making small talk about some team or sport, and when I say, "I don't really follow sports," they still insist on telling me all about last night's game. I think I lack the gene that allows me to understand team sports or organized religion. I just don't feel whatever one is supposed to feel.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:10 AM on February 26, 2018 [10 favorites]


there are questions being asked about their overuse of asthma medication

Questions predominantly asked by RT and Sputnik News.


Obviously Russia will push a "everyone's at it" angle, but cross-country skiing is traditionally a pretty dirty sport, and if you're dominating it, well... people are going to ask questions. XC skiing is a similar test of endurance as cycling and the same drugs will boost performance in both for the same reasons. Hajo Seppelt of Germany's ARD (whose excellent investigative journalism has broken multiple big doping stories):
A huge database containing over 10,000 blood tests belonging to nearly two thousand winter sports stars exposes the extraordinary prevalence of abnormal values amongst cross-country skiing medallists at the Olympics and World Championships. Natural causes for this are very unlikely, experts conclude.

46% of all cross-country skiing medals at the Olympic Games and World Championships between 2001 and 2017 were won by athletes who returned at least one abnormal blood value. This amounts to a total of 313 medals cast under suspicion. According to experts, there is only a one in a hundred chance that an athlete would have an abnormal value for reasons other than doping. Cross-country skiers who did not finish in medal positions registered drastically fewer abnormal blood values.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the sheer number of suspicious Russian athletes stood out in the results. Yet there were also athletes with suspicious blood values from the sport’s most successful nations such as Norway, Germany, Sweden and Austria – among them many medallists.
Also more specifically, one of Norway's top XC skiers Therese Johaug sat out these Games after testing positive for steroids in October 2016.
posted by kersplunk at 11:12 AM on February 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


The issue I have with cross-country skiing and the speed skating events is the same I have with swimming events in the summer games. If the Olympics regularly see the same winning multiple events then there isn't enough distinction between the distances for them to count as separate disciplines.

Yes Marit Bjørgen is an amazing athlete. But she won a medal in all three distances (well, all 5 distances because she of relay and team sprint). If the same person medaled in the 4x100 and the 800 and the 5000 and the marathon at the Summer Olympics that would be superhuman, right?

So is Marit Bjørgen superhuman? Well, Krüger and Klæbo took home 3 medal each for Norway on the men's side.
posted by thecjm at 11:18 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


there are questions being asked about their overuse of asthma medication

Reminds me of the disproportionate amount of major league baseball players who have ADHD diagnoses and the prescriptions to go with it. Because just like asthma meds are great to help with lung capacity, taking medication that helps with focus is great when you're trying to hit a 100mph fastball.
posted by thecjm at 11:23 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


The nice thing about at least some of the winter sports is that they're just intrinsically fun. They're things folks do in their spare time just because they're a blast. Snowboarding, Skiiing, etc.

You don't see a lot of amateur shotput or javelin leagues.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:27 AM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


You don't see a lot of amateur shotput or javelin leagues.

I mean, at least not since the tragic Lincoln Park picnicker kebabing incident.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:43 AM on February 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


Was really hoping to link the curling pants to Metafilter's beloved necropants. But those are Icelandic and, despite the close cultural and historical connection, I can't find anything about magic coin (or perhaps gold medal) producing dead man's skin pants in Norway.

Oh, bother.
posted by Naberius at 11:46 AM on February 26, 2018


I like the way one Norwegian commentator counseled against getting too excited, because one day they were sure to do poorly the way they did in 2006, and then "the Swedes will laugh at us again."

The idea that a nation of such incredibly rugged, capable, and resilient people would be concerned that the Swedes might laugh at them "again" is irresistibly charming.
posted by jamjam at 12:04 PM on February 26, 2018 [11 favorites]


"why on earth is the US so generally unsuccessful at cross country skiing"

Because endurance oriented kids in the US go into running and biking in most of the country? Shani Davis's success in speed skating encouraged minority and other kids to take up a sport that they might not have and it immensely improved the pool of athletes and ultimately the US team. Same would probably happen in xc skiing if more kids went into it. Only a tiny, tiny percentage of US kids even learn to xc ski and even fewer take it seriously as a sport. Everyone in Norway learns and for an athletic kid it's a serious contender for sport of choice.
posted by fshgrl at 12:41 PM on February 26, 2018


the US took another path to juicing its medal count in the Winter Olympics, which is getting the IOC to add 20 events over the last 25 years in disciplines that it similarly dominates, namely snowboarding and freestyle skiing.

To be fair, the added events are pretty exciting to watch. Sure, they were likely added because NBC wanted some gnarly tricks and additional US athletes with medals for their TV packages, but hey, they were not wrong. They added BMX racing on the Summer Olympics, and it's one of my favourite events.
I'd like to see Telemark Skiing on the Olympics next. It's like slalom, a jump, a snowcross-style banking turn followed by a cross-country sprint to the end. The ultimate Nordic Skiing event, if you must.
posted by lmfsilva at 12:52 PM on February 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


To be fair, the added events are pretty exciting to watch.

The crash/failure to success ratio on these events seems unusually high compared to other Olympic sports. Imagine if gymnasts or figure skaters "bailed" or "slammed" that much.

Also, the fact that success depends so heavily on what seems like very subjective judging, at least to outsiders, turns me off. Unless you "stomp the landing" you're basically getting 0, no matter what else you do.

I realize my examples—gymnastics and figure skating—are also judged sports, which I dislike in general.
posted by howling fantods at 1:31 PM on February 26, 2018


Way back when Mark Spitz was showing off his SEVEN gold medals from the 1972 Olympics, I thought "must be nice to excel in a single sport where you can win so many medals... the shot putters must be SO jealous." So yeah, just one of the ways OLYMPIC SUCCESS is really not relevant to anything. But if Norway can piss off Russia so badly they sic their 'media' on them, that's worth one Gold right there.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:51 PM on February 26, 2018


O you Americans.
posted by chavenet at 2:02 PM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


This is the part where I grumble about how team events gets screwed compared to track/swimming/skiing and all the other events that give out medals like candy. I mean if you can win a medal for swimming 50m in any number of different manners than Jocelyne's deke should be worth it's very own gold medal. I mean look at it! Gives me freakin' chills!

posted by cmfletcher at 2:10 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


The crash/failure to success ratio on these events seems unusually high compared to other Olympic sports. Imagine if gymnasts or figure skaters "bailed" or "slammed" that much.

Unquestionably, what makes these newer judged events compelling is the risk-reward involved. I think they're a lot more free form (except maybe Big Air, that was far less interesting than I expected) in the sense that the athletes have a "vocabulary" of moves that must choose depending on their own speed, snow condition and score they need to reach their goal. With Gymnastics, Figure Skating, etc, it seems a lot more that there's a tested and tried routine with obligatory elements, do it as close as possible to perfection with grace and move on.
I mean, I don't need to see someone going hard on the lip, but those brief moments an athlete is in the air doing a 720 or 900 trick and wondering if they're going to land it are exciting because even the best sometimes push things a bit too far.
Of course, this might change with time, and we might see the top 5 doing their thing with cynical precision and do their 3 runs perfectly, averaging the same scores with minimal point differences. If/When that happens, it won't be as fun.
posted by lmfsilva at 2:28 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


I mean if you can win a medal for swimming 50m in any number of different manners than Jocelyne's deke should be worth it's very own gold medal.

Badass.
posted by Divine_Wino at 2:45 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Uhh, Norway only dominates one event at the games, and that event has a multitude of slight variants that result in many many medals being awarded. Remove results from Cross Country Skiing and they are in the middle of medal standings.

If you remove speedskating, my country would be at the bottom of the medal standings: the mystery and myths behind Dutch skating success.

What's your point ? If you remove events where other countries excel, your country rises in the medal standings?
posted by Pendragon at 3:38 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Also no one really cares about the overall medal scoreboard except Russia, America, China and maybe the UK. Most countries know that their population is only really interested in and consistently good at a few sports. It always makes me laugh when I see US'ians rant about removing "unpopular" sports that are really popular other places. XC skiing has lots of races at the Olympics because it has lots of races at all levels from high school up, not because of some conspiracy to make Norway at the top of the "medal leaderboard" or whatever.
posted by fshgrl at 3:43 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Well, to be fair, the Dutch do care about the medal scoreboard. But only in the Winter Olympics. Because that's the one where we end in the top 5 :-)
posted by Pendragon at 3:48 PM on February 26, 2018


Well that's true- maybe I should say the only countries who care are the ones who have a chance of being at the top :) I remember seeing one in Australia that just counted swimming medals.
posted by fshgrl at 3:51 PM on February 26, 2018


Meanwhile, Australia gets super impressed when we get any medals, as befits a country that's got a fucking big desert in it

One of our Olympic Heroes is the guy who won gold in speedskating because he was so far behind that he wasn't caught up in the collision

To this day if you tell an Australian you pulled a Steven Bradbury, they'll probably get what you mean
posted by Merus at 4:19 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


the guy who won gold in speedskating because he was so far behind that he wasn't caught up in the collision

In the final that he only got into because the same thing had happened in his previous heat, even. Not falling down is a valid strategy!
posted by tavella at 4:24 PM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


"Because endurance oriented kids in the US go into running and biking in most of the country?"

Cycling is an interesting example because it's a sport where we're still not competitive, except with lots of EPO. But we're light years ahead of where we were in the late 80s, when Lemond and Andy Hampsten were the only Americans in Europe. Some of that is due to the Lance wave (although before the doping Lance was just one of a rising generation, along with George Hincapie, Frankie Andreu, et al.), and a lot was due to cash influx from sponsors (including from our current president).

Norway doesn't exactly have a surplus of endurance athletes, either. I can't think of any Norwegian distance runners or triathletes, and the only Norwegian road cyclist who comes to mind is a sprinter. So maybe they do a good job of putting all their eggs in one proverbial basket, but there's also the possibility that they just develop talent well. And we in the US don't.

Given our population advantage, we don't need to need to have the same proportion of athletes choosing cross country skiing as Norway. We should be able to be competitive even with the smaller percentage. And we have plenty of athletes: the Birkie attracts 10,000 skiers, and dozens of colleges field Nordic teams. Why can't we develop a couple dozen of those into international competitors?

I fully agree that money is a big answer, but that's not satisfactory. In a world where low-A minor league baseball stadia naming rights are going for $250k/year, and early-December mid-major bowl games command over half a million in sponsorships, there's not enough money for US Skiing to develop athletes who are already interested in the sport? I mean, geez, people gave $540,000 to George Pataki's 2016 presidential campaign. If they're having that much trouble raising money, that's a major problem.

I maintain that the problem is mismanagement, not some inherent competitive disadvantage.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:53 PM on February 26, 2018


And we have plenty of athletes: the Birkie attracts 10,000 skiers, and dozens of colleges field Nordic teams. Why can't we develop a couple dozen of those into international competitors?

A lot of Birkie athletes are like me though- got into xc skiing well after college. Most American kids with family support focus on track, football, basketball, hockey, volleyball, lacrosse- the stuff their parents played. Winter kids focus on alpine skiing and now snowboarding. Regional differences are real and the US will never excel in something like XC skiing the way a country where everyone skis does just based on participation.

Plus in XC to be competitive you have to race the European world cup events and that's hard for Americans because it's so far and so expensive. And very easy for Europeans in comparison. Especially as there is no universal health care here in the US, very very hard to do athletics full time if you're single and not on a team that gives you health care.
posted by fshgrl at 6:35 PM on February 26, 2018


Obviously Russia will push a "everyone's at it" angle, but cross-country skiing is traditionally a pretty dirty sport

Yeah Russia has a noted history of Olympic cheating but no way are they the only ones.
posted by atoxyl at 9:23 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Russia are the ones who we know had their own State Plan 14.25 going on, which is why they got a blanket ban two years ago an now weren't able to march and compete as Russia.
What is concerning is the same doctor who did the whistleblowing that is at the origin of the ban made some allegations about UK athletes and... Nobody cares, other than the cycling nerds.

People poo-pood on the fancy bears TUE leaks that most athletes later confirmed. That system is shambolic and ripe to abuse, since an athlete can go to a friendly doctor, claim ADD or ADHD and train and compete on speed or claim ashtma and get a pass for high grade bronchodilators.

Sure, Russia deserves every ban it can get. However, like in the 80s when the Eastern Bloc nations, mostly the GDR, were accused of the same, I'm pretty sure it wasn't Honecker who told to ignore Carl Lewis' positive control before Seoul and who knows what else.
posted by lmfsilva at 11:50 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


I like the way one Norwegian commentator counseled against getting too excited, because one day they were sure to do poorly the way they did in 2006, and then "the Swedes will laugh at us again."

In general the way Norwegian and Swedish media cover the rivalry between the countries in sports is a combination of hilarious and just plain sad.
posted by Dumsnill at 3:49 AM on February 27, 2018


Also no one really cares about the overall medal scoreboard except Russia, America, China and maybe the UK.

In Canada you can't talk about the Olympics without also talking about the medal scoreboard. How we did. How it's better than last time. Or worse than last time. Or the best ever. Or the worst ever. Or how it's a national tragedy that we only won 5 medals at our own games in Calgary.

We're pretty insecure about it.
posted by howling fantods at 6:49 AM on February 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


The US is big enough that sports preferences vary from region to region and state to state. I suppose if you grew up in western Colorado and were athletic, the big push is to ski. If you are from Minnesota, the glory sport is hockey. And so on.

Yeah, Oklahoma has no mountains and even though it usually snowed a few times every winter there was never anything like persistent cover. I remember being absolutely blown away by the bobsled in the 1980 games, and then immediately crushed because I lived somewhere flat and warm and that sport would never be open to me. There are lots of other reasons I'd have never been a successful bobsledder even if I had grown up in Lake Placid, but it just wasn't even an option then.

No members of this year's US team came from Oklahoma, but I will note that silver medalist Elana Meyers Taylor is from Georgia (which you wouldn't think of as a center of bobsled activity). She was also a college athlete in another sport (softball), and I think that's key to developing winter sport programs with US athletes from warm places. There's still the question of how you find the athletic kid who'd be a good bobsledder (or cross country skier, or whatever) and start grooming them in time to be competitive against the athletes who grew up with those sports. If you wait until they can find you, in most cases it might be too late.
posted by fedward at 8:26 AM on February 27, 2018


(in all fairness to Steven Bradbury, he had a previous Olympic bronze and multiple world championship medals, so it wasn't like he was some kind of Eddie the Eagle eternal scrub, he was just ten years past his athletic peak and thus not expected to medal that Olympics.)
posted by tavella at 9:24 AM on February 27, 2018


"you have to race the European world cup events and that's hard for Americans"

That's true for a lot of Olympic sports, though, from alpine skiing to cycling to tennis. We still manage to develop competitive athletes (sometimes dubiously) in those sports, and occasionally we dominate. (US Postal Service was doping, yeah, but so was the rest of the peloton.)

"A lot of Birkie athletes are like me though- got into xc skiing well after college"

That's the problem I have with the US program. Why can't we reach people like you earlier? I think of rowing recruiting, where they set up an erg in a public place and invite people to try. Why couldn't we do the same thing with a NordicTrack? Play a video of the ending of the Kikkan Randall/Jessie Diggins race to attract people. I mean, that alone won't make us competitive with Norway, but it can't be worse than what we're doing now.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:49 AM on February 27, 2018


There's still the question of how you find the athletic kid who'd be a good bobsledder (or cross country skier, or whatever) and start grooming them in time to be competitive against the athletes who grew up with those sports.

I'm curious how one grows with the sled sports, because with less than 20 tracks worldwide, it's not exactly something one picks it up casually. Sure, there's natural luge, but it doesn't seem to me the skills translate fully, being more about drifting into corners rather than go up the bank to build up speed.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:03 AM on February 27, 2018


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