I am very excited about this year’s Olympics.
The Olympics have always held fascination for me. First, I love athletic competition of any kind. The drama provided by sports is thrilling.
Then, the Olympics add the excitement of being the top global competition. International grudges are put aside as each country wants to see their athletes succeed. Lastly, I get to see sports that don’t usually have national coverage.
This year, the drama is close to home. There are six Alaskan Olympians. Watching their stories on local news and reading about them in the newspaper adds a distinct personal feeling to the Games.
By now, I know Kikkan’s signature pink hair, and have “met” her parents. Her story, along with those of Holly Brooks and the Bjornsen siblings, Erik and Sadie, will make cross-country skiing that much more exhilarating this year.
With two boys who idolize Shaun White and the sport he has helped make famous, my household is thrilled about the Olympic debut of slopestyle snowboarding. Even though Shaun decided to forgo participating in this historic event, we still have fellow Alaskan Ryan Stassel to cheer for.
Every four years, I do my best to understand the sport of curling. Every four years I fail.
However, this year I have extra incentive to understand this perplexing competition. As I watch Alaska native Jessica Shultz vie for Olympic victory, I’d really like to know what exactly she and her teammates are doing.
I am determined that this will be the year I succeed. If I could figure out the caber toss at the Highland Games, I can learn curling. Between Google and Wikipedia, I have the technology.
As I cheer for my fellow Alaskans and the rest of team USA, I know that all over the world people are doing the same for their team. The opening ceremonies are as exciting as the competitions as the athletes join together under the flame.
Even though great animosity exists between the countries of Israel and Iran, athletes from both countries were in the same arena. They weren’t concerned with each other — they were merely excited to represent their own country.
For just over two weeks, international politics are secondary. Pure physical competition reigns for 16 days.
While the nations duke it out in the hockey rink, other sports get to shine as well. Once every four years the light shines down on the speedskaters, bobsledders and curlers of the world.
Hockey, figure skating, alpine skiing and snowboarding all seem to get yearly attention in the U.S. We know the athletes and their ups and downs. We know when they became a contender, and we have seen the best and the worst of their performances.
These other athletes are a different matter.
They are virtually unknown. Their chance to show the world all their hard work and dedication to their sport is now, in this once-every-four-year opportunity.
That they have been working as hard as the other athletes is evident in their skill.
I am thrilled to play my small part as spectator in their well-deserved shot at glory.
Eagle River’s Lori Spears is the wife of a captain in the U.S. Army.