SOCHI, Russia — Every four years the world forgets that that kid spinning through the air has a long braid flapping in her helmet or that the speed and fluidity of a hockey game can be just as thrilling as the violence.
Every four years, there is no need to put a modifier before a sport — women's hockey or, even worse, ladies figure skating. Every four years, a great hockey game is a great hockey game. A sick trick is a sick trick. Every four years, the Winter Olympics narrows the gender gap and puts women's sports on the same step of the podium as their male counterparts.
Of course the same holds true for the Summer Games.
Take Thursday's thrilling afternoon, beginning with halfpipe skiing.
"This is first time a lot of people in this world saw what we do and why we love it," said American Maddie Bowman.
The Olympics give female athletes the rare opportunity to capture the spotlight. To introduce their sport, in some cases, but also to introduce themselves.
Flipping back and forth between figure skating and hockey, two sports on ice that couldn't be any different, captivated. With your laptop, livestreaming, you could watch both. So as Bolero played on one screen, thwacks into the boards played on the other.
The gold medal game between the USA and Canada wasn't just a warm-up for Friday's matchup. It was a seat-of-your pants, wild ride as the Americans led by two goals until the final 3½ minutes. Overtime was filled with madness as well — a penalty shot that wasn't awarded to the Canadians, an improbable half-court, empty-net shot by the Americans that hit the post, and then the stunning conclusion.
In the Olympics, women aren't viewed as the fairer half, they're the equal half. Bowman's gold medal is just as shiny as David Wise's. And just as valuable. There's no endless prattling about differences, as is the case every March Madness when the college basketball tournaments are compared.
In the Olympics, danger also has no gender barrier. The several hard crashes throughout halfpipe ski qualifying, and the bruises throughout, served as reminder. Underscoring all of this was a tribute the sport's pioneer Sarah Burke, who died following a 2012 training accident.
After Bowman won gold, her teammate Wise, who won the men's event, picked Bowman up and put her on his shoulders.
Bowman's grandmother pulled open her coat to reveal a T-shirt underneath. "Badass Grandma," it read. Seems it runs in the family.
The drama between Yuna Kim, who was hoping to repeat as Olympic champion, and Adelina Sotnikova, who was hoping to become Russia's first gold medal was riveting. Then it was controversial, as Twitter imploded with figure skating geeks as well as the average sports fan questioned the results. But just as that was ending, you quickly had to focus on the mayhem breaking out on another sheet of ice. Even the figure skaters not competing tonight bolted to the hockey arena across the park. Luckily, the game went in to overtime, so they didn't miss much.