Wonder Boi Writes

Olympic Countdown – Boardercross

Last week I introduced you to curling, which is a sport I love to play, and you all offered up some great curling team names.  I drew one from a hat and the winner is Carleen.  Just email me at Rachel_Spangler@yahoo.com, and I’ll send you your choice of either an Ebook copy of Edge of Glory or an audiobook of Trails Merge.

For this week, I’m moving away from a sport I play in real life to one I got to play with in a book because it’s time for Boardercross!

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In the grand scheme of Olympic sports dating back to ancient times, or even modern winter Olympic sports dating back to 1924, Boardercross is a real Johnny-come-lately.  In fact, it’s so new that my character who is only 30 years old was able to compete at the very first Olympic snowboard cross event in 2006, and the entire history of the sport isn’t much longer than that. The earliest informal races began in the ’80s on the backside of mountains and uneven terrain far from the main resorts. The sport was so counterculture that when Olympic organizers first asked competitors to do an exhibition at the Nagano games, many of the big names initially refused, and the rag-tag governing body denied the International Olympic Committee to even use the name “Boardercross,” which is why it’s listed on the Olympic program as Snowboard Cross despite the fact few of the riders use that term themselves.

So, what’s the point of all this excitement and open rebellion?  Well, in Edge of Glory my skier describes the sport of boardercross as a cross between BMX and a mountainside bar fight. I stand by that as a base explanation, but the full story is a little more complicated.

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In Olympic Snowboard Cross there are multiple heats or preliminary races featuring an early round of qualifying or seeding, followed by knockout or elimination heats where 4 or 6 racers are pitted against each other with the top half of the field moving on.  In each race, boarders or riders shoot out of gates atop a mountain course, then the fly over jumps, through turns, and past various obstacles all at the same time.  As they jockey for position, the riders often come into contact with each other, and while things like punching or deliberate tripping are frowned upon, elbows flying and shoulders bumping at high speeds is part of racing.  The first one across the line at the bottom wins.

At the end of each heat a certain number of riders, usually the top 2 or 3, advance to the next heat.

The subsequent races are generally run back to back with the entire event taking place in a single day.  This year the entire Men’s Snowboard Cross program will take place on February 14, and the entire women’s program on February 15.  It makes for a gruelling day for competitors and an exciting one for spectators.

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And one of the things I love best about this sport, aside from the speed and crush of bodies, is that everybody has a shot every time out. No lead is ever commanding enough for feel secure. I’ve seen big names get tripped up and go down right out of the gate.  I’ve seen people lead the entire way with no one else around, only to wipe out completely on the last jump, and I’ve seen people fall at the start of a race and look completely out of it, only to have every other rider crash later on, giving them a clear path to finish.

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Anything can happen at any point, and then the top riders in that race go right back up and run the same course again, so that someone who looked dominant the first time down might end up with a face full of snow fifteen minutes later.

Don’t take my word for it. Check out this race from 2006.

And while these riders do have a reputation for bucking both the tradition and formalities often associated with the Olympics, don’t let their laid-back natures fool you: They are top flight athletes.  If you want to see more of what goes into getting competition-ready, check out this video of legend Nate Holland’s training workouts. You might just catch a glimpse of where I got some reader-favorite scenes from Edge of Glory.

 

I hope I’ve convinced you to mark February 14 and 15 as important days on your Olympic viewing calendars (You all have Olympic viewing calendars, right?) but in the meantime, let’s give away some free books!

For an entry into this week’s drawing, leave me a comment telling me which Olympic sport you’d most like to compete in if you had all the necessary abilities.  I’ll announce the winner next week.

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January 25, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

   

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