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Last Word A convert to short track sets out to spread the gospel to nonbelievers

Last Word A convert to short track sets out to spread the gospel to nonbelievers

There are unbelievers here in Salt Lake City, heathens who have
refused to become members of our Church of the Short Track.
These sinners dismiss short track as Roller Derby on ice, make
blasphemous references to the Daytona 500 and kneel at the altar
of traditional speed skating as if the path to salvation were
one long glide on a Dutch canal. They mock 1,000-meter winner
Steven Bradbury of Australia as a serendipitous surfer unfit to
carry the boots of Apolo Anton Ohno, even though Bradbury made
them.

This is an article from the Feb. 20, 2002 issue

We of the Church of the Short Track, who worship each
quadrennial at the Temple of Apolo, pray for their lost souls.
We do not believe ours is the one true sport of the Winter
Olympics, just the best. As Dan Weinstein of the U.S. men's
5,000-meter relay said, quoting Chapter 1, Verse 1 of The Book
of Short Track, "In our sport, you don't tell someone to break a
leg. You tell them to turn left and go fast." Amen.

That men's 1,000-meter race--to be remembered forever by our
people as Saturday Night at the Apolo--is not the unmitigated
disaster the heathens would make it but the very crux of our
belief. The medals were won by those who knew how to temper
their speed and skill with strategy and courage. Bradbury stayed
out of traffic and slipped by the wreckage in the final corner,
but Ohno and Canada's Mathieu Turcotte crawled and clambered
their way to the finish line. There was something primal to that
race, stripping these Olympics of frilly skating costumes and
rock music blaring at the halfpipe and returning it to the
essence of sport: head-to-head competition.

This is our article of faith.

Follow your false figure skating or Alpine skiing gods if you
must, but grant us this: When you watch a short-track race, you
immediately know who won. You don't have to glance at a
scoreboard to see if a giant slalom racer's time was the fastest
or check the scores to see if a French judge was filing her
nails at the time. (At moguls you have to do both.) The central
problem with the Winter Games, as opposed to its brawny
short-sleeved cousin, the Summer Games, is that too many events
are shrouded in the subjectivity of judging or dependent on time
rather than first-one-across-the-line or
team-with-the-most-points wins. There are 78 medal events in
Salt Lake City. Only 27 are contested directly, which is why we
in the Church of the Short Track also have an abiding admiration
for hockey, curling, biathlon and cross-country skiing pursuits
and relays. Of course, eight of the events that harken to the
genesis of sporting life--"Hey, Eve, race you to the serpent's
tree"--are short track.

One other thing. In the relays, men and women are allowed to
give their teammates a shove in the bottom--the so-called tush
push--to speed their journey to the finish. This might be the
only place in Salt Lake City you can see that. --Michael Farber