We have a guilty confession: we’re having
trouble getting excited about the Winter Olympics. They’re happening now, in
case you missed it.

Maybe it’s because Turin, Italy, seems a
long way away from an Australian summer. Maybe it’s because this is a meet
where Latvia, Estonia and the Czech Republic are all on the scoreboard when it
comes to medals, and Australia isn’t. (Then again, if medals were our only
criteria, the looming Commonwealth Games would probably be our favourite
sporting event ever and that’s unlikely.)

The fact remains that the Winter Games and
Australia’s sporting passion are not a natural fit. We have a lot of time for
Alisa Camplin, Steven Bradbury and other locals who have done so well, but
doesn’t it strike you as strange that one of our best medal hopes this time
around is a 19-year-old beach sprinter, Michelle Steele, who The Australianreports had only seen snow once in her life 18
months ago? Picked out in an AIS talent identification program, she will
compete in the “skeleton” – and yes, we had to look it up too.

Or maybe we’re having trouble getting
excited because one of the Games’ biggest names doesn’t seem to be that fussed
either. Bode Miller is an American skier who was reportedly out drinking beer
until midnight (he says 10.30pm) the night before the men’s downhill, slept in so
that he didn’t go to the standard 9.30am track inspection on race day and
eventually finished fifth.

Miller has more racing to come in Turin and
has a chance to turn things around but the American press has been damning, not
least because he apparently shot his mouth off about drinking, doping and
skiing on a recent 60 Minutes
interview, not thrilling everybody in his sport. The verdict seems to be that
he should train more.

Luckily, for every Miller there’s a
Grandma Luge.”
Anne Abernathy had competed in every Winter Olympics since 1988 and qualified
again for Turin. Sadly, the 52-year-old from the Virgin
Islands broke her wrist during a final training run and has been forced to pull
out of her sixth Olympics.

Peter Fray

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