This weekend, the 2014 Winter Olympics come to a conclusion, or at least an exasperated sigh. Their success or failure we leave for others to judge, but we can assess the individuals who strove throughout them. Not the athletes–heavens, no! Or at least, not on the basis of their athletic performance. We’re talking about the class clowns, the most popular, and the worst driver. Welcome, friends and fans, to the Olympic Superlatives for the class of 2014!
With his Bond villain demeanor and his harsh laws regarding free speech and gay people, Vladimir Putin seemed a villainous lock, but if you’re counting people ruining my Olympic viewing experience, the true villains are the folks who run the NBCOlympics.com website. Sure, if you miss an event live, you can watch a replay at NBCOlympics.com, but the website is a spoilers minefield and it will take five or six clicks before you find what you’re looking for so you’ll have your results ruined in the interim. If you do make it to the actual event, you’ll see “expert tweets” in the top right corner giving away the actual results. If Putin wanted to preserve the success of the Olympics he should have thrown NBC’s web team in the gulag.
Most likely to become a Hollywood heartthrob
I haven’t seen a picture of him without his skiing helmet, but Belarusian aerialist gold medalist Anton Kushiner has got one great thing going for him which is his name is so close to producer/actor Ashton Kutcher that he could probably get into many a Hollywood VIP establishment and even get facetime with many Hollywood producers on that name alone. When a Hollywood producer sees he has a meeting penciled in with Anton Kushiner, he’ll likely assume that the secretaries mispelled his name and let him in.
If we’re talking about guys who I know what they look like, Dutch speedskating winner Jorrit Bergsma has boyish charm, is not afraid to take off his shirt in cold weather a la Matthew McConaughey, and is one half of the most potent power couple in speed skating. He’s engaged to American speed skater Heather Richardson.
Slopestyle snowboarding champion Jamie Anderson. was a home schooled Southern California girl who was asked in a press conference on how she prepared for a race “Put on some meditation music, burn some sage. Get the candles going. Just trying to do a little bit of yoga.” She also has a “spirit grandmother” in addition to her regular grandmother. And hey, speaking of sage, that brings us to….
Athlete whose parents were most likely to have great pot
Men’s Slopestyle Snowboard winner Sage Kotzenburg. His parents named him “Sage.” What more evidence do you need
Sport most likely to get you killed (tie)
This is SUCH a tough call because pretty much everything outside of curling is a death trap. Even the skating disciplines come with a high risk of injury. When done at a very high performance level, twirling or even skating around in a circle on ice can get you bladed as short-tracker J.R. Celski’s epic bloodbath in 2009 demonstrated when a blade sliced open his left thigh and required sixty stitches.
So for the deadliest of all sports in which Olympians, I’ll go with a three-way tie. The highest Olympic death tally to date (two) has been luge in which racers regularly average 80 to 90 miles per hour and your turns are dictated by incredibly slight body movements. That’s right, if you sneeze or get an itch, you could find yourself careening off the track into your death.
The downhill skiing discipline of alpine racing is a sport in which you’re also going fast enough to get a speeding ticket on pretty much any highway in America (80 miles per hour) and there’s no track to contain you. In order to get a medal, you have to ski a line which maximizes your velocity so your options are play it safe and go home crying or get more reckless and risk a terrifying wipeout.
Many of the snow sports that involve landing from very high in the air (ski jumping drops you down 14 stories) don’t cause as much pain as it looks like because one lands on a downhill slope. The only exception to that is the halfpipe where you basically move your body around as if you’re inside a human blender and then try reorienting yourself on the downhill part of the pipe rather than the flat lip. If you narrowly miss, you could end up like Rowan Cheshire who was knocked unconscious for several minutes in her training run this past week and now looks like this.
If you think this is out of the ordinary, nearly every halfpiper has a long list of injuries. Shaun White fractured his skull, broke his right hand and right foot and was knocked unconscious by the time he was freaking 12. His chief rival, Kevin Pearce was airlifted out of Salt Lake City in 2009 and suffered a traumatic brain injury that kept him out of the sport for several years.
Most pointless new debut sport: Team Luge
Twelve new sports debuted in Sochi and that’s a lot of awesomeness right there, but team luge does not need to exist. It takes no teamwork whatsoever and even the athletes are finding it annoying and nerve-racking to reach up at the end of the run and tap the control pad that sends the next luger down the hill. Not only that, but it’s clearly a blatant advertisement for Omega Timing.
Most underrated sport
Nearly everything outside figure skating or downhill skiing could qualify this. I still can’t get over how batshit insane it is that people are flying through the air in ski jumping or flying while flipping in freestyle aerials and as someone who once skied on a freestyle moguls course and wiped out three times before even getting to the first jump, I can personally testify to the extreme awesomeness of that sport.
But how about the biathlon? Athletes have to compete in a grueling cross-country race and then slow their heart down every lap to shoot five targets. If they miss, they either have to ski more or in some cases take a time penalty and they’re on the clock the whole time. With everyone skiing on different clocks, the event is as chaotic as following the stock exchange and the results often go down to the wire.
Most awesome athlete recovery
Indian luger Shiva Keshavan. Yes, India does have athletes in the Winter Olympics even though they have no chance in hell at winning a Gold medal. On the upside, they do seem to have superpowers. Keshavan managed to get back on his sled after falling off it all while going 70 miles per hour and going sideways.
Most buzzworthy Athlete tweet
Canadian Speedskater Brittany Schussler tweeted a picture with dictator Vladamir Putin when he visited asking the maniacal dictator to be his valentine. The tweet made headlines in Canada and inspired a fun round of debate on the Canadian news circuit over whether the speed skater was endorsing his policies because she thought he looked cute. Schussler finished 26th, 30th and 19th in her individual events so at least she got her 15 minutes of fame one way or another.
Most awesome national performance
The Netherlands has alternated between 1st and 2nd place in the medal count over the last few days despite the fact that they are a tiny nation with no mountains and little natural snowfall. On top of that they also suck at figure skating and hockey and curling. The Netherlands has gotten its 22 medals to date by being ridiculously good at one single sport: Speed skating. The country has won so many medals in speed skating (70% of all long-track speed skating medals have gone to the Dutch) there’s hardly room for any other countries on the podium and the Americans have been completely shut out.
Awesome Olympic veteran
It’s tough to choose between all up-and-coming athletes but Bode Miller is the epitome of awesomeness on skis. His entire biography reads like a list of the gutsiest life decisions ever made: He ditched the coaching staff and travel arrangements of the US Ski Team in favor of traveling the European ski circuit in an RV with his childhood friend (as cook), he sacrificed a high school diploma because he refused, on principle, to correct an essay for which he got a D, and he was even declared hopeless at the ski academy in which he trained for his unconventional style but didn’t change it.
He also regularly states that he doesn’t care if he wins or loses and famously declared in 2006 after wiping out of most of his events that he “partied on an Olympic level” and then came back the next year to win the World Cup and came back to Vancouver to win more Olympic medals in the alpine events than anyone else. With a bronze medal (at 37, he’s the oldest medalist in Alpine history), he has become America’s most decorated skier and the second winningest Olympic skier of all time.
Orrin Konheim is a freelance writer who’s sailed to all the farthest reaches of the internet and published in many of those remote corners. His blog is at sophomorecritic.blogspot.com. Thanks for reading.
Orrin previously conjectured Should Futurama Stay on the Air Until the 31st Century? (Sadly, Comedy Central disagreed with him.)