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Olympians turning music into gold

Snowboard and freestyle skiing competitors are unique in that their uniforms allow them to wear earbuds along with their preferred music device — and the Washington Post reports that slopestylers at the Winter Olympics are using that loophole to their benefit, competing with a personal soundtrack pumped straight into their ears.

The most popular genres among the snowboarders the Post surveyed? Hip-hop and R&B. Chloe Kim played “Motorsport” by Atlanta-based rap trio Migos when she blasted her way to a slopestyle gold medal, while slopestyle skier Devin Logan competed while listening to Kendrick Lamar. Fellow ski slopestyler Darian Stevens opted for smoother sounds — playing “Caught Up” by Usher during her run.

The practice is trendy and convenient, but does it work? Depends on the athlete.

Some competitors interviewed by the Post said they didn’t use earbuds because aural cues from the surrounding environment help them perform. Swedish slopestyler Niklas Mattsson said he likes to hear the sound of his board, which in turn means ditching earbuds while he rides.

But for other athletes, in-competition music is normal and natural — and often helpful, according to Matthew Stork, a PhD student at UBC studying the link between music and performance.

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“There’s an innate human tendency to synchronize movement with musical rhythm,” Stork told the Post. “Music has the potential to put athletes in a spot mentally or emotionally where they’re able to operate or perform in a more optimal way.”

Snowboarding gold medallist Chloe Kim competes with "Motorsport" by Migos pumping through her earbuds.
Snowboarding gold medallist Chloe Kim competes with “Motorsport” by Migos pumping through her earbuds.  (Cameron Spencer / GETTY IMAGES)

KOREAN OVAL, CANADIAN ICE: Early in Monday’s team pursuit speedskating event, a trio of women from the Netherlands set an Olympic record. Later on, Korean skater Min Kyu Cha broke the Olympic standard in the men’s 500 metres, only to watch eventual gold medallist Havard Lorentzen of Norway shave a hundredth of a second off his time.

If three Olympic records in a single evening signal that the ice at Pyeongchang’s oval is fast, thank a Canadian.

Monday morning, the Wall Street Journal reported that organizers recruited a crew of eight technicians – mostly from Canada, with a couple of Americans – to drive Zambonis and otherwise keep the ice surface flawless and fast.

As the Star’s Kerry Gillespie reported before the Games, creating optimal speedskating ice is a science unto itself. The ice comes from water purified well beyond even the most stringent drinking standards, and kept warm in Zambonis before it’s applied to existing ice. Technicians explained to the WSJ that holding the water at 71.1C eliminates air bubbles that make ice less durable.

And each time an Olympic record falls, the ice technicians celebrate.

They take every skater’s success personally.

“This ice is fast,” Canadian technician Matt Sanders told the WSJ. “When a record gets broken it’s like we won gold, too.”

HEY, BEER MAN: Sunday morning, the New York Times chronicled curling’s transformation from a pastime for weekend warriors to a sleeker, sexier sport full of fine-tuned athletes. For a moment the sport seemed set to shed its image as something you do before — or even while — downing a few pints.

Curling’s arms race has grown so intense that Russian Alexander Krushelnytsky, a bronze medallist in the mixed doubles event, failed a post-event drug screening.

Enter Shawn Germain, retired minor-league hockey player and husband of Canadian curler Rachel Homan.

Germain was spotted on TV holding a full cup of beer in each hand while Homan competed against Japan. Later on in the match he appeared on screen again, with two more beers.

Homan’s squad earned an 8-3 win over Japan to even their record in the Olympic tournament at 3-3. And Germain proved that the culture of curling hasn’t gone all the way Hollywood — yet.


TORONTO STAR