Freeski Halfpipe and the Undude

By Betty Thomason Owens

The medal ceremonies are the highlight of the Olympics. Especially for the gold medal winners. To make it to the Olympics at all is a major achievement. To medal crowns that experience. I love to watch the ceremonies, no matter who the winner is, but it is especially fun when my favorite champion is front and center. This was the case as I watched the freestyle half-pipe skier, Dave Wise receive his gold medal. Not only did he win the gold, he won the very first gold ever in a brand new winter olympic sport.

And what an exciting sport to watch! You may have seen previews of the X-game sport  when you watched previous winter olympics, but this is the first year in competition for them.

I must confess, my interest in Dave Wise stemmed from something that has alienated him. His “uncoolness.” The “undude” debunks the norm. He’s married, he’s a daddy, he’s openly religious, he loves to read, which immediately endears him to me. But he will never star in a beer commercial. You get the idea. The big money won’t back him. He may not be considered “bankable.” And that is a problem. But it won’t stop him. Because there’s someone bigger backing him than any of the alcohol conglomerates or any other company, for that matter. David Wise

He’s low-key, against the grain–“peculiar” if you will–isn’t that what we’re supposed to be in this world? Here’s a chance to get to know him, just in case you’ve missed the interviews: 

And in case you haven’t seen the freestyle skiing (called freeski halfpipe for short), it’s like skateboarding on skis. My sons were “into” skateboarding, so I’m familiar with some of the terms, though I may use them improperly. It is truly one of the more exciting events to watch at the winter olympics. However, I would never want anyone related to me involved in this sport. I could never watch. There’s a lot of empty air between them and earth.

Honestly, I would love the thrill of the open air these guys experience, whether on skis or skateboard. But I’m content to watch the video. Really. I can watch, I can read the stories and the interviews and the only danger is that I’ll fall asleep in front of my computer or television screen. I’m not going to break a bone unless I’m snoozing so hard, I slide out of my chair and hit the floor.

If you missed the freeski halfpipe competition, I’d recommend you find the video on youtube and watch it. I think you’ll be as impressed as I was by Dave’s performance, especially under less than perfect weather conditions. And that’s really what these competitions are all about––excelling at your chosen sport even in bad circumstances. That’s when the preparation and the hard work really pays off.

Curling: An Olympic Sport?

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By Jennifer Hallmark

When I think of the Winter Olympics, I envision skiing, bobsledding and figure skating. I love watching speed skating, snowboarding, and even watch luge while holding my breath. Lately, I’ve even flipped the television to curling. Curling? Huh?

Curling is a sport in which players slide stones across a sheet of ice towards a target area which is segmented into four rings. It is related to bowls, boule and shuffleboard. Two teams, each of four players, take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones, also called “rocks”, across the ice curling sheet towards the house, a circular target marked on the ice. Each team has eight stones. The purpose is to accumulate the highest score for a game; points are scored for the stones resting closest to the centre of the house at the conclusion of each end, which is completed when both teams have thrown all of their stones. A game may consist of ten or eight ends.

The curler can induce a curved path by causing the stone to slowly turn as it slides, and the path of the rock may be further influenced by two sweepers with brooms who accompany it as it slides down the sheet, using the brooms to alter the state of the ice in front of the stone. A great deal of strategy and teamwork goes into choosing the ideal path and placement of a stone for each situation, and the skills of the curlers determine how close to the desired result the stone will achieve. This gives curling its nickname of “Chess On Ice.”

Curling originated in Scotland in the 16th century and was introduced to the inaugural Winter Olympic Games in 1924 in Chamonix. At this moment, the Canadian men’s team is ranked number one in the world with the USA ranked eighth. Sweden tops the ranking in women’s curling and USA is ranked seventh. So if you enjoy chess on ice, don’t miss curling during the Sochi Olympics and after. Go USA!

For more information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympic_curling

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curling

Olympics and Writing: The Dark Sides

montesa_alteredvibrance_squareLike many of the readers here on Writing Prompts I love a well turned-phrase. Even more, I enjoy a powerful story. It is obvious when a writer puts in extra effort to really make his work shine. There are books that I’ve read that will resonate with me forever. I also work hard in my own writing to create more than just words on paper and anecdotes strung together. I’ve studied the craft in detail and have developed a deep appreciation for the hidden structure of a great story. It’s not uncommon for me to do ten rewrites in order to hide every bit of structure. To achieve results in writing requires constant, passionate exercise of the craft.

I’m also an athlete. I started playing soccer when I was 8 years old thanks to the encouragement of a next door neighbor from Scotland. I’ve played steadily since then and am nearly half a century old now (and I have the knees to prove it!) I also ride motorcycles both on and off road, practiced Taekwondo, and visit the gym probably more than I should. Few things catch my eye more strongly than a truly beautiful goal or touchdown. Auburn Football’s “Kick-Six” against Alabama in the Iron Bowl last year was a high point of my life. Watching trials riders work their magic and trying to copy them is an obsession of mine – primarily because I can’t do it. If anything is true of high-achieving athletes, it is practicing the same thing over and over again and training tirelessly to hone the body to make what they do appear effortless.

BoJacksonThe connection might not be immediately obvious, but writing and athletics are inextricably bound. Great athletes and great writers make it look easy. The performance of great teams and great stories have an invisible, underlying structure that requires discipline and study to understand. Few things are more beautiful. Only those who have achieved at this level understand how easy it isn’t, and the amount of effort and time required to make it happen. Perhaps this is why the Ancient Greeks were obsessed with both literature and sport. As everyone knows, the Olympics were invented by the Ancient Greeks. At the same time, they were codifying the elements of story that have remained with us to the present. Athletics and writing are both art and beauty of the highest form and their elite practitioners are dedicated disciples who strive for excellence in all that they do. It is sad then that both lie under umbrellas of somewhat less glory.

Blog, SarajevoIt has been said that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is the most corrupt organization on the planet. A cursory Google search turns up a long list of improprieties from representatives of every country. Embezzlement of funds and acceptance of bribes by representatives seems to be the accepted business model. How the Olympics ended up at a place that receives virtually no snowfall can only be due to under-the-table dealing. And once again, the kleptocractic leaders of Russia have used massive building projects to pocket billions, leaving the facilities incomplete and substandard. (C.C.C.P. anyone?) While the hard work of the athletes has been showcased on television, the bigger story in the end might wind up being how business magnates with no athletic talent of their own and little appreciation for hard work have exploited the athletes’ passion to line the pockets of their sable coats. Of the athletes involved, most will receive little economic benefit from their hard work while a tiny majority will come to sit atop fortunes. Seldom do the regions that are promised economic bounty in IOC proposals experience any long-term benefit but far more often inherit the economic drain of maintaining the shells of long-abandoned, once-used venues. And we’re going to replay it all over again in two years.

Blog, BordersIf you’ve been writing for more than a few years the parallels between the Olympics and the writing industry are all too obvious. On the product end of the scale are legions of writers experiencing the daily toil of creation, working hard to hone their craft and generate beauty. We give our lives to our work and produce the best we can. As with athletics there are few ‘winners’ but our love of the craft gets us up off our backs and headed towards the next finish line. On the other side of the industry is a sycophantic hierarchy built around the over-promotion of selected work of greatly varying quality. While I have no problem with a business attempting to make money, jaded industry executives more often rely on the dubious advice of talent agents, with little talent of their own, who act as middle-men between the creators and the distributors. All too often it is their own proclivities that determine product selection rather than the identification and cultivation of markets. The result is much like the Olympics – the hyper-success of a tiny majority amidst the crumbling ruins of the literary industry.

blog, athlete trainingSo why do we do it?  Why does the Olympian compete? Why does the writer, write? When we know that so much of success depends on jaded, corrupt organizations with 19th Century business models? Because despite the ugliness of the industries that claim to represent us, in our hearts we know that they don’t. In our hearts we know that what we do reflects who we are inside. We are our own representatives. The runner doesn’t run to be first, or the skier to finish at the top, or the skater to spin to glory, or the writer to get rich. These are the dreams that sometimes keep us going, but we do what we do because we love the feel of wind in our hair and the element of danger that goes with it. We do it because we are human and without goals the thrill of living slowly ebbs. While the tantalizing hope of success pulls us ever forward, for to dream is to be alive, it is the expression of who we are inside that wins the day. In the end, it isn’t the roar of the crowd that defines who we are, it is the things we do when we are alone that matter the most.

John C. Brewer is a novelist, physicist, rocket scientist, lifelong soccer player, motorcycle rider, husband, father, and the author of Multiplayer, an adventure for young adults, and The Silla Project, a North Korean nuclear romance. Find out more about what he is doing at johncbrewer.com.

– John C. Brewer

It’s a Wrap

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By Betty Thomason Owens

January’s been fun here at Writing Prompts. Before I sat down to write this, I tucked some dark-leaf lettuce and lean roasted pork into a whole wheat tortilla, sprinkled it with sunflower seeds and grated cheese then rolled it into a wrap. It’s delicious. I’m scrolling through the various posts we’ve uploaded for January’s Healthy Eating theme and reading while I eat.

I especially loved John’s and Dicky To’s posts, because both confessed a love of eating. There’s nothing wrong with that. The key so often is what I led off with: Listen to your body. Know when to quit. Lay down your fork. Push away from the table. Stuff half your dinner in a take-home box. Have I championed this key? No. But I’m better at it than I used to be.

When there are health problems involved, you have to be more diligent. Christina’s post addresses several important health issues like gluten, GMOs, and sugar. The key here: do your homework. Find out what’s available and many times, as Ginger’s family does, grow your own. Last year, I planted tomatoes and peppers in my flower beds. They did very well. We even had extra to can. But if you can’t grow your own, and funds are limited, learn what your choices are, and be smart about it. Do the best you can with what you’ve got.

Jennifer’s helpful post asked some very important questions, including: Is chocolate bad for you? Need to check that out, with February’s approach. Another important reminder from her article: “Over the centuries, the answer has changed.” We all know this to be true. Someone’s always doing a new study, supplying new answers to old questions. Again, be smart. Prayerfully consider any changes you need to make.

Perhaps my favorite among the posts is our guest, Janalyn Voigt’s encouraging us to eat healthy, even in our rush-rush world. Advance planning, smart shopping, providing healthy snacks, and drinking more water. These belong on everyone’s to-do list. Pass along good eating habits to your children and grandchildren.

Exercise. Hit the gym. Don’t neglect this, it’s too important. Especially if you tend to be sedentary during the day. If you’re a writer, this can be a problem. Get outside whenever possible, even in winter. Not only does this promote good health, when you feel better, you tend to make smarter food choices. And sunshine, even through cloud cover, really does boost vitamin D3. So if you can’t get to a gym, put on a good pair of shoes and go for a walk.

The armchair athlete – With the Winter Olympics and the Superbowl just days away, we need to plan ahead. Heading out to a Superbowl party, or hosting your own? Jennifer’s latest post provides one good alternative food–Chicken Burgers!  Of course, you can always take a veggie platter and include a lower fat version of the usual dips. Just don’t tell anyone it’s lower fat. If it tastes yummy, who’ll know?

Thanks for joining us this month. I can hardly believe February is almost here. Where I live, it’s been a frigid, snowy winter so far, but probably not as cold as Sochi, Russia, where the Winter Olympics are due to start on February 7th. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to some of these events. The skaters are among my favorites and not just the sometimes jaw-dropping antics of the figure skaters, but the high speed skaters get my heart pumping. We’ll be talking Winter Olympics here at Writing Prompts throughout February. We’ll drop a few writing prompts into the mix and hopefully stir up some great ideas in those talented minds of yours.

Today’s writing prompt: Tamara scanned the competition as she settled into her position. Only time for one deep, cleansing breath before the starting gun’s blast. Then the air around her sparkled with energy and ice crystals.