As I write this post, I’m sitting in front of my television set watching the Men’s Skiathalon beamed not-so-live from the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. I admit that I’ve always been fascinated by Olympic sports… or, more precisely, by Olympic athletes. Like many people, I’ve wondered what it would be like to be that strong, that fast, and that skillful. I’ve wondered how it feels to push one’s body to the very limits and reap the reward while standing atop the podium as the flag is raised. And I’ve puzzled over the path that Olympians take as they make their way towards status as truly world class athletes.
That’s why I was particularly interested to hear of NBC’s initiative to get youth involved in sports through their new Gold Map website. Featuring 19 different Olympic sports, the site offers an opportunity to learn more about the rules of each sport, what it takes to succeed, and how to get started. Since I’m not likely to become a great long-distance skier (previous cross-country efforts have proven that there are limits to my physical endurance), I thought I’d take a look at another sport which interests me: the Biathlon.
A combination of short-track cross-country and shooting (both prone and standing), the biathlon skills were originally used by Finnish and Norwegian hunters and date back over 4,000 years. The tactics and techniques involved in this subsistence “sport” were later adapted for military use. In 1930, they played an instrumental role in the Finnish victory over would-be Russian invaders… just six years after their debut in the Winter Olympics. (This information, along with the official rules for the sport, is available through the Learn More link on NBC’s Biathlon page.)
Confident that I was still interested, I checked out the Try It link. Much to my surprise, there are a number of locations where one can try the sport as well as a proliferation of individuals who can assist with such an endeavor. Similar information was available for Bobsled and Skeleton (the latter of which seems far too dangerous for my taste), Ski Jumping, and Luge.
I admit that I have never been a particularly “sporty” person. I was the kid who consistently got trampled on the soccer field or hit in the head while playing softball. I could hit the “T”, but not the ball that sat atop it. I wasn’t very strong, was never a great runner, and, in general, lacked the coordination necessary to be an Olympic quality athlete. But that’s never stopped me from trying something new. Turns out, there’s an opportunity to try out the biathlon not far from where I live. Maybe I’ll give it a shot. Just so I can say I did.
In the meantime, if you do think you have what it takes to be an Olympic quality athlete, I encourage you to check out NBC’s Gold Map. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll be watching you stand atop that medal podium!