The Winter Olympics are a cheerful reminder that sometimes we can know too much about sport.

Every rugby test victory in this country is accompanied by relentless analysis of how the wheels could fall off the All Blacks juggernaut in future. Even in a good summer for our national cricket team, fans worry — with some justification — that another catastrophic batting collapse is never far away. (Not tonight though!)

Yet most of us have no such reservations about watching the Winter Olympics because we are blissfully ignorant of the finer details.

Who knew that watching curling could be so addictive? Or that a pesky rail could have so much influence on our snowboarders' chances? To some extent the same thing happens during the summer Olympics as we acquire a newfound enthusiasm every four years for gymnastics and swimming.


But we usually understand how most of these sports work and can cheer for New Zealand athletes who are serious medal contenders. There is no such luxury with winter sports. We are well out of our comfort zone, which makes the voyage of discovery so much more fun.

So far we have been reintroduced to curling, which resembles lawn bowls on ice with the addition of frantic sweepers and a photogenic target area. Start watching and an hour can easily go by.

Soon bobsled will be back and world interest will centre on the female Nigerian team who have become the first African team to compete in the sport at this level. Never mind the fact that they all grew up in America, this is Cool Runnings for a new generation.

So far there is no sign of a new Eddie the Eagle in the ski jump — an embarrassed International Ski Federation made sure of that after the 1988 Calgary games — but TV watchers will not be too worried.

The event is always worth watching for the sheer white-knuckle bravery involved, even if you have no idea what distinguishes a good jump from a bad one.

The same could be said for skeleton bobsledding, which in the words of the official Olympic website "involves plummeting head-first down a steep and treacherous ice track on a tiny sled".

No doubt somewhere at home an armchair expert will turn to his or her spouse after a slowish run and declare "I could have gone faster than that".

The PyeongChang games have an extra dimension as the two Koreas flirt with each other after decades of hostile separation.

Spectators were fascinated by the North Korean cheerleaders who performed with Kim Il Sung face masks and tried to start a crowd wave during a women's ice hockey match between a unified Korean team and Switzerland.

The Swiss won 8-0 but most of the world was watching the political and cultural theatre, not the score.

All this could change in a moment if a New Zealand athlete wins a medal, especially in a mainstream sport. When skier Annelise Coberger won silver in Albertville, France, in 1992 — still this country's only Winter Olympic medal — we had a glimpse of the talent and sacrifice required to get to the top. Until then, we'll be happy to pile into the bobsled and just enjoy the ride.