In two weeks’ time, one of the biggest sporting extravaganzas in the world will get underway in a place known as ‘Russia’s answer to Florida’.
The 22nd Winter Olympics are being staged in Sochi, a city on the Black Sea coast popular among Russians for beach holidays. A strange choice of venue you might think. But I’m told there’s no shortage of snow and ice outwith the summer months, so you can forget any images you might have of cross-country skiers making their way through sand or bobsleds mounted on wheels.
The Winter Olympics might be less popular than its summer equivalent, but I think it’s every bit as exciting for the armchair spectator.
I’m a fairly typical Scot in the sense that I can’t ski, and the few times I’ve attempted to skate I’ve spent falling over, endangering myself and others around me.
But I still find the winter games fascinating.
It’s partly the danger element; you can’t help but watch open-mouthed as skiers jump from incredible heights at speed, or sledders hurl themselves down a course headfirst on what looks like a tea tray - an event ominously known as the skeleton.
Moving at furious pace on ice seems to go against basic human instincts of survival, yet it doesn’t bother speed skaters.
These daredevils easily reach speeds of more than 30mph. But despite spending their time going round and round and ice rink, this sport can throw up moments of incredible drama to rival any
Crashes are frequent. In the final of the 1000m event in 2002, Steven Bradbury won Australia’s first ever gold medal at a winter Olympics. Approaching the final bend, the leading four skaters crashed into each other - allowing Bradbury to cruise home for an unlikely victory.
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