Tuesday 21 May 2019

Getting big thrills from the big chill

Weird Wide World of Sport

'The Beast from the East’ should give us a chance to brush up on our winter sports skills. Photo: Getty
'The Beast from the East’ should give us a chance to brush up on our winter sports skills. Photo: Getty

Dave Devereux

That's it, the Winter Olympics has sadly drawn to a close and my love affair with the great, the good and the damned right peculiar sports that weaved their way into my mind during the Pyeong Chang spectacle will, in all probability, be put on ice until the Games roll into Beijing in four years' time.

Thankfully, if the weather forecast, filled with impending doom, is to be believed we'll have lashings and lashings of snow and ice much closer to home and will be able to have a Winter Olympics of sorts in our own backyards.

Back in the carefree days of the '80s and early '90s, when myself and my compadres had bucket-loads of energy and very little sense, whatever sport was beaming from our television sets dictated what we would bring to the playing fields.

Myself and my circle of friends didn't waste time watching many events on the box, preferring to live out our childhood dreams. The local sports field became Giants Stadium when the World Cup was on, or Croke Park in September as All-Ireland titles were up for grabs.

As Wimbledon reached its climax, we would be found on the tarmacadam of the school yard, which became our centre court and we were Boris Becker or Stefan Edberg serving match point.

When the Tour de France rolled through Gallic countryside we traversed the high roads and by-roads of rural Ireland on our Raleighs, Eniks and even the odd High Nelly, going hell-for-leather seeing who would be king of the mountains, the master of the sprints and finally who would wear the coveted yellow jersey after our marathon cycling efforts.

Of course, there were plenty of cuts, bruises and, worst of all, wounded pride, but we got back in the saddle, smiled and readied ourselves for the next adventure.

We never got much opportunity to act out winter sports - skiing was reserved for posh folk on their holidays, and curling was something girls did to their hair before heading to the teenage disco in the days when perms the size of a poodle were all the rage.

This 'Beast from the East', that is winging its ways to our shores with intent, sounds seriously menacing, like some arch-nemesis of the title character in the Rocky franchise, but it promises to be a dear friend for anybody daring to try some winter sport thrills and spills.

A few decades ago when we were hit with heavy snowfall, and I was young enough to be devoid of any sort of sense, I raced down a hill or two on a makeshift luge the width of a cigarette paper, so the excess fertiliser will have to be shaken from Net Nitrate bags again, just so I can go slipping and sliding down the nearest slope for old times sake. Who knows, I might even bring the kids along?

Unfortunately, I'm cursed with the balance of a three-year-old after stepping off a merry-go-round so if I try figure skating on icy paths I'm sure to end up on the seat of my pants quicker than a jet-propelled snowboarder.

For fear of going head over heels, I'll leave the ice dancing and technical stuff to those with a little more craft and guile than my good self, but I'd definitely fancy my chances of mastering any winter sport that requires being in a horizontal position.

I might be a bit long in the tooth by the time the next Winter Olympics comes around, but at 42 I'm the same age as Ronnie O'Sullivan, who won the World Grand Prix at the weekend, and like a fine wine he seems to be improving with each passing year.

If they introduce an event for going full pelt down a steep country lane, with nothing but a plastic fertiliser bag between the competitor and the snow-covered tarmac, I could be just the man to go for gold in China in 2022.

I'll just have to use the 'Beast from the East' to test how my nerves are, now that I've grown up and got sense.

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