Olympic Games – Sochi 2014
The Olympic Games are the pinnacle of sport. The opportunity to represent your home country at the Games is something that all athletes dream about. It is an event where you compete not only for individual success, but for the success of an entire nation. Athletes will push their limits, make themselves vulnerable, and put it all on the line for the chance to do something special for their Country.
About two weeks prior to the Games, the final selections for the Olympic Alpine Ski Team were being determined. Leading up to that point, I knew that I had not met the hard line criteria that our team had outlined. This being my first full year on the World Cup circuit, I was continuing to improve every time I stepped in the start gate, but I had unfortunately failed to put all the pieces of the puzzle together to come up with any significant results. Fortunately, an extra spot opened up for the Olympic Team, and in the final hours leading up to when the team was officially named I was informed that I would be going to Russia to compete for Canada! It came as a bit of a surprise, but I couldn’t have been more proud! I couldn’t wait until the meeting was over to inform my family of the news I had received. I secretly pulled out my phone from my pocket and texted my dad, simply saying: “I’m going”. A few hours later from my hotel room in Austria I had a conference call with both my parents and my two sisters, who were all overjoyed with the news! It was a moment that I will never forget.
We travelled to Russia a couple of weeks later, four days before my first competition. Things didn’t go quite as smooth as I had imagined when I first arrived. Our chartered plane was packed full of Olympians from Zurich to Sochi. We departed the plane and I could feel the excitement level rising, we were here! But my excitement quickly came to a halt when I was stopped at customs. Apparently, North America is the only place in the World where our birthdate is written “mm/dd/yyyy” as opposed to “dd/mm/yyyy.” The customs officer noticed this when he saw my accreditation/visa into the country and immediately stopped me. I tried to stay calm, but I instantly thought to myself – “well maybe I won’t be an Olympian after all!” I was quickly informed that it was not a huge problem, but I would have to fill out some paperwork in order for them to print me a new Visa to enter the country, which they said would take 20-30 minutes. So as everyone was collecting bags and loading the busses, I sat and waited behind customs. Well, 20-30 minutes turned into 3 hours! But, I finally did get my Visa and was granted access into Russia! Turns out, the man who approves the Visas was out for dinner so it took a little longer haha!
The drive from the coastal village to the mountains is about an hour long. I made it to my room in the Canadian residence just after midnight; I didn’t fall asleep until 2 or 3 in the morning because I was like a kid on Christmas morning. Unpacking and trying on all of my new Hudson Bay Company team Canada clothing! My roomie, Jan Hudec, had already been there for about a week and gave me the in’s and out’s of the Olympic village and how everything worked. Jan is a seasoned veteran and it was great to share a room with him at my first Olympics. He is an excellent leader on our team, is always there to help and is a role model for the younger athletes. Jan ended up winning bronze two days later!!! It was pretty cool to be at the race watching my teammate, and roommate, step onto the podium to earn Canada’s first Olympic Alpine Skiing medal in 20 years! Congrats Jan!
The days leading up to my competition were spent on the hill training in the mornings as well as getting accustomed to the Olympic lifestyle. Everything is a bit different at the Games, especially in Russia. Security is really tight, so getting from point A to point B is a bit of process, but eventually it just became routine and everything was really smooth. For example, everyone at the games has an accreditation that needs to be worn at all times that is scanned by security whenever you leave and enter a new area. They always know where you are, which is kind of creepy! On the shuttle to the ski hill, they would put stickers on anything that can be opened (doors, windows etc.). Upon arrival if any of the seals had been broken, a full search of the vehicle and the people on it would ensue. At first this all seemed like a bit of a nuisance, but at the same time it was comforting to have this level of security.
I should probably talk about my competitions. After all that is what the Games are all about! I was feeling really confident going into the GS, my stronger event. My excitement level grew tremendously in the days leading up to the race and on the morning of the race I felt ready! The entire day was an amazing experience and I was so proud to stand in the start gate and wear the bib with the Olympic rings on it! Surprisingly I did not feel overly nervous. I was competing at the Olympics for Canada, no higher level of competition exists, so why should I be nervous? There was nothing to lose, only to gain! On the first run I skied solid and was 95% happy with my execution. Unfortunately, I made a silly mistake over a roll leading into a blind gate and was forced to make a recovery just to stay in the course. I managed to make it to the finish line, but the mistake was too costly and I missed being in the top 30. I was still able to start my second run and I skied well again, coming in 24th on the run and moving up to 29th overall. I definitely had mixed emotions from the race, but regardless it was still an amazing experience. My Mom and Dad were in the crowd and when I crossed the finish line it was amazing to look into the stands and see them cheering and waving the Canadian Flag for me! It was a very special moment to share with my family because they have worked just as hard as I have in order for me to be competing at this level!
The slalom was a few days later, on the 2nd last day of the games. Once again, I skied quite well on my first run despite a few little mistakes. Although, it was probably my best run in a slalom race in World Cup so far. Still, it was not quite enough to make the top 30. I was extremely disappointed. Finishing 34th place after the first run and just 0.4 from making the flip. I can think of so many places in that 1st run where I can make up that time, but that’s just the way it goes. In the second run the conditions and the course were tough (to say the least) and a lot of the field failed to make it to the finish. I scrambled to make it down and finished in 20th position but I was very far behind the leaders because of all my “coffee breaks” on the way down!
Regardless of how I performed in both of my events. I felt extremely fortunate just to be competing at the Games. I was 1 of 4 Canadian athletes who had the opportunity to stand in the start gate of the technical events. That alone, is a valuable experience that many athletes do not get the chance to feel. This season for me has been about learning, and putting every experience into my back pocket, for use in achieving my future goals. It is just a matter of time before I am ready to break into the top group on the World Cup Circuit….I am confident of that!
The evening of the slalom race I received an email that made me smile! The COC had provided myself along with the other slalom boys a ticket to the Gold Medal hockey game…Canada vs. Sweden! The following day we packed up all our stuff and headed down to the coastal village. I was able to meet my parents at the Canada house to have a few celebratory drinks before we headed to the stadium to witness the Canadians win the Gold! I couldn’t have asked for a better day.
From there the entire Canadian Olympic team gathered for the march into the Closing Ceremonies. It was a special moment to share with all of my fellow athletes competing at the games. Walking into the stadium, wearing Red and White and waving the Canadian flag! I made many new friends in the last week and we all have one thing in common….we are all Olympians at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games!
After the Ceremonies the COC hosted a pizza and beer party at the Canadian residence. They put together a video montage of the past 2 weeks for everyone to watch. It was very emotional and inspiring to see all the success stories and medals that Canada was taking home. At 2am, we had to get on the bus and make our way to the airport to fly back to Europe. The 2014 Olympics were finished.
It was a little sad to be leaving Sochi. But at the same time, it was refreshing. It is the start of a new four year period until the next Winter games. I left feeling hungry and determined; to improve every day so that I can reach the goals I am striving towards in this sport. I am very proud of what I have accomplished so far in my career, but I am young and I feel like things are just getting started. There is so much more that I want to accomplish and I am ready to work hard to achieve those goals.
My road to PyoengChang 2018 starts NOW!
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