If you’re like most Americans, you probably haven’t given winter sports much thought since the 2006 Winter Olympics. But with the 2010 Games set to get cranking in Vancouver, you’ll want to sound knowledgeable. Couple this cheat sheet with a Scandinavian accent and you’ll be golden! (Get it? Like a GOLD medal!)
>>> What the Heck is:
Skeleton: Like luge, but participants go down the track headfirst. This slightly alters the Doppler effect of the screaming human speeding by you at 80 mph.
Short track speed skating: Basically, roller derby on ice, only less orderly and with many, many, many more Koreans.
Curling: Competitors slide “stones” along a patch of ice and then use brooms to melt the ice in path of the stones so they stop in specific places. Extra points if you avoid the sawdust the janitor threw down over that little girl’s vomit.
Biathlon: This event combines cross country skiing and shooting a rifle. And it will give Kevin Costner the idea for a $700 million budget movie called “Snow World”.
Snowboardcross: A race that’s basically motocross on a snowboard. As long as we’re making up ridiculous sports, any chance we could give out medals for snow fort building?It’s our chance for Olympic glory.
Super G: A very fast downhill skiing slalom race. Not to be confused with “Supa G,” which generally refers to Nate Dogg.
Nordic Combined:Obviously, this event combines the two things Nordic nations like best: white people and disgusting pickled foodstuffs. Whichever blonde wolfs down the most herring in an hour takes the gold!
>>> Did You Know?
– That the skiing-and-shooting combination of biathlon was originally inspired by a hugely successful string of liquor store robberies in Sweden?
– That the Vancouver Games’ mascots, Sumi, Quatchi, and Miga, were taken from a rejected shirt submission to Threadless and will now haunt your dreams for weeks?
– That curling was invented by an obsessive-compulsive Canadian housewife who insisted on sweeping her family’s backyard pond each morning?
– That the Opening Ceremony has a budget of $40 million? Pathetic. For the Beijing Games, China spent that much just on adult diapers so their performers could practice 20 hours a day.
– That Ethiopia is sending a one-athlete delegation to the Games? His job is to fill up his pockets with as much free grub from the Olympic Village as he can, and then get the hell out of there.
– That NBC Winter Olympics host Bob Costas in preparation for the Games has learned more than 12,000 facts about winter sports, the Olympics and Canada? Do you have any idea how sad that is?
>>> Names to Know:
Mirai Nagasu: America’s 16-year-old figure skating phenom. Cheer for her, because if she doesn’t win, her parents might not let her eat until the 2014 Games are over. BECAUSE SHE WON’T DESERVE TO!
Apolo Anton Ono: Japanese-American Dancing with the Stars champion who also dabbles in short track speed skating and competitive soul patch growing. His five Olympic medals are impressive. But scoring with Mormon dance partner Julianne Hough would have been way more impressive.
Lindsey Vonn: American downhill skiing phenom who is currently struggling with a bruised shin. Pray for her, America; she’s our best hope. Plus, she’s cute! It’s like we finally got our wish of having a female Picabo Street.
Bode Miller: Think of every insufferable, self-righteous hippie a-hole you’ve ever met. Now, put them on skis. You’ve pretty much got the picture.
Shani Davis: American speed skater who is already the first black athlete to win an individual medal at the Winter Olympics. Try not to make racist comparisons to African-American basketball stars when describing his dominance. He’s like the Larry Bird of speed skating.
Shaun White: If you don’t already know who Shaun White is, you must really not care about sports. And we are very, very jealous of your not knowing who Shaun White is.
Count Jacques Rogge: Belgian orthopedic surgeon who is the head of the International Olympic Committee. He seems legit, but keep an eye on him. We’ve seen too many movies to trust a European count with an accent like that; he’s probably on the verge of unveiling his weather-control device.
Sidney Crosby: He’s been a Canadian legend since he was a small boy. At age 22, he’s already won a Stanley Cup and been named NHL MVP. Yet if his Canadian hockey team fails to win gold in Vancouver, he will be tarred and feathered (or syruped and beaver-haired as they do it in Canada).
Liu Yan: Chinese figure skating champion. She’s listed as being 25 years old, which means that she likely just turned seven. Wish her a happy birthday!
Johnny Weir – American figure skater. He is considered a very flamboyant skater. And that’s by the figure skating community. Really. He once dressed in a swan costume. Unfortunately, his experimental alt-pop is not nearly as good as Bjork’s.
Helena Jonsson: Ha! Like you didn’t already know who the best female biathlete in the world was. Very funny. What’s next, you’re going to tell us you don’t remember Justyna Kowalczyk winning last year’s cross-country skiing world title?
Stephen Colbert – The guy you’ll be getting most of your Winter Olympics news from.
>>> What’s the Difference?
Between Figure Skating and Ice Dancing: Pretty much the same, except ice dancing has less jumping, and the guys’ fathers are 40% more ashamed of their parenting choices.
Between Downhill and the Giant Slalom: Bode Miller will achieve faster speeds while failing to medal in the downhill than he will while failing to medal in the giant slalom.
Between a Triple Lutz, a Triple Salchow and a Triple Axel: Wait for the figure skating TV commentator to say "Triple Lutz!", "Triple Salchow"! or "Triple Axel!"
Between the Winter Olympics and the Summer Olympics: NBC loses even more money during the Winter Olympics. It’s like Jay Leno’s show on skates.
Between Canada and the United States: Who knows. Maybe we’ll find out in the next two weeks! YAY!