by Tracy Kiely
Like my heroine, Elizabeth Parker, I have enjoyed a variety of sports, many of which are Olympic events.
Please note that I said “enjoyed” not “excelled at”. Let me illustrate the subtle difference.
Like most little girls who grew up in the seventies, I watched with breathless awe the images of Nadia flipping herself thought the air like a nimble house cat and dreamed of one day becoming an Olympian like her. Giving into my pleas, my parents signed me up for classes at a nearby gym taught by a Russian couple who were themselves ex-Olympians. At the first class they sat us down and sternly told us that “gymnastics came first, then school, then family.” I began to suspect that perhaps this wasn’t the sport for me. However, I gamely struggled to master the required skills. My personal torment was the windmill on the uneven bars. Despite my repeated attempts, I gained nothing but a giant raw raspberry on my inner thigh and the wrath of my coach. The only time I remember being excited about going to class was after a giant snow storm hit our area. “Today’s class is a make-up class,” my mother explained as we made our way to the gym. My disappointment upon realizing that we were not gathered on that particular Saturday to learn how to apply make-up was heartfelt and my final clue that gymnastics was not my sport.
I won the trophy for “Most Improved Swimmer.” I think that says it all.
Do you remember in high school gym class how there would always be those two girls who hung out in the back and whispered to each other during the game, only to squeal in surprise when the ball smashed them in the head? I was the one on the right.
I didn’t start skiing until I was twenty and only at the urging of my now husband. My husband comes from a large family all of whom ski. A lot. As in every blessed day after school a lot. On my first ski trip with his family, armed with only a few lessons, I bravely ventured down the imposing bunny slope in a frozen pizza stance determined to “tear it up.” My future father-in-law followed me down the hill alternately yelling “put your weight on the down hill ski!” and “use your poles!”
Well meaning, yes, but after ten minutes I wanted to stab him with one of my poles.
My husband’s family was very patient with me. At various points along the hill, they would stop and wait for me. All eight of them. In a goddamn row. And all, coincidentally, wearing red and blue ski jackets.
It was like vacationing with the von Trap family on skis.
I’ve been skiing for twenty years now, and I’ve just about mastered the parallel turn. So, I think we can all agree that perhaps skiing isn’t my Olympic event.
As I recently told one of my neighbors, if you see me running then you should be too. Ten to one, there’s a guy with a knife or a group of hungry zombies close behind me.
So, I think we can all agree that I should participate only as an Olympic spectator. However, my protagonist, Elizabeth, recently ventured into an event that I never have; fencing. To find out how she faired, however, you’ll need to read the latest installment in her sleuthing adventures, Murder Most Austen (St. Martins, September 3)
Oh, come on. What are the Olympics without crass advertising?