I am always in awe of the cross-country skiers at the Winter Olympics; how fast those men and women negotiate the 5K, 10K, 30K, and even 50K courses, propelling themselves by legs and arms over uneven terrain in the cold, sometimes winning or losing by mere inches, and expending every last ounce of energy as they crumble exhausted to the snow after crossing the finish line. Various measures like VO2 Max have confirmed they are the fittest athletes.
Every time I watch cross-country skiers on TV, I'm reminded of a wonderful gesture by one of those Nordic giants. At the Nagano Winter Olympics, Norway’s Bjorn Daehlie won the 10K cross-country skiing event for the sixth gold medal of his illustrious career. In that same race, Kenya’s Phillip Boit finished last in his country’s Winter Olympics debut, taking nearly twice as long as the winner to navigate the course. But when Boit bravely crossed the finish line in 93rd place, Daehlie was waiting there in the cold to offer a hand and a hug. “I told him I was very impressed that he finished,” said the Olympic superstar. “It’s good for people from other nations to compete.” Thus began the start of a long friendship between the two. Boit even named one of his sons after the Norwegian legend.
I still have yet to try cross-country skiing; typically we don't receive enough snow to keep up a good trail. Except for this winter. We are getting hammered by another heavy dose of the white stuff. Even before this current storm, our Philadelphia region had recorded more snow this winter than Maine and even Buffalo, New York. Many more days like this and I'll have to seriously consder purchasing some cross-country skies. Is it hard to learn? Otherwise I could always think about going out West or up to a Vermont resort where they have miles of groomed trails and beginner's classes. For now, with all this snow, it looks like more treadmill running and indoor track workouts for me in the foreseeable future!