Finding Olympic spirit

Every two years, I spend a couple of weeks either in summer or winter glued to the TV absorbed in athletic contests I know nothing about. I get really excited over the Olympics. The other night, I watched mixed doubles curling, and I cared about it.

If nothing else, the communication between the teammates is fascinating to watch. I have to give the American woman credit for holding herself in check after her male partner repeatedly yelled “OFF!” to tell her to stop sweeping … and turned out to be wrong. I guess shouting “I told you so!” is conduct un-becoming an Olympian.

Something new caught my eye this year, and it’s not just the absence of Bob Costas. A commercial reminds viewers that every Olympic athlete’s story has a beginning, and that for many, it was a class or workshop, or their introduction to an amateur sports organization that set them on their path. But what if you have no idea how to find a class or organization for the sport that intrigues you? A website called allows you to pick a sport … let’s stick with curling … and go to the Team USA website for that sport, where you can find, for example, a two-minute guide to curling, a portal to find scholarships or teammates if you are already a curling expert, or nearby member clubs to help you get started. Did you know there are curling clubs in Cleveland, South Euclid and Columbus, Ohio; and in Pittsburgh?

Where was this when I was enamored with the idea of being the next Mary Lou Retton or Katarina Witt? Oh yeah, there was no Internet for the masses back then.

But kids today have resources that have never before been available. If your little ones are grabbing boxes and piling in to them to “bobsled” down the nearest hill, or begging for a pair of ice skates to try out a double axel or wicked wrist shot, there is a way to show them how to explore that inspiration.

Of course, becoming an Olympic athlete is not for the faint of heart, and requires dedication, sweat, time and — let’s face it — money, that sometimes puts the brakes on such dreams, anyway. But the possibility is there. A few bucks for a figure skating class could mean finding out there is real talent in a child whose path has just been opened before her. Or it could mean she finds out she has the grace of a giraffe on banana peels. At least she’ll know.

Meanwhile, I’m just thrilled that for a little while I can flip back and forth between events such as skeleton and speed skating and get caught up in not just the competition, but the stories. (The producers of the televised Olympic games are experts at tracking down and presenting just the right heart-touching stories).

By the end of the month, the Olympics will be over –though the Paralympics will be right around the corner — and I’ll be back to watching college basketball and professional hockey … and probably caring a whole lot less. It’s nice to know, though, that maybe a few of the kids dreaming in front of the TV might just be starting their journey toward the next winter Olympic games.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at