Monday, February 17, 2014

Week one in Sochi

I have now been living in the Sochi Olympic Village for one week. There's so much happening here I don't know where to start!

Our ski cross team arrived three days after the Opening Ceremony. At first I was a bit disappointed to miss the Opening Ceremony march, but given the scheduling of our event right towards the end of the Games, it didn't make sense to fly into Russia so early. Instead, I was lucky enough to catch up with my parents in Innsbruck for a couple of days before my departure to Sochi. It was great to watch a few Olympic events together, including Britt Cox's stand-out performance finishing 5th place in the women's moguls. A great start for the Aussie Olympic Team!

Arriving into Sochi was very exciting. We were greeted by a crew of Australian Olympic Committee officials to help make the trip easier from Sochi airport up to the mountain village. It took about three hours to pick up our athlete accreditation (which also doubles as our Russian Visa whilst in Sochi), take various buses, and pass through numerous security checkpoints, including scanning every bag we were taking into the village. By the time we arrived to our rooms it was well past midnight. Awaiting us on our beds was a suitcase full of Australian Olympic uniform. I remember from my first Olympics in Vancouver that this was one of the most exciting parts of the Games. It all finally settles in!

The first two days in the village was spent familiarising ourselves with the place; the layout of the athletes village, the mountain, the gym, dining hall, medical clinic etc.

The Australian Team occupies an entire 5-level apartment building. With 60 athletes on the team this year, plus coaches, doctors, physiotherapists, sports psychologists, nutritionists, admin and officials, we are a team of well over 100. The majority of the Australian athletes are located in the mountain village (freestyle skiing, snowboard, alpine, skeleton, luge, bobsleigh) however also we have short track, long track and figure skaters in the coastal village, and cross country and biathlon athletes in the endurance village.

It was great to catch up with fellow Australian teammates from different sports in those first few days. With such different training and competition schedules, it's not often we all get a chance to get together in Australia. The only exceptions are at the State Institutes training facilities, physical training camps or the occasional Olympic function; and rarely do we cross paths during the northern winter. So we had plenty to catch up on!

The weather in the first week has been incredible. Sunny blue skies, and temperatures closer to that of a summer Games than a winter. Temperatures reached as high as +12 degrees C on the mountain, and close to +20 in the village. It's the first time I have really seen the sun since I left Australia in early November last year, so I have been trying to make the most of it! Skiing in a t-shirt, working on my goggle tan, and afternoon dryland training sessions outside in the sun.

The mountain is closed to the public, so up at the peak where are no Olympic events, it is eerily quiet. I have never experienced anything quite like it, and don't think I will again. Yesterday's training session was just myself and one of the ski cross coaches skiing groomers all to ourselves; literally no-one about.

We had our first training session on the ski cross course two days ago. The course layout is similar to the World Cup race last year, just bigger in every aspect. Bigger jumps; bigger berms; bigger features. I was terrified and excited at the same time. The adrenaline rush I get from skiing this thing is huge. As soon as I had completed one run, I wanted to head straight back up for another! The feeling of pushing yourself past your comfort zone and coming out on top is addictive, and probably why I love this sport.

I have been trying to soak much of the the Olympic Games atmosphere without getting distracted from my task at hand. The most enjoyable aspect of the Games so far has been watching fellow Australian athletes compete in their events, either live in the stadium or back at the athlete lounge on TV. The vibe is incredibly positive on this team, and it is contagious. Everyone is backing eachother, and feeding of eachothers' enthusiasm and excitement. I am very lucky to be apart of it. We have had some solid results so far, with a silver and bronze medal from Torah Bright (snowboard halfpipe) and Lydia Lasilla (aerials), and multiple top 10 results Hopefully there is plenty more to come!

The Womens Ski Cross event will be shown on Channel 10 on Friday 21st February. The seeding run (individual time trial) will be at 6:45pm Melbourne time. Finals start at 8:30pm.

I could easily keep writing, but instead I will let my photos from the past week do most of the talking.....

Sami and I excited to finally arrive into Sochi airport.

The Australia House. Like in Vancouver, the infamous Boxing Kangaroo flies high.

Yes, a bit cliche but had to do it....

The Russian Babushka!

View from the summit....

Team spirit! Cheering on Aussie athlete Scotty James in the snowboard halfpipe from the Australian athlete lounge.

Perfect crisp groomers all to myself...

The start of the ski cross course. Looking good!

Nice solid wu-tang in the start section.

A ski cross playground!

Going to have fun on this one...

Final jump into the finish area.

Where my family will be cheering me on from!

Marcos the man at work.

Drive-through race skis. Brilliant.

Afternoon recovery sessions in the ice bath. Brrr....

Georgia and I excited to ski the track!

Cheering on Torah Bright at the womens halfpipe snowboard.

Sochi Olympic mascots. Gotta love being a tourist....

Me and my girlfriends.

The Police mean serious business in Sochi.

Some motivation from kids back home. Thanks!

Make-shift stairs.... Still a little more work to be done in Sochi.