We’re a few days into the Winter Olympics, which, although I barely keep one-tenth of an eyeball on them, have reminded me that being a world-class athlete is no protection against sex discrimination. If you’re a chick, anyway.
The games were marred even before the opening ceremonies on Friday by the horrible death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. In response to the tragedy, and to another near-accident by Italian Armin Zoeggeler (no amateur, he later won bronze) that same day, officials decided to lower the starting point for all lugers: men would be launching from what had previously been the women’s starting point, shortening their track by 600 feet, and the women would be starting from the “junior women’s” starting point, which gave them 800 fewer feet to build up speed.
Disappointment is to be expected; all the athletes trained and strategized based on requirements of the longer course, and complained about losing their edge. Canadian Meaghan Simister’s lament was common: “I haven’t taken one run from [the new starting point] until today. I trained for two years from the ladies’ start. The best part of luge for me is the start and that was ripped from my grasp. It’s tough, but everyone has to do it.”
Male lugers were also disappointed, and while I don’t blame them for that, I am pretty irritated by the gendered language they in which they couched their complaints.
Canadian luger Ian Cockerline was totally bummed, dude: “It takes a lot of the excitement out of it. It’s a little tougher to get yourself psyched up to race when you start from the women’s start.” American Tony Benshoof complained that using the lower entrance ramp was humiliating: “I excel at high speeds and high risk. Unfortunately, they lowered the start and it’s like running the downhill men’s ski race down a bunny hill. It’s a whole different deal.”
This “whole different deal” means that male lugers were topping out around 90 mph (faster than the speed Kumaritashvili was travelling at the point of his fatal accident), rather than 95. The track at Whistler is already considered the fastest in the world, approximately 10 mph “faster” than any other.
Comments on Olympic-watchers sites continue the theme of ewww, girl-stuff:
Come on, do you really think the male luger’s [sic] want to go from the womens [sic] start???
I’m not a luger, I don’t understand the physics of the sport, but why are the starting points separated by gender, anyway? And why is the women’s starting point also being lowered–even more than the men’s was? Gotta maintain that double-standard, I guess…
And on a similar theme: women aren’t allowed to ski jump?