Friday, August 9, 2013

My old friend Jamie, who... originally from Scotland, used to make fun of all the obscure events in which Americans won Olympic gold medals. "There's another sport," he'd chuckle, "that the Yanks invented just so they could be Number One in the World."

And sometimes I would nod my head in agreement. (I mean -- come on! -- women's beach volleyball? In bikinis, no less? Gee, I wonder who came up with that?)

So I thought of Jamie when I read about the Russian city of Saransk in the Times this morning. Apparently, the town is just crazy about race walking of all things, particularly women's. To give you an idea, here's a paragraph that I can guarantee you will never read in the United States:

Galina K. Vaskina, a waitress at the Big Ben sports bar, said that one night last winter, “A group of men were sitting here and drinking beer and they said, ‘Hey, can you put on female race walking?’ and so I did.”

But it was this last quote that really reminded me of Jamie:

“People criticize us by saying, ‘Well, yes, you win all the time, but that’s because nobody else in the world cares about this sport,’ ” said Mikhail M. Nikishin, a spokesman for the regional government. “And we say ‘Fine, but just try to catch these girls if you can.’ ” 

P. S. Check out that Russian woman in the video above. How can it be an Olympic sport if the gold medal winner isn't even out of breath?

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