The Olympic Games represent not just a time for countries to unite, but also a time to recognize the accomplishments of athletes in less popular, non-mainstream sports ranging from speed skating to bobsled, biathlon to luge, and snowboarding to skeleton. The athletes who participate in these less mainstream sports train hard throughout their lives by competing in Junior World Championships and Cups—and, if they’re lucky, World Cups and World Championships—with the hopes of progressing to the Olympics. Currently there are over 200 athletes fighting it out to make the US Olympic team.
The fight for spots on the Olympic team has become more intense and competitive since the end of summer. Athletes are traveling all over the world to participate in different qualifying events.
As of right now, it is not definite who will make the Olympic team. Most athletes will find out Feb. 1, giving them twelve days to really prepare for the start of the Olympics (the Games start Feb. 12, 2010 and last until Feb. 28). However, both the men’s and women’s hockey teams will announce their rosters on Jan. 1, allowing the players selected to prepare as a team.
It will be exciting to see who will make the Olympic team and compete at the highest level of competition for these sports. While the teams are not yet finalized, there are already some athletes to keep an eye on.
Part of the appeal of the winter Olympics is the speed and adrenaline in many of the sports. Even spectators, whether on the sidelines or watching from their televisions, feel like they can get in on the excitement. The tricks in aerial skiing, halfpipe, and superpipe amaze (and stress) viewers with the almost unreal contortions of bodies in midair. The Olympics showcases these athletes’ skill and hard work by revealing the amount of training needed to obtain that much air or to twist their body in such a manner.
Luge, skeleton, and bobsled racing reach speeds higher than most driving speeds. The lack of fear these athletes display adds to the allure of the Olympics. And then there’s the appeal of hockey, a fast-paced, action-packed sport that, though common, is not watched often, judging by TV ratings. Unlike many other winter Olympic sports, hockey fully displays the teamwork needed to win a medal. Figure skating and ice dancing appeal to the less sports-oriented people, revealing a more graceful, yet still physically demanding and rigorous, side of athletics. For those who like ice skating, but not the slow pace of figure skating or ice dancing, there is also speed skating and short track skating. Speed skating and short track skating are similar to track, but on ice. The biathlon also reveals another side of sports: the ability to move quickly, yet control one’s breathing and body movement to such a steady point that one can shoot a bullseye. The Winter Olympics has a sport for everyone, whether they are a sports fan or not.
There are many hopeful newcomers for the 2010 Games, as well as some returning athletes looking to land on the podium again, or for the first time.
Katherine Reutter seems to be a possible candidate for the US Olympic Team for short track speedskating. She is ranked fifth in the world in the 1500-meters and is ranked sixth in the 1000. In addition, she placed in the top five in two events at this year’s World Championships. Just like every athlete, however, she will still have to work hard to earn a spot on the Olympic team, because there are many other contenders working just as hard to earn the spot.
Trevor Marsicano is definitely a medal contender for men’s speedskating. According to the Team USA website, Marsicano “might be the fastest-rising American athlete heading into Vancouver.”
In the 2009 World Single Distance Championships, Marsicano won gold in the 1000-meters, silver in the 1500, and bronze in the 5000-meter team pursuit. In addition, he was a silver medalist in the 2009 World Cup Final in both the 1000- and 1500-meter races. His accomplishments this season are extraordinary, and he will be considered a favorite to earn a medal in this coming Olympics.
Louie Vito looks to make the Olympic team for snowboarding superpipe. He was the overall champion in both the 2008 and 2009 Grand Prix competition, and in 2008 he won first place in the Jeep King of the Mountain Tour and second place in the Vans Cup competition. He has made a splash on the superpipe scene and is definitely another person to keep an out for.
Lindsey Jacobellis, a silver medalist in the snowboard cross at the 2006 Olympics, has continued to dominate the women’s snowboard cross scene. She was the winner of the 2009 Snowboard Cross World Cup as well as the 2009 Winter X Games. She should be able to maintain her position this season as one of the top snowboard cross athletes, and will try for the gold at the 2010 Games.
The 2010 Winter Olympics should be full of exciting story lines to watch for. As the deadlines for qualification approach, it will be interesting to see who makes the team and how they will do at the games. This year’s US Olympic team will be composed of both returning Olympic athletics and newcomers ranging from teenagers to 40 year-olds. All athletes are well qualified for the games, and the competition for the team will be fierce in these last few months. As of press time, there are 70 more days until the Olympics, so get excited!