483 ½ Wizolympics – Day 12 Update: Skrewt Sledding Qualifying Round

It’s Day 12 of the Sochi Wizolympics, but the competition is far from over. I’m Arabella Featherman, reporting to you live from this year’s Skrewt Sledding. This a relatively new sport added to Wizolympics shortly after the Triwizard Tournament in 1994. Invented by Hogwarts gamekeeper Rubeus Hagrid, the Skrewt is a crossbreed of a manticore and a Fire Crab. They look like a combination of a giant scorpion and a crab, with shiny gray armor covering their bodies, making them almost impervious to magic. The Skrewts used in today’s sledding are only a few months old and are therefore much easier to handle.

Mastering the art of Skrewt Sledding is tricky, for although similar to Muggle dog sledding, competitors must constantly breed and train new Skrewts to practice and eventually compete with due to the Skrewts’ inability to be tamed once they reach full maturity. Even at only a few months, Skrewts are extremely violent creatures and will have no hesitation in attacking one another.

The goal is simple: The seven semifinalists will race down a half-mile of snowy slope to the finish line at the end while trying to avoid their Skrewts being mauled by the others they are racing against. The first three to cross the finish line will advance to the finals. However, once at the bottom of slope, Hagrid, who will be judging the event, will check the Skrewts for mistreatment. If their owners have harmed them in any way, they will be disqualified. Wands are permitted, but spells, including the Impediment Jinx or others that could potentially injure the Skrewts, are strictly prohibited. Each competitor will have five Skrewts attached to their sled.

The seven competitors are getting themselves set at the top of the slope, and we are waiting for the sound of the cannon. There’s Devon Taylor from the United States. Most bets are on him to win the gold at the moment. Taylor’s family has been competing in dog sledding competitions since before he was born. Growing up in Alaska, it came as second nature to him. He’s even competed in the most well-known Muggle dog sledding competition, the Iditarod, and won. When the UMMC (United Ministries of Magic Council) decided not to charge Hagrid with violating the Ban on Experimental Breeding, Taylor immediately began breeding and training Skrewts with which he would eventually race.

Next are the UK competitors. The United Kingdom has managed to have two people qualify for this sport: Alden Weatherby of England and Teague Cavanaugh of North Ireland. Cavanaugh also happens to be the only woman competing in the event. Also representing their home countries are Adam Vakhrushev of Russia, Evan Campbell of Canada, Ansgar Bystrom of Sweden, and August Christiansen of Norway.

The Skrewts are no doubt ready to go, with Campbell and Bystrom’s team already attacking each other. There’s the cannon! Five teams start their descent down the hill. Campbell and Bystrom are having difficulty pulling their Skrewts away from one another. One of Bystrom’s is shooting fire blasts from its rear in an attempt to knock one of Campbell’s off the edge of the slope. Oh, careful! It’s a tangling mess of reigns and Skrewts. The two owners are fighting desperately to separate their sleds. Yikes! Bystrom was just hit in the face by one of his Skrewt’s fiery blasts. They are dangerously close to the edge. They’ve just gone over! Both Campbell and Bystrom and their teams have fallen ten feet over the ledge. They seem to be all right. I think mediwizards are being sent in.

That just leaves five remaining sled teams. Vakhrushev and Taylor are tied neck and neck at the front of the pack, followed by Weatherby, Cavanaugh, and then Christiansen. Christiansen appears to be using his wand to make the snow slicker to move down the hill faster. That might be too slick. He’s just collided into the back of Cavanaugh’s sled. Cavanaugh is knocked clean off her sled into the mess of Skrewts ravaging each other.

Vakhrushev has fallen behind Taylor, and Weatherby is quickly gaining on him. And he’s just passed him, but Vakhrushev’s lead Skrewt is only a foot away from Weatherby’s feet. Weatherby narrowly misses being bitten by it.

Reducto!”

Weatherby has broken off a huge chunk of snow from the ridge above, and it has just buried Vakhrushev and his Skrewts. That was indeed clever. Only a single Skrewt’s continual blast of fire is visible through the pile of snow.

Christiansen and Cavanaugh have managed to disentangle themselves and their Skrewts and are once again making their way down the slope. Devon has just crossed the finish line, followed closely by Weatherby. Only one spot left in the finals. Who will it be? Christiansen and Cavanaugh have just passed Vakhrushev, who is still trying to break his way out of the snow.

Only a couple yards now. Christiansen and Cavanaugh are alternating the lead. Was not expecting that! Christiansen has just cast the Stickfast Hex to the bottom of Cavanaugh’s sled, holding her to the ground with a gross-looking ectoplasm. Cavanaugh is stunned as she watches Christiansen cross the finish line.

Hagrid is walking over now to evaluate Christiansen’s Skrewts. He has confirmed all Skrewts to be in perfect health, and with that Norway takes the last spot in the finals, going head to head with the United States and the UK. Hope to see you all there!

Oh, are those cauldron cakes?

-Arabella Featherman, Daily Prophet reporter