Olympics are deeper than just sports

Sam Arslanian | Daily Trojan

I spent my Friday night watching the Olympic gold medal game for men’s curling. I am not a curling fan. Before Friday, I had never watched curling; I didn’t know the rules of curling; and I didn’t understand how it was scored.

Team USA was an unlikely winner — all odds were against them.

After failing to make the cut for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the team’s skip and three-time Olympian John Shuster formed a “Team of Rejects” with three other spurned athletes. Shuster entered PyeongChang with the disappointment of not only his failure to qualify for Sochi but also an abysmal performance in Vancouver in 2010. Shuster and his teammates began PyeongChang with a mediocre performance in the round robin, failing to show their gold medal potential.

Nonetheless, the team made it to the semifinals to take on Canada (which has won the gold medal in men’s curling in the last three Winter Olympic Games). America took it to Canada resulting in a 5-3 victory to send the team to the finals, a feat that has never been accomplished by an American curling team.

As an longtime Olympic fanatic and proud U.S. citizen, I was very eager to see the stars and stripes compete for gold in their first Olympic curling gold medal game appearance.

After quickly looking up a brief explanation of the rules, objectives and strategies of curling, I was able to thoroughly enjoy every minute of the gold medal match. Curling is structured in a 10-round format. These rounds are referred to as ends. A team scores points by placing a stone closer to the center of the bullseye (referred to as “the house”) than their opponents after each team has thrown all of their stones. A team is able to score multiple points by landing multiple stones closer to the center of the house than their opponent.

USA and Sweden were tied at 5 points apiece heading into the eighth end. On a last stone effort, Team USA perfectly placed a takeout to eliminate two Swedish stones and secure 5 points. Not only did the eighth end double the U.S.’s score, but it also practically clinched their gold medal.

After watching the U.S. achieve the improbable, I couldn’t help but to feel a sense of deja-vu. This Cinderella story was exactly what I was talking about in last week’s column, “Olympic hockey is unrivaled excitement.” What I really should have titled it is: “The Olympics are unrivaled excitement.”

The underdog story we witnessed with the U.S. curling team is just one of the many unlikely success stories from PyeongChang. This Olympic games reminded me very much of “Miracle on Ice.” In both games, we saw a ragtag team of rejects take down a powerhouse to ultimately win gold. What more of a spectacle could you want? I live for these moments in sports.

These athletes deserve recognition and praise. Sure, curling might not be as dazzling as Nathan Chen’s figure skating routine or as high intensity as a Shaun White halfpipe performance, but the U.S. curling team delivered a strong message to its spectators: fall down seven times, get up eight. Whether you are a rising athlete, blue or white collar worker or a student like me, everyone can find a way to apply this lesson to their life.

Sports have a way of reaching audiences more successfully than many conventional ways. I have learned so many valuable lessons from playing and watching sports. Perhaps the most notable is to believe in myself. For a significant portion of my life, I doubted my abilities to perform. I never felt that I would be good enough or that I would live up to my own expectations. My baseball career taught me to live life like I played baseball: walk around with a chip on your shoulder and understand what you’re capable of.

When I was behind the plate, I knew I could throw out the guy stealing on me — I just had to believe I could do it. The same notion applies to my daily life as a student. I know I can write a solid paper for my WRIT 150 course — I just have to put my doubts aside and believe I can write a great paper.

All in all, I think the Olympics is truly a fascinating event that does so much more than entertain. I am truly sad that they are now over, but I am so glad we had the opportunity to learn so much from these spectacular athletes.

Sam Arslanian is a freshman majoring in journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Extra Innings,” runs Mondays.