Sunday, February 28, 2010

Time to let my hair down

The night after my event was definitely a night to remember! All the athletes have been working so hard over the past few years in the lead up to these Games. It finally came the time to let our hair down. We went to a ski cross after party in Gas Town, Vancouver.

(Myself, Tess and Tara celebrating at the Ski Cross after party)

The following night I had a big family reunion in downtown Vancouver. There were over 80 family members, 20 of us from Australia and the other 60 from Vancouver. I have many 2nd, 3rd and more distant Crema cousins living here in Vancouver – relatives on my Grandfathers side. Some I had met before when I was young, and some were new to me…yet we still shared the same last name! It was great to catch up with everyone; it doesn’t happen very often!

On Thursday I went to see Chelzie Lee perform in the figure skating finals. It was a great event filled with incredible performances. Chelzie did amazingly well and finished 20th. On Friday I watched Joh Shaw compete in the PGS (snowboard alpine). Once my event was over, it was great to be able to watch and support your teammates compete.

(Britt and I with famous US figure skater Johnnie Weir, at the women's figure skating event)

That night we celebrated Lydia's gold medal in the aerials with a gold medal party held by the AOC. Of course, afterwards we went out and celebrated in true Aussie style at the Budweiser House in the city.

(Lydia's gold medal party)

(Celebrating Lyd's gold medal at the Bud House with an All-Star entourage. Alisa Camplin, Johnnie Weir, Patto, Lydia Lassila, Jacqui Cooper and I)

(Famous modul legend, Johnnie Moseley and I)

On Friday morning I did a filmed piece with Ruby Rose, the beautiful, young, famous Australian TV presenter for MTV and Foxtel. She is over here with the Foxtel crew, presenting for the Olympics. We went gumboot shopping in town… an essential item for the Vancouver rain!

(Ruby Rose and I, hanging out in downtown Vancouver)

(Gumboots shopping with Ruby)

That night we explored the city. The town is absolutely buzzing with people, music, performances…. There are people everywhere in the streets, even at 4am!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Finally a ski on the CRAZY Olympic track...

Today was our first training day on the ski cross track, and wow it is crazy! The course is long, technical and includes some mammoth sized jumps. Bigger than any other course on the world cup.

(The final jump into the finish area...over double my height when I stand under it)

Everyone was excited to finally get to train on the course. It has been much anticipated. We have all seen the bordercross men and women race on it over the past few days, and it looked like a lot of fun! So everyone was keen to get going.

We had a two hour training session which was only interrupted a few times by crashes. One of the Canadian men had a bad crash out of the start, went over the front of his skis and sustained a bad concussion. He had to be taken to hospital in the banada boat.

The track ran smoothly, however the snow is extremely soft in areas due to the extremely warm weather we have been experiencing here. The course workers are doing all they can to keep the track in the best possible condition.

Today it felt like we should have been competing in the Summer Games, not Winter! It's warm enough for a t-shirt and thongs, so the Aussies feel right at home!

(Excited on my way up to the course)

(Course inspection)

Tomorrow we have another day training, then it's the Men's turn to showoff and compete. We follow two days later.

Tonight I will be joining my Olympic teammates to cheer on Torah Bright at the medal ceremony in BC Place. She won gold last night in the women's snowboard halfpipe, so we are all very proud! This is Australia's first gold at these Games, and our second medal in total, after Dale took the silver in the moguls. Congratulations also to Holly Crawford who came 8th last night in the halfpipe.

The Aussies are kicking arse this year, and I'm so glad I'm apart of the team!

Here are a few shots of the course...

(The start)

(Giant wu-tang...note the size of the people on the left)

(View of the second wu-tang from down below)

(The finish area and stadium)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Out of the village and into the competition house

Training at Mt. Washington on Vancouver Island was fantastic. We had two really great days up on the ski cross track, working on starts and strategy. The Swedes were also preparing for the big race ahead, so it was great to have some good girls to train with out of the start.

(The Swedes. A sneaky peak at their Olympic uniform)

Yesterday Scott and I took the 8:30am ferry back to Vancouver mainland. The ferry was packed with spectators heading into Vancouver to see Olympic events. Some were even excited to meet two Aussie Olympians!

We spent the night in the Village, and enjoyed the men’s spectacular snowboard halfpipe event, which we watched with a group of athletes from all around the world on a big screen in the ‘Vitamin Bar.’ My photo with Shawn White just last week is now a prized possession! He is now a two-time Olympic Gold medallist.

(Two-time Olympic gold medalist Shawn White and I)

Today we packed our stuff yet again (for about the 30th time this season) and moved into the sub-site, which is located in West Vancouver, closer to Cypress mountain where the ski cross will take place. These houses are used by the Cypress athletes leading up to their event. Things just get so crazy in the village; there’s so much going on, particularly now with athletes finishing their events (as you can imagine, they are in party mode…), so it’s nice to stay in a calmer environment in order to relax, rest up and prepare for the upcoming event.

We ventured up to Cypress Mountain at around midday to do some ski testing. Basically this involves skiing in a straight line using timing to determine which is the fastest pair of skis. All of my skis are the same, however tiny miniscule differences in the base and structure could mean that one pair is slightly faster than the other. We don’t leave anything to chance! I want the fastest possible pair of skis for race day, even if it is only a difference of a tenth of a second. Every millisecond counts in this sport.

(Marcos, the ski technician, and myself at the top of the testing track)

Today was my first day up on the mountain. I knew Cypress was struggling for snow, but I didn’t realise how bare it really was! It was hot enough today to wear a t-shirt around. It kind of reminded me of home… skiing in Australia in a bad season! Thankfully they’ve got plenty of snow on the track, and my god it looks big! I’m so excited to ski it. Some of the jumps look enourmous, particularly the final jump into the finish. It has to be over 70-80 feet. The grand stand is huge. I have a mixture of nerves and excitement thinking about what it will be like to ski in front of over 5,000 people (plus millions more on TV) in only a few days time!

(Looking a bit dry at Cypress Mountain - on the opposite side of the SX track)

(A view of the ski cross track and the stadium)

On the way down the mountain, we took the opportunity to take a few snaps of the city. The weather is incredible. Sunny and warm. Just how the Aussies like it!

(A view of Vancouver city from Cypress Mountain)

(The Lion Gate bridge and the harbour, connecting the city with West Van)

Training on the track starts tomorrow. Let the fun begin!

(My Olympic Uniform. And this isn't even all of it!)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Training in Mt. Washington

Who says there's no snow in Vancouver?

Well we’re not in Vancouver city as such; but close enough. Two days ago we took the ferry across to Vancouver Island. By the time we arrived at Mt. Washington, a two hour’s drive from Nanaimo, there was a blistering snow storm. I felt like we were in the middle of the Arctic Circle!

By morning, things luckily cleared up and we had a fantastic day training. There is so much snow here! It is hard to believe that Cypress Mountain, where there is not one natural snow flake in site, is less than 200km away! There seems to be a completely different weather system here on the Island, with over 400cm of snow as a base!

(Fresh snow at Mt. Washington)

Mt. Washington has very kindly built us a ski cross course to train on for the next four days. Training with us are the Swedes and the Finnish. The course is great. The start is basically a complete replica of the Olympic course we will be racing on in a week. It starts with a 3-step drop down (something a little awkward and not seen often in ski cross) followed by two massive wu-tangs (halfpipe-like features- see picture). We worked a lot on starts, trying to figure out what is fastest way to ski these features.

(The 3-metre we-tangs at the beginning of the course)

(Me in my green and gold Olympic Aussie goggles)

Today the weather is not so great. We headed out at 9am but the fog was so dense we couldn’t see a thing. It reminded me a little of skiing back at home! So today we’re having a much needed rest day (plus gym and physio, of course). The past few days have been so chaotic in the village; I’m pretty happy to just chill out and watch some of the Olympic events. Today is a huge day for the Aussies. On the schedule is the men’s boarder cross (Alex Pullin and Damon Hayer), plus the men’s downhill (Craig Branch and Jono Brauer), and the women’s luge (Hannah Campbell-Pegg). Hopefully a few more medals to add to Dale Begg-Smith’s silver in the moguls last night!

If all goes to plan with weather and schedules, my event will be broadcasted at the following date and time…

Olympic Time Table - Ski Cross

Vancouver time:

23 Feb 2010

Women's Ski Cross event

Qualifying - 10:30am

Finals - 13:00


Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST)24 Feb 2010

Qualifying - 5:00am

Finals - 8:00am

Highs and Lows. Olympic opening ceremony and tragic fatal luge accident...

Things have been crazy around the village over the past two days! So much to report on!

So on the morning of the 11th, we started bright and early with a 9am press conference. Ben Mates, Scott James (both snowboard halfpipe), Scott Kneller and myself were escorted to the Media Centre where we were met by Mike Tancred, head of media for AOC. We each lined up along the table and were fired questions about the Games by media, mostly from Australia.

(My seat at the press conference at the Media Centre)

 In the afternoon, we had the official flag raising ceremony in the village. This welcoming ceremony was for Australia, Iceland, Norway, Ethiopia and Finland. The energy amongst the athletes was buzzing. Everyone was very excited to make their official mark in the village, and to celebrate the coming together of the entire Aussie team. The celebration ended with music and dancing.

(Steph Hickey, Joh Shaw and myself - the three Buller Race Club girls on the team)

(Canadian actress Sandra Oh from Grey's Anatomy, host of the ceremony)

(Steph, Torah, Scotty and myself with one of the Olympic mascots)
 When the Aussie flag was raised and the anthem played, it was a very special moment.

(The Aussie flag being raised besides the Olympic flag)

 Next on the agenda was the Australian team reception. All the athletes were taken on a tug boat on the river, and were greeted by over 200 people carrying flags, signs, boxing kangaroos… It was amazing to see that we had so much support. Apparently a facebook group had started in Vancouver to support Australian Olympians. These people who came to cheer us on were the same people who protested the pulling down of the boxing kangaroo flag in the village. It’s great to see how much support we have here in Vancouver. Canadian’s love Australians! For me, it’s second best to having an Olympic Games at home!

(Myself and the Aussie team mascot that is now so famous in Vancouver, BK)

 The reception was a fantastic night. We were greeted by friends, family, media, sports commentators… basically the whole of the Australian Olympics family; over 300 people. Each athlete on the team was formally introduced, and we were presented with framed Olympic Games pockets.

(Joh and I wish Australian swimming champs Giaan Rooney and Grant Hackett. They will be commentating on the Games for channel 9)

 Today I woke up with the excitement and anticipation of Christmas Day; yet this day doesn’t come around every year. Today was the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games!
Walking out into a crowd of 60,600 is probably the highlight of my life. The roar as we marched out into BC stadium was incredible. A chill went down my spine and I got goose bumps. To think that all of these people (plus millions more around the World) were watching and supporting us was an amazing feeling. I felt so proud to be marching in the Green and Gold for Australia. This moment is something I have been dreaming about for my whole life; and I think it is definitely one of the highlights of the Games for most athletes. It is something only a select few people get to experience and be apart of, so I feel very privileged.

(US snowboard superstar Shawn White and I before the Opening Ceremony)

(Backstage before the Aussies are about to March into the opening ceremony)

 Following the high also came a sombre low as the Georgian Team marched out, wearing thick black bands around their right arm. That afternoon we were all given some horrible news. There had been a fatal accident up on the Whistler sliding track. One of the members of the Georgian Olympic Team, 21 year old Nodar Kumaritashvili, had a horrific crash in the luge, crashing on the last corner and hitting one of the pylons. He passed away 2 hours after the crash after medical staff did everything they could to resuscitate him. It was heart-breaking for the entire Olympic family; staff, officials, volunteers, coaches, and in particular athletes… An athlete had passed away from an extremely unfortunate event, leaving a feeling of sadness in every single person in the stadium. To honour Nodar, the Australian Team marched proud with black arm bands. During the ceremony (which was also dedicated to Nodar), we acknowledged the young Olympian with one minute’s silence. The enourmous stadium of over 60,600 was completely silent as we honoured him.

(RIP Nodar Kumaritashvili, 1988-2010)

The ceremony was breathtaking to watch, with amazing visual effects, sound and music. It was so exciting to be sitting with my teammates, watching the official opening of the Games, and the lighting of the torch. Something I will never forget…

(Bright-eyed after the march into BC place. About to take our seats to enjoy the show...)

(The lighting of the torch by Canadian Hockey legend Wayne Gretzski)

(Excited to bump into Arnold Shwartzneger in the Olymic Village)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Crazy first 24 hours in the Athlete Village

Things have been non-stop since I set foot off the plane in Vancouver yesterday. Once we arrived, there were officials and volunteers everywhere! We even had our very own ‘Olympics’ customs area to go through. No waiting in enourmous queues to get my passport stamped!

Once we had all our bags (I had 11 in total; over 250kg), I exited the airport and we were immediately swarmed by media and rando’s after autographs. How do they even know who I am? Bizarre! Someone asked for a photograph and an autograph. I have to admit it was kind of strange at first! We were transported by a volunteer to the Olympics Village in downtown Vancouver. Oh my! Words can’t even describe how incredible it was to enter the Village.

The security here is extremely tight. On entry to the village, every bag had to be scanned. Plus we are required to walk through a metal detector and have a pat down.

Once we made it to our accommodation (the building adorned with the huge boxing kangaroo that had taken a liking to the media recently), I unloaded my bags and decided to explore the village. By this time it was already 10:30pm, but I was on such a high that there was no way I was sleeping!

(Athlete accommodation; Australian's proud to show off our team mascot)

(A warm welcome from the Vancouver mascots)

Of course, first stop was the food hall. It is absolutely amazing; open 24 hours and filled with every type of dish imaginable. It is buffet style, with a huge array of cuisines available; Asian, pasta and pizza; Mediterranean, Oriental, Grill, etc. The list goes on! I had a hard time deciding whether to go for dinner number two, or a yummy desert of ice cream and freshly baked apple crumble… I went for both!

(The food hall)

 We also explored the gym, which is open 24 hours. The athlete lounge is also a great place to hang out, equipped with comfy bean bags, two pool tables, four Playstation Wii’s (for that tennis practise we all need!), and a classy bar filled with ‘Vitamin Water’.

(Only a small section of the enourmous gym)

 This morning I had uniform distribution. I was kitted up with two very-full suitcases of clothing; ski jackets, sports jackets, hats, shoes, gloves, pants, shorts, formal wear, competition wear, raincoats etc. I don’t think I could wear every garment over the next 2 weeks even if I wore something different every day! We all look rockin’ in the Karbon and Sportscraft gear (thanks guys!). Matt Shervington and the Foxtel crew were there to take an interview and some video footage.

(Trying on our "Ninja Turtle" style race jerseys with Matt Shervington)

(Carting home our uniform)

 After carting home another two suitcases to add to the 11 already in my room, we had lunch and then explored the Village Merchandise shop. Of course I didn’t already have enough stuff, so I decided to get a few souvenirs for myself and the fam.

In the afternoon I was transported to the Media Centre, which is outside of the Village and in town. After passing through at least four security checkpoints (including a full car search), I met with Alice Wheeler, Media Manager of the AOC. Here I took part in the “Chat with a Champ” program. The program started in 2008, and is designed to encourage interaction between athletes and young primary school children all around Australia. I spent the next 90 minutes chatting to three primary school classes from Australia, ranging from grade 3 to grade 7. It was very cute; they were all dressed up in Australia gear, faces painted and wearing green and gold! They each asked questions; mostly about my sport, what it’s like to be an Olympian, why I love the sport etc. There were some obscure, yet hilarious questions in the mix from some of the younger kids. For example, “Do you have any friends?”, “How many silver medals have you won?” (not Gold?), “Do you have any kids?”, “Do you have a social life?”, “What is your favourite colour?” It was all very adorable, and overall a great experience. Those schools will be receiving a boxing kangaroo flag, signed by me, and some Olympic merchandise.

(A sea of heads in the Media Centre)

After such a long and busy day, I’m excited to get into bed! Another big day lies ahead tomorrow. A 9am press conference at the media centre, the flag raising ceremony at 4pm and then an official Australian team reception at 6pm. Plus I have to find time to squeeze in a gym session. After all, I am here to compete and I can’t lose site of that! But why not soak up the atmosphere at the same time?!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Back to where this season all began. Canmore, Canada.

After a fantastic break in New York City, I’m back in Canmore, Canada, for a 4 day training block. Whilst Scott and Jenny are on the rehab program with Matt in Quebec, I’m here training with Canadian coach Luc Peltier. He is coaching a young group of alpine racers, mostly from Australia however a few internationals too.

(Nakiska on an early, clear morning)

(Myself with the International Racers ski team)

(Grooming to perfection at Nakiska)

I can’t believe it was only 2 months ago that I was here training. It feels like a whole year has gone by! I guess it is because I have been all over the world and back, competed in one Europa Cup, seven World Cups, and visited over 8 countries all in the space of only 8 weeks! It’s crazy to think of how much we have been on the move this season, from one world cup to the next with hardly any time off at all. It’s been exhausting yet exhilarating, and definitely stressful!

On Thursday Feb 4th I head to Aspen, Colorado, where I’ll be spending the next 4 days catching up with the fam. I’m really looking forward to seeing them. It’s been a while! Then on the 9th, on to Vancouver! On the 10th we have uniform distribution (very exciting!), and in the afternoon I will be involved in the "Chat with a Champ" program, where selected athletes chat to school kids from Australia online about their Olympic experience. On the 11th is the flag raising ceremony for Australia plus an official team reception, and then on the 12th is the opening ceremony. I’m very excited to be taking part in the march. You can only imagine how long I’ve been dreaming about this for!

For these first few days I will be staying in the athlete village. Then on the 13th we are going to Mt. Washington (which is on Vancouver Island) for a few days of training. A few other national teams will be there, so it will be good to brush up on some starts and get back into the competitive environment. Then on the 18th we're back in Vancouver preparing for our event which is on the 23rd.

I'll be blogging regularly during the Games to keep you updated with the ins and outs of the Olympics!