Nah, I’m not jealous. I know you’ve got a thing for Sasha, but I don’t really swoon for the tousled skate-rat types. Though I’d like to run Shaun White through the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids machine so I could carry him around in my pocket, I’m far more likely to take shallow breaths while watching Apolo Anton Ohno, the brooding, goateed speed skater. Last night in the 1,500-meter semifinal, fatally attempting to recapture his 2002 glory as a controversial gold medalist and teen dreamboat, Apolo overreached and slipped in a pointless attempt to overtake the skater in first place, when the second-place spot he had (and lost) would already have qualified him for the finals. Maybe it’s just his impossibly sexy name, suggesting a mixed-race sun god who broke up the Beatles, but I tend to concur with Apolo’s girlfriend, Allison Baver, who’s also an Olympic speed skater. (I’m still waiting for the human-interest cutaway story on that relationship—seen anything?) Interviewed about her sweetie’s hubristic slip-up, Baver sighed: “It really breaks my heart to see, because I know he’s the best skater in the world.”
With the departure of Kwan, I’ve given up my hopes for a grand meta-narrative for these games. (Though Emily Hughes pulling a gold could be a Wheaties moment.) I’m just lying back on the luge of destiny and letting myself be carried along by whatever comes. We talked the other day about how, from the outside, the luge looks like the world’s most passive sport: You lie inert on a sled and let gravity carry you down a slope. Of course, there must be great strength and skill at work, but whatever micro-muscular shifts the sliders are doing to calibrate the speed and motion of that sled, we can’t see them from our couches. So, nicknames like “the speeding white sausage” (for the German luger Georg Hackl) seem all too apropos. These guys are, to quote The Right Stuff, spam in a can, or at least on a very fast-moving plate.
Tomorrow we should touch on the much-hyped but rapidly fading figure of Bode Miller, who I named early on as the official douche bag of the XX Winter Olympiad. Now, that would be an endorsement deal …
Tag, you’re it.