Saturday, February 8, 2014

Fun Friday Facts #91: The Winter Olympics That Might Have Been

The Winter Olympics are upon us, a fact about which I would give zero fucks even if they weren’t being held in the frozen wasteland of anti-gay. Well, okay, maybe like half a fuck, if I had the time.

If some of these sports were in the Olympics, I might watch (but probably not). These are the sports that are just too awesome for the Winter Olympics.

Exhibit A

What could be more fun than being hauled along on skis by a horse, team of dogs, snowmobile or motorcycle? How about just skiing? No? If you’ve always loved waterskiing but wished it included harder falls, than skijoring is for you.


Image credit: Kaila Angello

Skijoring, which comes from the Norwegian for “ski driving,” probably evolved from earlier means of travel in cold Scandinavian climates. You can use any kind of dog for skijoring, as long as it likes pulling you and it’s willing to listen to your commands, since you’ll have no other way to control it. It’s said to be easy to train dogs to pull you around on skis (because dogs are suckers like that); the real difficulty lies in training the dogs not to stop and sniff the butts of the other skijoring dogs, the results of which could be what Wikipedia describes as “problematic” if you’re traveling at speed.

The winter pentathlon was an event at just one Winter Games, in St. Moritz, Switzerland in 1948, a year during which the athletes of the world were keen to combine cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, sharpshooting, horseback riding and fencing. Sweden won. All the medals.

Ski ballet, a former Olympic sport now sadly defunct, combined elements of ballet – jumping, flipping, rolling, spinning, and like waving your arms and legs and stuff – with elements of downhill skiing, namely, skiing downhill. Notable athletes include Suzy Chaffee, an Olympic ski racer who pioneered the sport in the 1970s; Lane Spina, who won the silver medal for ski ballet in the 1988 Calgary Olympics and a bronze in the 1992 Albertville Olympics.

The first winter Olympics in 1924 in Chamonix (shout!) included an event known as “military patrol,” a precursor to the biathlon, which included rifle shooting (there’s always rifle shooting), cross-country skiing and ski mountaineering. It involved four-person teams who skied and climed a total of 15.5 miles (25 km) for men and 9.3 miles (15 km) for women, with total ascents of 1,650 to 4,000 ft (500 to 1,200 meters) for the men and 980 to 2,300 ft (300 to 700 meters) for the women. Though it appeared two more times as a demonstration sport, the military patrol was never included as a competitive event again, because it only seems like a good idea if you live in Chamonix.

Ice stock sport, aka Bavarian Curling, is a sport in which competitors slide “ice stocks” across an icy surface in order to hit a target. It’s like curl-bowling – curowling.

Curling horseshoes -- corseshoes.

Image credit: Skandehora

I googled a video in which one German dude just stands around nonchalantly while another German dude chucks these things across the ice in his general direction. I don’t know, guys, it doesn’t seem safe.


From 1900 to 1920, tug of war was an event at the Summer Olympics. Nations were allowed to enter multiple teams, and could therefore win multiple medals for the event.

Scandal rocked the 1904 Summer Olympics when it was discovered that the gold-winning American squad, ostensibly made up of members of the Milwaukee Athletic Club, was actually from Chicago. Scandal rocked the 1908 Summer Olympics when the Americans complained about the British wearing cleated police boots for extra traction. The Americans ended up storming off, leaving the British to win all of the medals.

I didn't know you could rage-quit the Olympics.