Go for the gold

February 25, 1994|By Anna Quindlen

THE In-Home All-Kid Winter Olympics began on the second school snow day of the year. The opening ceremonies consisted of eating Honey Nut Cheerios out of the box and singing along loudly to the Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen anthem from the Ren and Stimpy show.

"You be Nancy," said the representative of the third grade to the representative of the kindergarten. "I'll be Tonya's bodyguard."

The kindergarten representative fled upstairs to don her purple leotard and practice throwing her arms above her head and acknowledging the cheers of a nonexistent crowd. Her opponent was benched for unsportsmanlike conduct and given a long lecture about using "Inside Edition" as a barometer of behavior.

Could there have been a more fortuitous convergence of events than that of the Olympics in Lillehammer and the cursed American winter of 1994? The people of Norway, so snowbound yet so redolent always of good cheer, good complexion and great sweaters, made it seem bad form to carp about our storms, our mud slides, our earthquakes, our buried cars and icy sidewalks.

Winter storm warnings existed always in the shadow of news flashes on whether Jeff Gillooly, Tonya Harding's former husband, had sold yet another video of his ex-wife playing peekaboo with the top of her clothing, a 3.0 in the artistic impression category.

But more important, as school snow day gave way to school snow day, the Olympics provided not only an exhibition of athletic prowess, sportsmanship and garish one-piece latex actionwear, but also an opportunity to play along right here at home.

Which is how the All-Kid Olympic team came to be participating in the luge competition on the staircase while, in the kitchen below, the team sponsor read Majesty magazine, ate chocolate chips out of the bag and prayed for the snow to stop.

The luge was followed by bobsled in a box, speed skating in socks on the hardwood floor, and team hockey using Tupperware as a puck. "Reebok," the competitors wrote on their foreheads with indelible pens, which will have to be explained somehow to their grandmother.

"You be Nancy," said the representative of the fifth grade. "I'll be Tonya's bodyguard."

After he was reprimanded the team was sent outside into the actual snow, where its members complained loudly about the cold for 15 minutes, then demanded hot chocolate.

The gold medal for whining was won by the representative of the third grade, who made the sentence "No marshmallows?" stretch for nearly a full minute with two tremolos and a conspicuous quaver in his voice. This broke the world record for a food complaint, which was previously held by a Russian boy who did not like root vegetables.

It was the third grader's third medal of the day: he had taken the silver in teasing the dog and the bronze in dawdling while he was supposed to be changing from his pajamas into his clothes.

He and the fifth-grade representative, who appeared in recent months to have become the Torvill and Dean of bickering by aging out of Olympic-level competition, nevertheless staged a spirited display of accusations related to taking things that belonged to the other. The contest was a draw and they will meet again at breakfast to break the tie by bickering about who makes the more annoying chewing noises.

The representative of the kindergarten, peeled down to the leotard and the flimsy skirt she now wears for practice sessions, attempted a triple axel off the coffee table and, true to the spirit of the games, took a resounding fall. She was mollified only by false assurances that she would someday be permitted to own clothing with sequins on the bodice.

Her attempts to persuade the other competitors to join her in ice dancing were ridiculed, and she was awarded a gold medal in the cooties category.

The team then sang its anthem, "Great Green Gobs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts," and attempted to retire for the night without putting away the Tupperware, the cocoa mugs or the practice skirt.

They were recalled to the arena and then left discussing the biathlon, which consists of both cross-country skiing and guns. It was agreed that this was the ideal sport. Then the sponsor of the team sent them to their rooms with the promise that if they were not good, Jeff Gillooly would be by to tuck them all in.

Anna Quindlen is a columnist for the New York Times.

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