The need for speed

The need for speed

At more than 140 kph, the Russian-2 sled wowed the crowd at the Whistler Sliding Center.


- Feb. 27/10

Try as it might, the pouring rain couldn't dampen spirits at the Whistler Sliding Centre today, nor could the bracing cold, or the agonizingly long lines that, I swear, must have stretched from Whistler all the way to Penticton.

All was forgiven and forgotten as the Men's 4-Man Bobsled competition got underway.

Much like yourself, I've seen bobsleds on television. I was aware that they approach 150 kilometres an hour. But to have actually been there within 10 feet as they whizzed by in a blur, ice and snow from the track literally hitting me in the face, was incredible.

These sleds take off faster than a Tiger Woods sex scandal.

Nascar on ice

Claudia Henderson, Whistler, 2010
Fellow fan Claudia Henderson braved the freezing rain all afternoon to support Team Canada.

"You can try these out all you want, but you're filling out your will first," said Claudia Henderson to her husband Todd, after the Russian-2 sled flipped over and skidded upside down across the finish line.

Todd had mentioned that the sliding centre will be opened to the public some time after the Games are over.

It was difficult not to side with Claudia on this one. There were probably a dozen crashes during the two-heat event. The fact that not a single rider was seriously hurt amazes me.

I'm not sure who manufactures the helmets, but these Games have certainly been a commercial for them.

If there's a silver lining to be found here, though, it's that a piece of the Russian-2 sled broke off and landed right at my feet. That, my friends, is called a souvenir.

Oh, those Brits

The atmosphere was so much greater than I anticipated. I had assumed that bobsledding would attract a much more subdued crowd than the one I was a part of today. This place was raucous as raucous can be. There were dudes without shirts (for three hours) in the cold rain and snow. I'm sorry, but no amount of beer can compensate for that lack of body heat.

There were Brits and Aussies and Japanese and Dutch people all over the place, vehemently supporting their respective sledders. And right underneath the fans was slimy, filthy muck.

"With a little more rain we could have had a mud wrestling match!" said Anthony Charnley of Soutpark, England. He, along with a few friends, had brought along a marker and a board on which they would write whatever they had to say to the rest of the crowd.

Anthony Charnley, Whistler, 2010
Brit Anthony Charnley was less than impressed with Great Britain's finish on day 1 of the Men's Bobsled.

"Curling was better" said one. They were obviously nonplussed about Great Britain's 21st place finish today.

An electric finish

This being my first Olympic event, my expectations were met and then some. The day was capped off with a marvelous run by Canada-1, led by pilot, Lyndon Rush. Honestly, could a sledder have a better name?

In the second-last run of the afternoon, Rush and company powered past the Germans to take sole position of first place, before the Americans came right behind and blew past Canada for first place.

It was an electric finish to what was an absolutely stellar day at the Sliding Centre.

"We went to see a hockey game a few days ago, and this was just as fun," Claudia said. "Hockey gets a lot of the attention here in Canada, but these other events are every bit as entertaining. Hockey players don't fly by you at 140 kilometres, I'll tell you that much!"

It was a unique experience, to be sure. Being that it's (probably) the only event that I'm going to witness here at the Games, it was an awesome one to see. I'll definitely be tuning in tomorrow to see how the event turns out.

And to Anthony: If curling was better than this, you were watching a different game than me.


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