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Winter Olympics: Lycoming County Style

Some of you may be glued to the tube watching the 2018 Winter Olympics being held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, but I feel they have nothing on us — including the scenery. Spare the airfare and parka. Better yet, from what I’ve seen, most residents here are participants, not observers in our own winter fest. Don’t believe me? Read on!

Figure skating: the black ice on local parking lots, sidewalks, and driveways gives us mere mortals the opportunity to do a tri-axle or double side swirl on occasion. A real YouTube moment for everyone to see your superb balance and finesse. In fact, if I had a scorecard, I would flash it to them for pulling off such a great, back saving stunt!

The Olympic athletes have trained every day for years on end to make living on ice look easy. You and I don’t, which makes our accomplishments of not falling on ice even more incredible.
Now, I am aware some of them have to hold their partner above their head during competition. Big deal. You have to battle icy terrain while holding groceries in one arm and a child in the other. Fumbling for car keys at the same time. Now that’s really going for gold!

The luge: putting a sleek, custom-made sled down a purposely built track and going fast is a sight to behold at the Olympic Games. So is watching youngsters and adults tackle the large, snow packed hills in our area with tubes, saucers or sleds. Some adults don’t exactly fit onto their devices in tidy fashion. Square peg into a round hole. No matter. It takes them where they want to be in a mad rush.

It’s a matter of picking up speed, then more, then letting out an exuberant scream as they execute a whoop de doo. They bottom out. That means rear end meets terra firma. I watch them fall off their device and slide down the hill face first, snacking on crusty ice chunks on the way down. Breakfast of champions!

Let it be said our Olympic uniforms are pretty staid compared to what I see the kids wearing on our downhill slopes; where else can you combine a purple jacket, orange striped scarf, a red wool cap with yellow puff ball on top, and black gloves, with pink boots. Some featuring animal figures on them. Gold medal for fashion — and function!

Cross-country skiing: endurance is a key factor here to ski hard and long over frozen tundra, and to beat the clock while doing it. I think Lycoming County residents also fare well in the daily grind of going “cross country” to work and school. City and school bus drivers aren’t ever content with a bronze finish.

The Olympians only have to deal with their opponent, weather conditions, and a set course. We have to tackle nasty road conditions, zero visibility on occasion, and careless fellow drivers who were prime candidates for self-driving cars over a decade ago!

The athletes risk a cold face and cramps. Meanwhile, as fog and snow beckon on Route 15 and the Turkey Ranch, we risk our lives!

Snowboarding: American, Redmond Gerard, took home gold in this event. He whirled and twisted high in the air as if God wanted humans to do this feat all along. Emergency rooms suggest otherwise. Not to take anything away from Redmond, but I saw three local dudes (let’s call them Danny, Dweezle, and Derrick) skateboarding on a sub-freezing afternoon on a frozen parking lot doing jumps, stunts and slides. They “caught air” several times, either while flipping the board or falling harshly to the ground. A rock hard, cold ground. It was a dazzling display of bravery, modestly dressed in, uh, short sleeve t-shirts and denim jeans.

Back in the day, my body could absorb the bumps. I also dressed warmer than these young Turks. Now, it’s painful just to watch them fall and grimace. But they get up and smile and laugh. That’s called being resilient. And that my friend, breeds some of the best local talent we have!

Kudos (and a medal) to these teens for two reasons. First, for getting out of the house for fresh air to fill your lungs, and escape the computer and TV screens. Second, the fortitude to practice their skills for what normally is a summer activity.

Question. Do they make special winter-tread wheels for skateboards?

You might ask me if I watch or follow the 2018 winter games. In a word, no. In several words, I’d rather watch the locals traverse our hills and valleys. Sure, the athletes at the Olympics have trained ruthlessly and deserve some spotlight. I said some, not all. Frankly, we have many interesting and inspiring people in our area who aren’t asked for autographs, both young and old.

It’s not uncommon for athletes to rise at 4:00 a.m. to lift weights, run and train. So do many dialysis and chemo and radiation patients who look for new life, not a medal. Many parents work overtime hours, then have to cook, clean, and get the kids ready for bed. That’s not just a one-day event for a podium finish; it’s a daily commitment. No wonder many of us look like we play a continuous hockey game day in and day out!

In other words, common people with uncommon dedication in our backyard. Their fancy Olympic Village and some overpriced stadiums are only temporary. We, on the other hand, are here for the long haul.

So as much as I’d like to write about Olympic heroes, and their backgrounds, struggles, and fame, it becomes pretty apparent we’ve got plenty of “medal winners” around here who deserve as much ink. Open your eyes and look as I did.

And you won’t even need to hunt down a red, white and blue uniform.

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