Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring

Winter Games chills the fires of passion

The problem with being a self-confessed sports fanatic is the emotional baggage it comes with.

Once I decide to support a team or player, I’m all in.

I blindly follow my heart without consulting my brain on the various risks and rewards.

Obviously, more often than not, my preferred option ends up on the losing side and I get no return on the massive emotional investment I made. Just plenty of regret. Only until the next stop on the sporting calendar has me going through all the motions again.

I’ve even tried to con myself every now and again by writing off the Proteas completely ahead of a World Cup, but even that has backfired handsomely.

Because deep down I still secretly hope they will surprise me, I am still as disappointed as the guy who tipped them to win the trophy once the get knocked out prematurely. So actually, I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

But then every four years something comes along that seems to actually recharge my battered will to watch what I love.

Something called the Winter Olympics.

And two weeks of extensive exposure every four years is enough to open your eyes to a vastly different world to the one we find ourselves in in sunny South Africa.

The beauty of this all is that unlike my normal frame of reference, I have no affiliation with any team or athlete competing on the icy slopes and indoor arenas in Pyeongchang.

I didn’t know of most of the competitors’ existence and I wouldn’t even try and guess what the rules are in the various events.

Actually, my ignorance contributes largely to the enjoyment.

There isn’t the fear of that annoying phone call from your mate when his beloved Bulls beat your team, you don’t have to curse Morne Morkel for taking a wicket off a no-ball in front of your children or break a glass when your team concedes the match-winning goal in the referee’s added time.

None of that whatsoever.

I couldn’t care if it was the speed skater’s high angle around the last marker into the straight that cost her the gold medal, whether the snowboarder was too optimistic going for five rotations on his back flip or whether the break man was too slow getting into the bobsled.

All I see is athletes at the top of their game competing for the ultimate prize their sport has to offer.

Like a luger’s ability to glide his sled through a tough turn at 120km/h.

Or a ski jumper’s technique in clearing 200m.

What about a biathlete’s composure when hitting all five targets when his heart rate is racing after negotiating his skis up a hectic ascent?

I just love every moment the Winter Olympics has to offer, even the curling, a sentiment not shared by all my colleagues I might add. I can’t even sweep my kitchen floor properly, let alone guide a heavy boulder over acres of ice with a broom.

And the Games’ timing could hardly have been better. My sports-loving soul has been soothed in the nick of time for five months of gut-wrenching Super Rugby.

It sucks being a sucker for punishment.

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