U.S. female Olympians provide surprising motivation — exercise

Written By By MARY MITCHELL Posted: 03/17/2014, 11:39am

For the first time ever, my eyes have been glued to the winter Olympic Games.

I usually keep up with the summer games and totally ignore the winter sports.

But every night since the games opened in Sochi, I’ve sat spellbound watching snowboarding, halfpipe (I didn’t even know there was such a thing), ice skating and skiing.

Maybe my newfound interest stems from the fact that our brutal weather has kept me cooped up inside tied to an iPad or laptop.

But after a week of Olympic fever, I’m energized.

The women who compete — let alone take home medals in the competitions — are fierce.

Frankly, the tricks these women performed on the halfpipe had me holding my breath.

Speaking as someone who would trip over my own feet growing up, I can’t imagine anyone having the confidence to throw themselves into the air while strapped to a snowboard, believing the whole time they were going to land in one piece.

Even more amazing, when these fierce competitors finished their death-defying stunts, they looked better than the models in CoverGirl commercials.

Take Julia Mancuso, for instance. She won her fourth Olympic medal on the third day of the Olympics. Mancuso earned the bronze for her performance in the Alpine skiing super combined.

When the routine “how-did-you-do-it” question came up, Mancuso told a Washington Post reporter: “I skied my heart out.”

And really, she looked like she was skiing her heart out.

Before the triumvirate of Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper swept the slopestyle ski competition — winning gold, silver and bronze — the women were stealing the show, if not the spotlight.

Hannah Kearney, who won a bronze medal in the freestyle mogul, got some media coverage before her event, but that just made it harder for her to appreciate her medal since she was positioned as a favorite for the gold.

But after this Olympics, I’m pretty sure more athletes may wind up thinking the pre-game media attention isn’t such a great spot after all.

No female Olympian came to the games with as much media hoopla as speedskater Shani Davis and the celebrity snowboarder Shaun White. Yet, both men failed to live up to that hype. Although they were gracious in defeat, you could see the disappointment beneath their forced smiles.

Meanwhile, the female athletes looked like they were enjoying every moment of the ride.

Kaitlyn Farrington was stunned after she won the gold in the halfpipe. Kelly Clark seemed genuinely thrilled to grab the bronze in the same event. Jamie Anderson soared to gold in the snowboarding competition. Erin Hamlin positively beamed when she snagged the bronze in the luge singles, becoming the first American to win a medal in that event.

I couldn’t watch these fearless women without wanting to run, jump, dance or as first lady Michelle Obama would say, just “get moving.”

So, while it might sound like the worst thing you could do is sit around staring at the TV, maybe it isn’t.

After watching these women, I was inspired enough to resurrect my neglected exercise routine.

Obviously the athletes who have contributed to the medals the United States have won thus far have made Americans especially proud.

All of the U.S. Olympians deserve praise for putting on a spectacular show at a time when many Americans could use a distraction.

But I’m especially appreciative of the female athletes. I give them all the credit for getting me off my butt and exercising.

Email: marym@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MaryMitchellCST

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