Friday, February 14, 2014

Swish-Whack, Take That Awards for 2014 Winter Olympics

You can't go anywhere without hearing about the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, so why should this column be any different? Regular readers know that during every Olympic Games, Winter or Summer, I give out the Swish-Whack, Take That awards to athletes who defy the odds, give the performance of their lives, and in general thumb their noses at critics and complainers.

The award is named for US fencer Mariel Zagunis, who won the U.S.' first fencing gold in 100 years in 2004, but was only given a 90 second highlight on NBC's coverage. I've given the awards out every Olympic Games ever since.

But she still won't follow me on Twitter.

The first Swish-Whack, Take That goes to all the athletes, Olympic committees, and even uniform designers who are thumbing their noses at Vladimir Putin's anti-gay propaganda laws.

In the Opening Ceremonies alone, the Greek athletes, the very first to enter the Olympic Stadium, wore rainbow-fingered gloves, presumably so they could better show off the middle one to Putin. The German team's uniforms were one big flashy rainbow, while athletes from all over the world wore various ribbons, buttons, and stickers to tell Russia and the rest of the world that Putin's law was ridiculous.

Swish-Whack, Take That number two is an unprecedented one, because it goes to a multi-national corporation, Coca-Cola. Their "America the Beautiful" commercial, which originally appeared during the Super Bowl, has been flying in the face of racism ever since it first showed.

The first time it aired, racists and bigots flooded Facebook and Twitter, decrying the use of "foreigners" and "those people" singing the song of freedom in "their language."

So I give this award gladly to Coca-Cola for refusing to bow to the pressure of a narrow-minded right wing who thinks our song should only be sung in English.

You know, English? The language that's a veritable melting pot of words from German, Spanish, French, Korean, Arabic, and Hindi.

Just like our country.

Swish-Whack, Take That number three goes to British snowboarder Jenny Jones, who secured her country's first-ever Olympic medal on snow by winning bronze in the slopestyle event. Past UK medals have come from figure skating, bobsled, and skeleton, making this their first ever snow medal.

Jones started snowboarding when she was 16 at a dry slope in Churchill, England. A dry slope is a ski slope that uses artificial ingredients, rather than real snow. She enjoyed it so much, she worked as a chalet maid so she could do it more often, but on real snow.

Because snowboarding wasn't very popular in Britain, Jones was one of only a few snowboarders for her country, so she traveled with women from other European countries to different competitions. And here she is 14 years later, giving Britain its first snow medal.

I'm calling the next award the Sniff-Hack, Wipe That award, because it goes to Polish ski jumper Kamil Stoch, who climbed out of a sickbed to take the gold, winning Poland's first individual medal since 1972.

Stoch told reporters he had woken up Sunday morning with a headache and a fever. He said the doctors "did everything they could to bring me to life, and I made it. They did a good job."

He flew 105.5 meters in the first round, 103.5 in the second, and amassed 278 total points, which was enough to put him on the center podium. When you've spent years of your life training and competing, all leading up to this moment, you don't let a little thing like a headache and fever keep you from it. But more impressive still is doing it better than everyone else who's well.

The final Swish-Whack, Take That award goes to all the women ski jumpers who competed in this year's Games, flying through the air at 55 miles per hour, to land over 100 meters away from their initial point of takeoff.

Just like in military combat, women ski jumpers have never been allowed to compete in the Olympics, because they told the sport was too risky, and that even the jarring landings could damage their fertility. (I'm guessing that was a while ago.)

That all changed when U.S. ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson became the very first Olympic women's ski jumper to fly through the air. While they didn't fly as far as the men, the silver medalist, Daniela Iraschko-Stolz of Austria, had a second jump of 104.5 meters, which was only one meter shorter than men's gold medalist, Kamil Stoch.

So congratulations to women ski jumpers everywhere for finally overcoming the silliness that has kept them from risking an "agony of defeat" crash just like the men have risked for over 90 years. Now they're free to crash just like the men.

Next week, more from Swish-Whack, Take That awards from the 2014 Winter Olympics.



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