The time I almost was an almost Olympian

The Hubs and I have been anticipating the Olympic Games in Sochi since the Olympic Games in Vancouver ended.  We’re Olympics obsessed.  Last night when I was watching the men’s mogul competition, the commentator announced that it was sixteen years ago that night when Johnny Moseley won his men’s mogul gold at the Nagano Olympics.  I swooned a little, as I had the biggest crush on Johnny Moseley.  Then I thought, “Wait, Nagano was sixteen years ago?”  That means that I graduated high school how many years ago???

Anyway.

During the 2004 Olympic games in Turino, Italy, The Hubs became obsessed with curling.  I had never heard of curling prior to Turino, but apparently this insane curling craze washed over the United States and all kinds of people wanted to take it up.  The Hubs was one such person.  He dedicated more time than I’d like to think about researching curling leagues and practice sessions.  I was under the false assumption such leagues only existed in more Northern territories, such as Minnesota.  Or…you know, Canada.  Despite this, he found a local one and signed us up.  “We’re in training for the Olympics!”  He informed me.  Low and behold, the training session was overfilled and we couldn’t go.  I heaved a sigh of relief and hoped he’d forget about this marginal sport.

Unfortunately, the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing somehow reminded him of curling.  He signed us up again and this time, they weren’t filled up (probably because everyone was more excited about Michael Phelps and swimming).  “Nuts.”  I thought, wondering if somehow I could be sick or part of the Peace Corps when our lesson time came.

“So cool!”  I heard myself say, namely because I love him and secondly because I was giving him the benefit of the doubt.  He wouldn’t sign me up for failure, would he?  Yeah, feel free to pass that Wife of the Year award my direction right about now.

So, against my better judgment, I bundled up, put on my tennis shoes on, and went to the local ice arena.  I was skeptical.  The lesson didn’t begin until 10:00pm, since we had to wait for all the college students, leagues, and sleepy elementary school age kids to shuffle through.  The curling session was two hours: one hour of lesson, one hour of gaming.  Translation: Two hours of pain and humiliation for me, namely, because I am not into sports.  I like watching sports.  I like guys who like sports.  I do not like participating in sports.

And it showed.

Lets discuss where things when horrifically wrong for me, the perpetual observer.  The first thing you’re handed is a little Teflon footie.  This is to help you slide across the ice.  Let me repeat: to slide across the ice.  I was understandably perplexed by this, as…you know, I’m pretty good sliding across the ice unassisted.  I wasn’t aware there was special technology available to aid in the slipping and sliding and general uncontrollable nature of ice.

The premise of this footie, as we learned, is that your non-footied tennis shoe will firmly plant you in place.  Once you’re set, you shove off with your tennis shoe and elegantly glide forward on the Teflon footie.  “Or,” the teacher said, “you can just slide on your shoe.”  I handed the footie back.  The Hubs accepted the challenge and swathed his shoe in Teflon.

An important part of curling is coordination and the ability to smoothly coordinate your movements without flopping around like an impaled perch.  I have a startling lack of coordination.  I am the girl who can trip over the yellow line in the middle of the road.  This worked against me, promptly and noticeably.

Here’s how you curl: you pad out onto the ice, holding a broom, which looks more like an oversized squeegee.  There is what looks like runner’s blocks on the ice, called “the hack” and waaaaaaaay down across the ice is “the house” where you want your “stone” to “curl.”  So.  You put one foot on “the hack” and Teflon footied foot (I never found out the proper name for the footie) on the ice.  Squat.  One hand goes on the forty pound stone, one hand holds the broom out.

Now, the part that requires coordination.  You push the stone forward and then pull it back towards you, as you do so you raise your butt up in the air.  Check balance.  Then launch yourself forward, sliding on the footie while at the same time keeping your other knee and the broom off the ice.

I couldn’t do this.  At all.

The Hubs looked fantastic, gliding around and launching forward with proper posture.  I spent the majority of the time sitting on the ice watching the stone stop five feet in front of me.  The instructors were helpful, saying things like “put your rump in the air, Heather!” or “keep your back straight,” or “just kick the darn thing down the ice if that’s what it takes.”

curlingThe position I liked best was the…the skip.  The skip stood down in “the house” and placed their broom down where they wanted the stone to go.  Then, they held their arm out the way the wanted the stone to curl.  This was a great job, as it required a lot of standing around aimlessly.  I’m sure in a competition setting, the skip needs to know where the stone needs to go.  In this practice session, I just held out my arm where the guy told me.  Easy.  Here, in fact, is photographic evidence from 2008 of my curling endeavor.  That redhead with her hand on her hip is me, knees no doubt locked in a panic that I would fall in a heap on the ice.

Somehow, despite my lack of athleticism and overall effort, my team won!  Amazing!  The Hubs said, “So, we’ll do this again right?  You’ll come again.”  I told him I would be more than happy to go again and sit on the bleachers while he curled.  I’d even bring cookies.  In the end, we decided not to sign up for further lessons or join the team (that noise you hear is the echo of my 2008 sigh of relief) because the team times were far too late at night for our collective old age.  Now, six years later and six years older, most nights I’m asleep on the couch by 11:06pm (see the above picture for the time).  On a side note, six years later and the curling league is building a multi-million dollar complex two counties over because, despite popular opinion, curling is huge.

And thus, battered and bruised, my curling career ended.  Say what you will about curling, but I was sore for two or three days after our lesson.  I had a huge bruise on my thigh and was hobbling around like I needed a hip replacement.  “What were you doing, playing football?”  My team leader (previous job, kids) asked.

Nope.  I was curling.  Curling is hard and I am weak.  I’ll spectate, but I’m hanging up my Teflon footie and leaving it to the professionals.

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