By LMQC Battle of the Bulge blogger, Alan Sivell, St. Ambrose communications professor, RAGBRAI-er, pizza lover and longtime weight watcher.
As a kid, I loved watching the Olympics. I didn’t have the skill to win any sort of competition; not in my town, in my neighborhood or even on my block.
But I loved participating in the winter sports, especially skating at first and then skiing.
Back then, it was hard to find visual role models for winter sports.
There were only 3 networks to choose from, and certainly no 24-hour sports channels. So every 4 years when prime time Olympic programming came around, the whole family crowded in front of our single TV, night after night.
Carol Heiss, who won the gold medal in figure skating at the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics, was the first Olympian I remember being inspired by.
A few years later, it was Peggy Fleming’s elegance at Grenoble in 1968 that grabbed the country’s – and my – attention.
During winters in upstate New York, kids had 2 choices for fun after the school dismissal bell rang: read or play outside.
We did read, but we also skated and skied.
We skated every afternoon, after school, on weekends and sometimes at night, when my dad got home from work.
We could skate at night because my family had its own rink. Every winter, my dad would line the backyard with 2 X 10s and snake a hose out of the basement window to flood the area.
My sister Carol came first and she got white figure skates. When she outgrew them, they got passed down to my brother, Page, and then to me. Skating in our backyard with girls white figure skates was no problem. It was all in the family.
But as I got older and ventured out to the skating ponds and streams in town, the white figure skates became an issue. I told my parents I needed “boy” skates.
That Christmas morning, the first present I opened was a brand new (not hand-me-down!) pair of hockey skates.
I still remember the joy of that moment! I wanted to put those skates on right away and get on our rink.
My parents made me wait until all the other presents were opened.
While I loved those skates and kept using them for hockey long after I had outgrown them, I much preferred the solitary nature of figure skating.
In the quiet of our backyard, I could hear the steel blades gliding across the mirror of ice, and the occasional crunch of the sharpened edges digging in for a push off.
Watching the Olympics has always inspired me to get outside and strap on my skates.
The casual observer may have seen a middle-aged guy shuffling across the ice, cautiously avoiding other skaters. But inside, I was a 7-year-old with a brand new pair of skates floating across the ice of a backyard in upstate New York, spinning and landing jumps, just like Carol Heiss and Peggy Fleming.
These days, with 2 knee replacements, I’m not skating anymore. I’m hiking and riding my bike. At least that’s what it looks like to the casual observer. But inside, the boy still lives, eager to get onto the ice at the winter’s first chance.
|Meet Battle of the Bulge blogger, Alan Sivell. Alan is a communications professor at St. Ambrose University and a former reporter for WQAD-TV who has exercised – and dieted – his entire life. Read Alan’s other blog posts.|
February 15, 2018 at 6:29 pm
It makes me wonder, Prof., about those lugers, who must have been the crazy kids who’d dive with their Flexible Flyers down icy, steep hills with big grins on their faces, while I would shuffle home without braving the descent.
February 16, 2018 at 4:49 pm
I was in Innsbruck- years ago – after the Olympics and hiked up the mountain to see the bobsled run. It’s even scarier and steeper in person.
February 16, 2018 at 4:10 am
Alan, such great memories… like all of your blog entries… thanks for sharing !!
February 16, 2018 at 4:46 pm
Thanks, Bruce. When you sit down at the keyboard, at a performance or even in the basement, what goes through your mind?