When I watched Nathan Chen’s figure skating performance with my family, my 28-year-old cousin asked if there was some sort of dancing sport in the Olympics. “No!” my mom responded emphatically. “Don’t you know this is the winter Olympics?? It’s all about snow and ice.”
She was wrong, because there is ice dancing. But she is also wrong because there is K-pop. Which isn’t technically an Olympic sport, but it should be.
Just watch EXO’s enthralling performance at the closing ceremony on Sunday, which I’ve been thinking about for days:
There are 2,952 Olympic athletes. There are what, at most a couple hundred K-Pop stars who are successful? I’m no expert here, but it seems to me becoming a K-pop star is at least as hard—if not way harder—than becoming an Olympian.
Consider, for example, now-infamous Olympian Elizabeth Swaney, who conned her way into the competition and just skiied down a half-pipe without doing any tricks. And yes, there are clearly great feats of athleticism like Nathan Chen’s six quads, which I only knew was really impressive because the same commentator who said “Let’s get this party started, Nathan” at the beginning of his performance also screamed “Yes!” at the end, and Nathan was also really sweaty when he was done.
According to Nathan, his training regime takes just four to five hours a day. He gets a robust 10 hours of sleep per night and says that “if it’s time to indulge, I love desserts, especially Hershey’s chocolate. I also love sushi and Japanese food. Food is my favorite in general.” Must be nice! For my job I blog (also a contender for an Olympic sport, just one woman’s second opinion) almost twice as long as Nathan trains every day.
Now let’s look at K-pop stars. Training can take up to 15 years before their big debut (if they debut at all). More than a few idols trained for at least a decade, starting as youth, before they took the stage. Diets are often tightly controlled and practices can run for a grueling number of hours every day. In what are often described as rigorous “boot camps,” trainees, who enter into draconian contracts with huge entertainment agencies, must learn to sing, dance, and manage their public appearance.
This isn’t to condone the treatment of K-Pop stars, which can be highly exploitative. But it explains why K-Pop groups, who train as hard as any Olympian, are so mesmerizing to watch. They are displaying highly technical skills that normal humans can only dream of accomplishing. Just like, I don’t know, some of the world’s most elite athletes.
EXO’s performance (not to mention CL, who also performed at the ceremony like a top-tier athlete) is a feat that scores almost perfectly on what I imagine all Olympians are getting judged on: athleticism, teamwork, and not embarrassing their country by falling off of ATVs. These singers are clearly gold medalists. Seat all of these beautiful boys in the halls of Mount Olympus at once!