Monday, February 19, 2018

Ranking Winter Olympic Sports

I love the Olympics -- Summer and Winter. A few of my favorite activities include rooting for Winter Olympians from countries which have no snow, rooting for formerly colonized nations to defeat their colonial overlords, and being a sucker for any good personal drama story.

Also, the some of the events are interesting. Here's the full ranking:

Short Track Speed Skating

Demolition derby on ice. This is a sport I'd totally watch off-season. I haven't gotten the chance to watch the mass start version yet, but it seems particularly ludicrously dangerous and therefore extra delightful. It makes me wish that Olympic sprinting didn't have lanes. A+

Snowboard/Skiing Cross

If you're the sort of person who thinks "NASCAR would be better if they had speed bumps and jumps" (also: hurtling downhill) -- this is for you. Another event with great demolition derby character. But what I really want is for downhill ice cross skating to make it to the Olympics. That's a sport where at the bottom everyone just looks grateful that they've survived the evening. A

Long Track Speed Skating

Like middle-distance running, but more interesting because it's on blades. Something about watching the skaters criss-cross lanes is deeply hypnotic. A-


The best of the "trick" events, mostly because it most closely approximates a Tony Hawk game (or, to be technical, a Cool Boarders game). I hate to say it, as a die-hard skier, but the snowboard version is more interesting. B+


"Who's ready for death sledding!" We can't call it that. Okay, we'll call it "skeleton." Seriously, if the Summer Olympics is about pitting the world's greatest athletes against each other in head-to-head competition, the Winter Olympics seems to be about finding ever-more creative ways to get Europeans to kill themselves. B+


Nothing will ever top Robin Williams referring to this sport as "Norwegian Drive-by". But of all the long-distance sports -- Winter or Summer -- this one's the best. Not just because it involves gunfire, but because the shooting segments actually allow the race to get shaken up on a dime, adding interest and variety to what otherwise would (literally) be a marathon. B


I love the camera shots on Luge, which last for approximately a quarter of a second on each turn as an insane German hurtles ball-first down an ice chute (another steal from Robin Williams). B

Figure Skating (individual and pairs)

The marquee event of the Winter Games. It's not that I dislike it, but it's virtually impossible for me to tell the difference between the tricks, so I'm left rooting for falls just to create some visual distance between the competitors. I do appreciate that the area the skaters sit in to wait for scores is officially called the "kiss and cry" area (seriously: I saw it on an official's nametag). B

Ice Hockey

The only sport I can watch regularly outside of the Olympics, which diminishes its Olympic appeal somewhat. Its ranking would shoot way up if the women's game was full-check (it looks like they're using every fiber of self-restraint to avoid laying each other out for sixty consecutive minutes). B

Aerials/Big Air

"Ski jumping? That's for pussies. Make them do a few tricks while they're in the air and get back to me." This is the only trick event where I think skiing does better than snowboarding. B


The ranking of Skeleton, Luge, and Bobsled depends heavily on what you prioritize. In terms of raw speed, Bobsled is fastest, then Luge, then Skeleton. But in terms of reckless disregard for one's personal safety, it goes Skeleton, then Luge, then Bobsled. You can obviously see what my preferences are. B-


The breakout hit of Sochi now feels a little overcooked in Pyeongchang. It's perfectly entertaining, and it's the only Olympic sport I could even vaguely conceive of competing in, but it takes a long time to complete and there are apparently 142 games scheduled over the course of the Olympic Games, which take up valuable TV time that could be used for speed skating. B-

Alpine Skiing

As a skier, I should like this, but once again I can't really tell what makes someone fast or slow so there's not a lot to watch here. Now mass start alpine skiing -- that I could get behind. C+


The marquee snowboard event (and generally-forgotten skiing event) is also the worst of the lot. To the naked eye, at least, it has less speed, less air, and less interesting tricks. C+


All Olympic sports are physically punishing, but moguls is the only one I can't actually watch without feeling my knees twitch in sympathetic pain. As my brother observed: "you'll never see a 30-year old Moguls skier." C+

Ski Jump

It says a lot about the reckless disregard for human safety that characterizes the Winter Olympics that you can take a sport where competitors jump the length of a football field from 35 stories in the air and I can be like "but it's kinda boring?"  C

Nordic (Cross-Country) Skiing

The same problem as distance running, or cycling. Not enough happens for too long. More than any other sport in the games though, competitors earn their "collapse in exhaustion at the finish line" moment. C-

Ice Dancing

"Let's start with figure skating, and then remove all of the most interesting parts of it and ensure that at least one competitor always stays firmly planted on the ground, where it's safe." Why? D

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