Thursday, February 18, 2010

Luge Track Equality

Everyone's heard about Nodar Kumaritashvili of Georgia who had an unfortunate accident on the luge track that ended in his death. It was pretty sucky all around for everyone. Including all of the competitors. (And me, I got pretty drunk because of that damn drinking game.)

Once they put up the walls protecting them from the steel beams, some of them were probably fine with the changes. They made the track safer, all was better.

Then they also moved the start positions. The men moved to the women's start and their speeds dropped. The German who won - his speed was just slightly over 91mph.

The women's start was moved to the junior's start, 800 feet below their original start point, where they are now entering the course into turn six. Canada's Meaghan Simister likened the new start to driving "into what is basically an ice wall."

Did you watch the women? I felt horrible for them. None of them got a good start coming into turn six. It was painful to watch. They hadn't practiced it. I was upset about the whole thing.

Germany's Tatjana Huefner won gold after the 10 curves of the Whistler track, topping out at 84 mph. I tried to find women's speeds from the 2006 games, but I couldn't. I have no idea if these speeds were much faster than normal or not. I've been complaining all week to anyone who would listen about why couldn't the ladies also start from the women's start? Why did the men and women have to have different starts after all of this, anyway?

I mean, wasn't a a man who died? Weren't most of the crashes they were showing me on my TV from other competitors MEN? Why were they punishing the women? Were they, too, really having trouble with the track? Because I haven't heard that they were. The only things I heard were complaints: that the track was shorter, that it was punishing those who were strong starters, that they felt like they were on the kiddie run. So why couldn't they start from the original women's start, where the men were?

The answer, it turns out, is considered a strength issue. Luge requires upper body strength to push off and to maneuver the sled at high speeds. Based on the assumption that women are less able to handle the hurtling speeds safely, they typically start about 200 meters down the track from the guys, and thus, go slower. Some would also say that sexism tradition plays a role. Just as women's hockey doesn't allow checking (boo), women's luge differs from men's because of concern for their well-being.

So, why then, do we get to have the same downhill and snowboard cross tracks?

Equality for all!

I will let you know, Olympics people, downhill and snowboarding were much more fun and interesting to watch than the luge this year.

Oh, Canada...

End Blog.

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