Books: The Crystal Bucket : Good hang |
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Good hang

The scene was Kitzbühel, the programme Grandstand (BBC1). The event was the Men’s Downhill. A man referred to as ‘Britain’s sole representative’ came plummeting down the Streif. ‘He won’t be looking for a first place today,’ said David Vine, ‘he’ll be looking for experience.’

At that very instant — not a bit later, but while David was saying it — Britain’s sole representative was upside down and travelling into the crowd at 60 m.p.h. plus. Spectators were mown down as if by grape-shot. The air was full of snow, beanies, mittens, bits of wood. You had to be watching to get the full impact. It was a kind of perfection. On television the great hours might take place on schedule, but the great moment can happen at any time.

The activities in Ski Sunday (BBC2) were likewise blessed with the redeeming presence of David Vine. The venue was Finland, the event was the 70-metre ski jump, and David had equipped himself with yet another new line in priapic dialogue. ‘Got good hang,’ David would intone, as a jumper standing horizontally to attention with a ski-tip in each nostril went sailing down the valley. The really important thing for a jumper was to have good hang. There was no point having the explosion if you did not have good hang.

‘There’s the explosion!’ David would cry as the jumper launched himself into the void. ‘Hang, hang, hang ... and that is long!’ Kokkonen had extremely good hang and exploded enormously, but the man I liked best was the one who lost a ski on the way down and had to choose between landing on the leg with the ski or the leg without. He chose the leg without — a huge error.

26 February, 1978