nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Edinburgh is going to host a ski race! Not until February 2020, but nonetheless, Edinburgh is going to host a cross-country world cup ski race. This aforementioned bid has been successful, and it's hosting the first stage of a tour that will then to go Sweden and Norway. As you can imagine, I am quite excited.

Unsurprisingly, there's not a lot of news on it in English, but I'm amused that translated press release includes my anticipated virtuous comment about getting more countries involved. It should be brilliant, I just hope it doesn't pour with rain. It wouldn't be a problem for the snow, but it would make spectating a lot less fun.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Two years ago I posted a clip of a bloke in a predominently white suit beginning the clip in 5th place and going on to win the race a minute later. I can't quite manage that this time round, but I can do a bloke in a white suit entering the clip in 6th place and going to to get fourth, 2.9 seconds of the leader, which is pretty bloody impressive when you're British and the sport is cross-country skiing. Although the Norwegian press swiftly labelled him, only part-sarcastically, as the best Norwegian since he trains there, has a Norwegian club, and is studying at the Univeristy of Trondheim, and pointed out that he beat all the Swedes, too. So congratulations to Andrew Musgrave. The Nordic Ski World Championships greatly cheered my post-holiday week, alas only two weekends left and then I'll have to find something else to iron to.

nineveh_uk: Picture of fabric with a peacock feather print. (peacock)
If there is one thing that the EU ought to have done and has failed to do, it is to standardise the labelling on women's clothing. I don't care which system we adopt, but when 38, 40, 42 are the same size** depending which country of various adjacent countries you are in, it is unhelpful.

Which is to say that the mail order clothing from this post has arrived. Alas, though the ski jacket is a very acceptable shade of pinky lilac, I gambled on the sizing because they didn't have mine and it is far too small. I knew that was a risk, because they didn't have my best guess as to my size, but it is so small that it might be that they did have my size, it's just that my assumption the Czech Republic uses German sizing rather than French was wrong. However I suspect that two sizes up will be far too big around the ribs (for some reason ski jackets always are. Come on, amateurs are not built like Olympians), so I may not bother trying again. Annoyingly the retailer has some gorgeous Halti jackets and I know what size I am in those because I borrowed my sister's, but if I ordered one it wouldn't arrive until I was actually on holiday. So I think that I might leave it for now and see if there are any sales when I get there.

Naturally, after the above, the Norwegian thermals I bought in the same order put the "long" into "long underwear", and I am going to need to chop 1.5 inches off the legs and fold back the wrist cuffs a bit. But I am keeping them because they are otherwise excellent and the only ones I've seen that have wool on the outside and polyester on the inside, so they should manage to be warm and not smelly and not itchy. The latter can never be guaranteed, but fingers crossed.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
The member of the audience leaping to the action to save the show is familiar from real life as well as 42nd Street. Singers do, after all, get coughs. The occasional actor will break a leg. If you're lucky, it happens in time for the management to get Thomas Allen fresh off the plane. If you're really lucky you're the student in the audience who happens to know the role, as happened to Patrick McCarthy years earlier when Thomas Allen was taken ill.* Of course, understudies exist, and most of the time the 'emergency' performer is well-rehearsed. It happens in sport, too, though again usually the person stepping up is someone who was going to do it anyway at some point.

And sometimes they are Lars Høgnes, a 36 year old waxing technician who works for the Norwegian World Cup team and found himself taking the third leg in the relay for the second team after one of the skiers got food poisoning. Høgnes is actually a good club skier with a couple of team relay medals from national championships as a young man, but he never reached the top level. In true Scandinavian style he was sent off with the comment from the team spokesperson that "He's probably not very good". They did come last (minus Kazakhstan, who were lapped), but at least they were there.

Meanwhile, today's example of something I don't need in my life, a woollen sports bra.

*I learned today that Thomas Allen's middle name is Boaz. That's north-eastern mining communities for you.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
A far too belated rec for a birthday fic from [personal profile] naraht: Marginal Gains. It’s the Yuri on Ice doping fic the fandom needed: fun, well-characterised, and tackling a subject inexplicably absent from the fandom. I see that it has now turned from one chapter to 1/3, and await the next with much excitement. It was particularly well-timed in view of Friday’s McLaren Report II on state-sponsoring doping in Russian sport. As a cross-country ski fan I await with interest the revelations of any names…

I am still failing to find time for fic, but hopefully might manage more of it from the end of the week when I have a fortnight off work.

In other news, I shall be going to a work ‘winter school’ in Barcelona in March for a week. Most exciting! I have never been to mainland Spain and can’t speak a word of Spanish beyond ‘gracias’, which I probably pronounce incorrectly. It is a joint European universities initiative thing, and the theme of this one turns out to be ‘internationalism’, which might explain why I got in since my application leaned heavily on the subject of ‘you should give me a place because post-Brexit, British universities need all the European connections they can get.’ On the downside, I believe it involves networking.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Edinburgh may host a ski race in 2020!

Ahem. Unfortunately, I can't find a news story in English*, but in short, the Norwegian and Swedish national cross-country ski bodies have submitted a bid to the International Ski Federation to host a multi-stage tour in February 2020. This would, unsurprisingly, be held in Sweden and Norway, with the rather more surprising exception of the opening race, to be held in Edinburgh!

This is not actually as daft as it sounds. Snow always has to be carted in for city races anyway, there will be stored snow available at that time of year, and the temperatures will be low enough to sustain it for a few days. As I have said before, it is a good deal less stupid than holding the Winter Olympics in Beijing. The Norwegian ski federation already works with the British ones on matters of mutual interest**, and the press release gets to say something virtuous about the importance of inviting more nations to be involved with world cup races. I'm not sure when decisions are made, but my fingers are going to be firmly crossed!

*In Norwegian.

**I.e. British access to snow and resources, Norwegian brownie points for working with a small nation in the sport.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I have spent much of the weekend watching the Olympics and sewing a top. I haven't finished the top*, but I've seen quite a bit of sport. Some time ago [personal profile] frankie_ecap asked me (in a nicer way than this is about to sound!) what the interest is in skiing in watching a bunch of people go down the same course one after the other. Which is a fair point, even if your favourite sort of skiing is the one where people go along the same course one after the other. Sometimes for 50km.**

It is the Olympics. I like the Olympics. I mostly like the athletics, but in a dull moment I will watch pretty much anything. In the Winter Olympics I endeavour to watch absolutely everything bar curling and short-track speed skating.

You see, the thing about sport is that while it adds extra interest to have a technical understanding of what is going on, it isn't actually necessary. It's fairly easy in a lot of events (not sailing) to tell who is doing better, even if you can't really tell why. Tennis idiots like me could see this year that though the Wimbledon final was going with serve, Murray was winning his games more easily and so was going to win. It's like ballet: I'm sure that it adds to the experience of watching Swan Lake to grasp the technical finesse with which the prima ballerina executes those jumps, whatever they are, but personally I just enjoy the music and the spectacle. I can tell that that series of jumps was incredibly difficult and visually spectacular and harder than the jumps the chorus did. That suffices, as long as there's a plot. And the great thing about sport is there is always a plot. It may be a plot I don't give a damn about (most football*** and golf), but there's usually a plot, and it's a plot that you can follow.

Sometimes the plot is a simple one: how far can I throw this discus? But within even that simple plot there is strategy and risk and human outcome**** and a narrative that can be gripping. Take last night's men's 10,000m. There's an argument that with Mo Farah as favourite to win and retain his 2012 title, plus two World Championships in between, this would be a dull race, but that would be to mistake the outcome for the sole interest. For as well as the outcome what matters is how the race was won. In this case, the question of how the rest of the field can attempt to beat the unbeatable. What must they do? Knowing what they must do, can they do it? Often no, when the slim chance of victory comes with the high risk of sacrifice.

As a fan of cross-country skiing, how to beat the unbeatable is great. You get to see the superb performer perform. You get to see the competition trying to win, and sometimes even succeeding, albeit not at the moment against Farah. They can only win by going early, but to go early risks all. How much do you need to understand the theory and tactics of distance running to appreciate the magnificence when Farah unleashes those spindleshank legs with such power? And that's only the plot of one race, within a season, within a decade, within the history of the sport, within a life, and each of those has a narrative - and that's before you get to the human interest element.****** I have to admit that when it comes down to it what I like about sport is the atavistic element of the hunt, the person ahead who is mercilessly hunted down. 100m is exciting, but it's short. 5000m, or multiple rounds, and you can chase and pursue and destroy. Absolutely it's fascinating and courageous when Etenesh Diro in the steeplechase heats runs the second half without a shoe, but the really exciting bit to me is someone who has got behind and has only one shoe and then has to run to overtake as many people as possible. The hunt is on again.

I can't throw, I can't jump, though once I could run a little, but I really like watching other people doing it.

*The free Sorbetto pattern. It would have been quick had I not decided to add sleeves (additional pattern on the internet), and then chosen to add cuffs to the sleeves. With the hem, neck, and setting-in one sleeve to go I decided that I would like to do a few other things this weekend. It will look good eventually.

**You can get an amazing amount of ironing done to a 50km time trial. There's a reason I haven't had an empty ironing basket since April.

***Even so I can acknowledge the epic quality of Leicester City's Premier League victory this year, with bonus 'second time farce' Gary Linekar's pants story.

****I never thought I gave a damn about the discus until I was watching yesterday, when it was won by surprisingly dapper German Christoph Harting, whose brother won in 2012, as the penultimate competitor in the final round. And then the silver medalist (Piotr Małachowski, a man who looks like a proper old-fashioned discus thrower), who must surely have thought he'd won, gave an impressive display of dealing with unexpectedly not winning with great dignity.*****

*****Unlike the US women's football goalie, whose comments on losing to Sweden were hilarious.

******For a supreme example of this, Jörgen Brink's infamous collapse in the 2003 cross-country skiing world championships men's relay. Vindicated a decade later when it turned out that he had a heart condition.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
The UK has a podium place in a World Cup cross-country ski race! A third for Andrew Young in the sprint. This is the best result by a British Nordic skier ever*, and absolutely fantastic. It was in a field containing all the top racers, at a point of the year on which they are on good form, won by the on-form Italian Pellegrino, so it's a major race to have done well in. Seldom have I shouted so hard from the sofa as I did yesterday lunchtime. Young is the bloke in the white-ish suit with a union jack on the right leg, wearing number 3.



The total absence of snow surrounding the arena is a less cheery sight. The UK is not the only place having a ridiculously warm autumn.

*In a stand-alone race. Andrew Musgrave had the fastest time in a stage race last year, but as it was a stage it isn't officially counted as a victory. Of course, I count it as a victory.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
The world's best cross-country skier, Marit Bjørgen, has spared us* from the agony of waiting any longer, and announced that she is going to continue for at least another year. Huge cheers all round. Except possibly from Sweden.

Ed. Apparently DW (and now LJ as well) hates that photo. Photo on LJ, have a video here instead:


*OK, in this venue, me. But also the population of Norway. Someone's even recorded a song on the subject.

**As opposed to retiring in order to have children. This is the bugger of being a woman in a sport in which people perform well in their 30s. You have to choose, year by year, one or the other, because realistically it isn't possible to step out of the highest level and come back.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
The last couple of weeks have been enlivened by the Nordic Skiing World Championships. As outside Scandinavia this is of limited interest, I have refrained from going on about it, but I cannot entirely resist. It was fabulous, and a great comfort when I was lying limply on the sofa with the latest bug that’s going around.

Anyway, this is not about skiing technicalities. This is about narrative. Because I have to admit that what I really like in a race, any kind of race, is the concept of pursuit. My favourite races are largely those in which Person A gets out in front, and Person B mercilessly hunts them down. So although the man is a complete tosser, and if I were a cross-country skier I would probably be considering taking out a contract on Petter Northug’s life, this really is a fabulous 1 min 30 seconds of an absolutely brilliant finisher destroying the competition (Norwegian commentary, sorry, but they are really enthusiastic. Northug is the bloke in the white, unfortunately transparent suit, who enters the clip in fifth place).



I try very hard to come up with descriptions of Northug that don’t involve phallic or masturbatory comparisons, but it cannot be done. A friend and I once had an entire conversation about him in which every sentence basically went “He’s such a wanker, but...” with variations that despite our best efforts did not get very far. It is probably not his fault that whereas some people suffer from resting bitchface, Northug suffers from resting sneerface. He personifies the line from Twelfth Night, ‘Oh, what a deal of scorn looks beautiful/ In the contempt and anger of his lip!’ ‘Beautiful’ is rather pushing it, but he really does do galactic-standard sneering. Actors playing Evil Nazis could model themselves on him.

The problem is, that while were there to be a World Championships in Being a Total Knobhead, Northug would undoubtedly be a strong contender*, he is also a really good skier. He is not the world’s best technical skier, which honour belongs to his female compatriot, Marit Bjørgen**, but when it comes to grinding your opponents into the dust with +2m planks strapped to your feet, he is the winner. In any case, it makes for massively entertaining viewing.

*At the end of this ski season, Northug’s next destination is 50 days in the Norwegian prison system due to crashing his car while drunk driving in May, which also involved speeding, leaving the scene of the crime, and lying to the police about who was driving.

** Bjørgen is basically the Roger Federer of cross-country skiing. Like Federer, and unlike Northug, she also manages to be a nice person.

Athletics

Aug. 2nd, 2014 07:00 pm
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
Back from Edinburgh after a pleasant, if occasionally a trifle hectic, couple of days. The weather and the horror of the Festival traffic do not incline me towards it as a place to live.
The chief purpose of my visit was to go to the Commonwealth Games athletics on Thursday night, which turned out to be excellent. I have been to athletics events before, but not for some time, and this was great, despite a bit of rain. I say a bit, words cannot express how glad I am not to be a long jumper competing (or officiating) in the rain. The people raking the sand had it worst. The stands, happily, were roofed.

(Photo on LJ)

And then there was the mass karaoke to The Proclaimers...

I am sorry to be missing tonight, having come back for a wedding* tomorrow, but on the plus side, I’m not getting rained on between the park and ride bus stop and the stadium.**

*Reception. The ceremony was a fortnight ago in Moscow.

**Humph. Dad has just phoned to tell me they are there, not too wet, and have amazing seats.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
No Commonwealth Games tickets for me - but fortunately success for Middle Sister* and Dad, so I will still be going to two excellent athletics sessions, including the final night. So I don't get the men's 10,000m or steeplechase, but I do get the relay finals, women's 5000m and pole vault, men's 1500m, and triple jump, 200m and 800m heats/semis, and a number of para-sport events.

That's the last weekend in July. The first weekend in July is equally exciting on a sporting front, as the Grand Depart of the Tour de France will be in Leeds with a loop into the Yorkshire Dales, ending in Harrogate. This means that it passes about 2 miles from my parents' house, as well as some particularly pretty Wharfedale scenery. Stage 2, Sheffield to York is less good: it is nearly 10 miles away*. Needless to say, I shall be getting on a crowded train Up North.

For those not acquainted with upper Wharfedale, which is not as sublime as the alps, but certainly picturesque, in a bones poking through the fragile earth sort of way, it looks in July like this.

*Once again confirming her position as one of the luckier people on the planet. As she is there, I can confidentally promise good results for England in those sessions - it worked for the UK at the Olympics.

**And lucky Harrogate gets it twice.

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