At least a couple of guitarists will be representing the good ol’ US of A at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. When they’re not chasing gold, biathelete Lowell Bailey and ice dancer Ben Agosto are all about wire and wood. —Matt Blackett
What parallels can you draw between your sport and the guitar?
Agosto: One thing about ice dance that I have always loved is the musicality of the sport. Everything I do on the ice is choreographed to music. Bringing different interpretations of the music to a performance is one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of the sport. It’s not too difficult to see how that applies to playing the guitar: Notes are one thing, but it’s how they are played, the intonation, the timing, and inflection that make music special.
Bailey: With any instrument, there’s a point where the practice, drills, and scales must be set aside for the real music to shine through. Obviously there is a rhyme and reason to an improvised solo, but it is largely a subconscious act. The same “out of body” experience happens in biathlon. The best shooting performances I have had are precisely when all the conscious motor-memory skill training has been set aside and I operate on a kind of autopilot. It’s the same feeling as playing a solo, watching your fingers move around the fretboard, making music, with you as the “observer.”
Why did you choose your sport when everyone knows the real glory and fame is in curling?
Agosto: Curling gets a bum rap, but at the Olympics in Torino, I got so excited watching the curling unfold on TV in the village. Just wait, curling might take over Vancouver.
Bailey: Short answer: I race around on skis and shoot guns for a living!