Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Horse-drawn Ski Racing Was Almost An Olympic Sport

Skijoring is a Norwegian word that roughly translates as ski driving, or driving on skis; its taken from kjring, which means driving, and ski, which means ski. As you can clearly see from the video, the sport of skijoring requires balance, agility, a talent for ring-grabbing, and a love for classic guitar-driven rock 'n' roll. In 2009 the Boston Globe reported that, these days, a typical course runs 1,000 feet and features 12 slalom gates, six jousting rings that a skier must grab, and three ramp-like jumps ranging from 2-6 feet in height." So, basically, its skiing meets the rodeo meets Medieval Times . Why isnt this on every network in America? Skijoring began in Norway in the 19th century as a way to speed the transmission of army dispatches, according to E. John B. Allen in The Culture and Sport of Skiing . It soon grew popular in many parts of the world among people with daredevil spirits and unfettered access to draft animals and rope. Horsemanship was one of the aristocracys remaining differences from the urban masses, so the appeal of skijoring was a natural one, writes Allen. Children were pulled by dog and pony, British officers in India tried it behind a yak, Sami behind reindeer, and men from the industrial world behind motorcycle, car, and even airplane. Competitive skijoring was included in the Nordic Games a nationalistic celebration of cold-weather sport that was the predecessor to the Winter Olympicsin the first decade of the 20th century, where it caught the eye of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics. Coubertin was a fan of weird sports with militaristic overtoneshe invented the modern pentathlon , a Summer Olympic event involving gunplay and horsemanship, as a test of skill for cavalry officersso his appreciation for skijoring came as no big surprise. He expressed his hope that there might one day be room for skijoring in the Olympic Games. (Coubertin was not a huge fan of non-horse-drawn skiing, apparently. According to an essay in The Olympics at the Millennium , he thought downhill skiing was hardly a sport to uphold his Olympic ideals of international peace and reconciliation shrouded under the auspices of antiquity. I shudder to think what he would say about ice dancing.) Coubertin eventually got his wish, as skijoring was made an Olympic demonstration sport at the St. Moritz Games, in 1928. These were the days when getting towed on skis by horses and/or dogs was a primary mode of transportation for much of the world, and yet only seven people competed in the mass-start skijoring event. And it was sort of boring. (Skiboring, you might say.) The event, which was held on a frozen lake, included no jumps or slalomsjust seven dudes on skis getting pulled behind riderless horses. When the race was concluded, apparently no one even bothered to write down the victors first names .
For the original version visit http://www.slate.com/blogs/five_ring_circus/2014/02/18/skijoring_horse_drawn_ski_racing_was_almost_an_olympic_sport.html

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