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Oliver: Olympics bring joy to fan of ‘obscure’ sports

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 12:13 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 8:29 a.m. CDT

People seem to fall into two camps when it comes to the Olympics: those who are indifferent and those who just can’t get enough.

Put me into the second category.

Every couple of years, the sports nerd in me looks forward to a fortnight of athletics from the familiar to the obscure.

So I’m more than a bit excited about the start of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, this week. Coverage begins Thursday, with the Opening Ceremony set to be televised Friday night.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been glued to TV coverage of the games. Back then, I was far more interested in Dorothy Hamill (1976) and figure skating than I was in “The Miracle on Ice” (1980).

These days, I’m more likely to tell you the names of all the Chicago Blackhawks on each country’s Olympic hockey team than I am to know whom the U.S. is sending in men’s figure skating.

For the record, it’s Jeremy Abbott and Jason Brown.

Then again, Brown’s hometown is Highland Park, so the tie to the Chicago area has me paying more attention than I would otherwise.

Who am I kidding? I love the Olympics, so for the next couple of weeks, I’ll probably be able to spout all sorts of trivia that will make members of the non-Olympics-loving camp roll their eyes.

For instance, the new events to the games this year are women’s ski jumping, ski half-pipe, ski slopestyle, figure skating mixed team, biathlon mixed relay, luge mixed team, snowboard parallel slalom and snowboard slopestyle.

Then there are the more traditional, albeit “obscure,” sports, such as biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing and precision shooting. It might be a strange combination, but it requires a unique skill set few can master.

For those who don’t like shooting, there’s always Nordic combined, which requires participants to not only be good at cross-country skiing, but also ski jumping.

A lot of people look forward to watching curling, which just might be the strangest looking competition of the games. As I recall, those matches always drew a crowd around the newsroom TVs.

I also have to admit that I look forward to the tricks Shaun White will attempt as he competes for his third straight Olympic gold in half-pipe and a gold in the new snowboard slopestyle.

And if that weren’t enough, there’s always the rush of watching the alpine skiing, where skiers hurl themselves down slopes at breakneck speeds, and skeleton, where competitors slide down the track on sleds with their faces inches from the icy surface. Or there’s luge and bobsled.

So many sports. So little time.

For me, it’s not about the pomp and pageantry or patriotism; it’s about the joy of sports. And maybe a little about mocking the awful announcing. There’s always a bit of that, too.

So let the games begin.

I’m ready.

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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