Olympic Skiathlon

My website has been experiencing serious technical issues. I’ve been working with a website designer back in Park City, Utah to resolve the issues. We think the issues are actually being caused by too much traffic. We are working to move the site to different servers, but there may be continued issues in the next couple of days until we get it moved. Bear with us.

Since my last post I’ve completed my first Olympic race! It didn’t go exactly as I planned, but it was an incredible experience. I can’t wait for my next opportunity. More on the race later, but I’m going to start where my pictures start.

When it comes to the actual racing, most things here at the Olympics are the same as the World Cup. However, there are small things that the organizers are doing differently (sometimes better and sometimes worse) than the International Ski Federation (FIS) does every other weekend of the year. For instance, the Olympic Organizing Committee distributed this flow chart as part of the coaches’ slide show to make sure there is no confusion about how the athletes should get to and from the race:

Olympic Skiathlon Coaches Meeting Flow Chart

Race morning yesterday was very grey. I actually thought the cloud cover was a blessing (It pains me to say that; I LOVE the sun.) because without direct sunlight the conditions on course should have been more consistent.

Grey Day at Sochi Olympic Endurance Village

We finally joined the rest of the nations with flags on the outside of our apartments. We have a U.S. flag on one balcony and a U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) flag on the other.

USOC Flag on Sochi Olympic Housing

I haven’t seen too many security officers inside the Olympic Village. For the most part they are just at the perimeter, but this guard looked like she meant business outside our apartment yesterday.

Guard in Olympic Endurance Village Sochi

I went for a jog yesterday morning to shake my legs out and stay active before the race. I discovered another little loop (every meter counts when running in the village) that took me between the outermost chalets and the fence. The route took me by Team Canada’s housing.

Team Canada Olympic Housing Endurance Village Sochi

We finally received our Nike and Ralph Lauren duffle bags. They contain all the clothing we got at processing on Monday. They were sent directly from processing to Sochi.

US Olympic Team Nike and Ralph Lauren Duffle Bags in Sochi

I found out yesterday why the USOC recommended we not drink the water out of the tap here in the village.

Brown Water in Sochi Olympic Village

In my first Olympic race the magnitude of the Olympics was driven home for me. There were television cameras waiting for us as we got off the transport shuttle at the venue.

Television Cameras at Olympic Skiathlon Arrival

All of our wax technicians and the other athletes seemed pretty relaxed before the race. Here is my teammate Erik Bjornsen:

Erik Bjornsen Before Olympic Skiathlon Sochi

Here is our head kick wax tester, Estonian Oleg Ragilo.

Oleg Ragilo in Sochi Russia Olympics

And here is my technique coach and the technician this week for Kris Freeman and Brian Gregg, Zach Caldwell, working on Brian’s skis.

Zach Caldwell Preparing Skis for Olympic Skiathlon

And here is Brian, psyched before his first Olympic race.

Brian Gregg before 30 kilometer skiathlon Olympic Race

The ski depot was a busy place. Skiathlon races are very ski intensive because they require both classic and skate skis. All of the skis have to be ready at the same time because athletes have to load their own pit stations with their skate skis before the start of the race.

Busy Ski Depot Before Olympic Skiathlon

While I was warming up the stands in the stadium were not very full, but I noticed before the start of the race that they had filled all the way up.

Half Full Stands at Sochi Olympic Cross Country

The biathlon ladies raced later in the day. Their course parallels ours and both courses were prepared while I was warming up. Their V boards are blue while ours are purple.

Parallel Olympic Biathlon and Cross Country Courses

The crowd on the last hill into the stadium was pretty good for the race.

Olympic Skiathlon Crowd on Sprint Hill

I have always viewed the International Olympic Committee as a very exclusive organization unwilling to share its brand. I was surprised to see an International Ski Federation sign on course yesterday.

FIS Sign on Olympic Skiathlon Course

I was well prepared for the race. I believe I am in good shape, and I am happy with the gains Zach and I have made in classic technique this week. I had a good plan and I executed as well as I could.

The first two laps were great. I was relaxed and skiing comfortably. I moved up and was in the top 10. On the third of four classic laps the sun came out, the snow got warm and I started slipping. I was struggling and yo-yoing off the back of the front group. I was suffering. Coming into the stadium at the end of the third lap I crashed around a sharp corner. My ski got caught in some loose snow, but I probably fell because my legs were so wobbly. If you’re in the U.S. you can probably watch the fall here. I can’t view it in Russia. In the fall I broke my pole. It was a terrible place to break a pole because the entire stadium is a no-coaching zone. I had to ski the whole lap of the stadium with one pole. I lost a ton of time and places. Once I got a spare pole I struggled to get through the last classic lap.

I then had a terrible transition to skate. I managed to pull my pole straps all the way out of the loops they thread through to Velcro back on themselves. I had to re-thread them while skiing down a long fast downhill. It took me forever and I lost more time and places.

The skate portion of the race was OK. I was suffering after the classic portion, but I managed to recover and move up in the last lap. I finished in 35th position.

Overall, I am disappointed with the result but happy with my fitness and my pre-race execution.

Zach took this picture of me in the race:

Noah Hoffman Skiing in Classic Portion of Olympic Skiathlon

Everything that happened after the race finished caught me a little off guard. I was disappointed and exhausted and didn’t really want anything to do with anybody. However, I got randomly selected for an anit-doping test, so I was immediately assigned a chaperon. I then had to go through the media mix zone. It was full!

Full Media Mix Zone after Olympic Skiathlon

I got pulled for an interview with NBC, something I was not expecting after the poor result. They wanted to hear about my crash. Here is Norwegian Sjur Røthe following me through the line of cameras.

Sjur Røthe in Olympic Skiathlon Mix Zone

Then on the back side of the television mix zone was the print media mix zone.

Print Media Mix Zone at Sochi Skiathlon Olympics

The flower ceremony for the race was happening while I wound my way through the reporters. Here are the medalists: silver medalist from Sweden Marcus Hellner (left), bronze medalist from Norway Martin Johnsrud Sundby (center) and winner from Switzerland Dario Cologna:

Olympic Skiathlon Medalists Men Sochi

Once I got my skis back to the wax room and got changed, I had a personal van to take me to doping control.

Personal Van for Olympic Doping Control

Doping control was in the biathlon stadium. We had to drive more than a mile to snake around to it even though it’s only a couple hundred meters from the cross country stadium. The biathlon stadium is a huge structure.

Huge Biathlon Stadium Sochi Olympics

I was still in good spirits even after the disappointing race.

Noah Hoffman Psyched to be heading to doping control

I thought the whole doping control process was efficient and professional. I was accompanied by Dr. Larry Gaul from Vail.

Doping Control in Olympic Biathlon Stadium

I was able to produce the 90 milliliter urine sample faster than I expected. That’s good because it means I wasn’t too dehydrated even after the race.

I was surprised to see a Norwegian NRK broadcasting truck outside the biathlon stadium. I’m pretty sure NRK lost the Olympic broadcasting contract to TV2 Norway.

NRK Broadcasting Truck at Olympic Biathlon Stadium

As Larry and I were walking back to the village from doping control there were a lot of fans leaving from cross country and coming for biathlon.

Fans Walking Up and Down to/from Cross Country and Biathlon Olympic Venues

Because Zach isn’t here on a USOC credential, he isn’t allowed in the village. Therefore, I haven’t seen much of him. Yesterday evening I decided to go down the gondola with him to his hotel for dinner so we could chat about my skiing. The food at his hotel was really high quality.

High Quality Food at Zach Caldwell's Olympic Hotel

Zach’s hotel is in Krasnaya Polyana. It is a mile walk from the base of the gondola.

Krasnaya Polyana During Olympics

I spent a couple evenings in Krasnaya Polyana last year when we were here for the test event. It was pretty built out at that time and didn’t look very different last night.

Krasnaya Polyana From Bridge over River

Here’s a look at the Krasnaya Polyana transportation hub. It is both the train station and the gondola depot for a spectator gondola that goes to our venue (or close to it).

Krasnaya Polyana Transportation Hub

The Olympic Rings in Krasnaya Polyana were popular with visitors.

Krasnaya Polyana Olympic Rings

Many of the trees on the hillside above the walking path were lit. I’m not sure if it is for aesthetics or security, but it looked cool.

Lit Trees In Sochi, Russia

When I got back to the village I had a wonderful good luck card waiting on my bed from the Aspen Valley Ski Club cross country team. I think Simi Hamilton’s family must have brought it over.

AVSC to Noah Hoffman Good Luck Card

Today dawned bright and beautiful.

Bright and Beautiful Day from Sochi Olympic Endurance Village

I am so excited to watch the Olympic Sprint Race tomorrow! As a team, it is our best event and our best chance for individual medals. I cannot wait to cheer on my teammates.

I have gotten a lot of attention this week from this blog more than my skiing. This afternoon I had a Skype interview with RBC TV Moscow, an interview on the phone with the Washington Jewish Week and a live interview on the phone with Radio VR Russia. (I’ve never done a live interview. I was nervous.) This evening I have an in-person interview with Channel One T.V. Russia.

Assuming we get the technical difficulties straightened out, I’ll be blogging daily again.

52 thoughts on “Olympic Skiathlon

  1. Tough luck with the fall. But as you mentioned, the conditioning is there. Keep the focus forward and keep believing in your abilities.

  2. Yes, I got up early (but not at 3:30 am!) to watch the race. You were mentioned a number of times on the various segments that I had taped. I know you’ve got a good head on, so I’m not worried about that. Great posting as usual, and onwards and upwards! Thanks again for posting the schedule, I’m using it to record daily events. Molly

  3. NOAH!!!!
    So proud of you and your valiant efforts this weekend! It was so awesome and super motivating watching you ski! You were right there mixing it up in the front–I was literally jumping up and down every time you were on camera! ;) So sorry about the fall–but as you and I know well, anything can happen on any given day and you put forth the best display of perseverance I’ve ever seen…anyone else would have quit, but noooo, you fought HARD until the very end of the race–was so exciting to watch! Thanks for keeping all of your fans posted! We are cheering super load for you in San Diego! Good luck and God bless you on Friday in the 50k–you OWN that event…go get that GOLD! XOXO

  4. Noah, Thank you for the terrific blog. It’s a great insight into your experience. Tough luck on your 1st race, but congratulations on an incredible effort. Having known your parents and the Fletchers for nearly 40 years, it’s amazing to see you guys at the top of your sport. Ski well and enjoy the ride!

  5. These posts are awesome Noah!! Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with everyone. I have been telling everyone I know just how excited I am that you and Simi are representing Aspen and the United States in the Olympics. Just making it there is such a huge accomplishment and my family couldn’t be more proud of you. I’m excited to watch you ski again! Good luck!

  6. Noah,
    Our entire family watched your first race, my wife was very excited to see you in the top 10 and yelled at me to get in here taking me away from my work in the garage. When you went down they were in a bad way feeling for you, I told them thats nothing, then proceed to tel them the story of when I was in the team vehicle watching you go down twice in the JR Hillclimb National Championship and get up and WIN!!!
    Tough break for you, but I know from experience you know how to bounce back “literally”. I knew you were aces when I saw the pic you posted of the mountanous view during sunrise. Great things are to come!!! Your newest fan, Jeff

  7. Another fantastic post Noah! This blog is such a cool window into your life as an athlete, no wonder traffic has picked up! I really think it’s inspiring to people from all over the world. I’ve even managed to find a few Norwegians rooting for you as well! Keep up the good work and good luck to you, Simi, and all of Team USA!!!

    And that is correct about NRK losing the rights to TV2… maybe TV2 rented the truck (they have loads of coverage on 2-3 channels, lots of people in place in Sochi… or “Sotsji” in Norwegian).

    • NRK is also doing a radio broadcast of all the skiing events. Definitely worth putting TV2 on mute and pulling out the radio.

      Keep it up Noah! You and the US team have some supporters here in Oslo. Looking forward to Holmenkollen!

    • tv2 got the assignment to produce the biathlon brodcast, but since nrk have alot of experience tv2 asked if they could do it.

    • Thanks for the replies guys! My TV2 has ho audio anyways for some reason so Radio NRK it is! Cheers!

  8. Noah,
    Thank you for your posts! I find them very interesting and informative. I think you’ll be pleased to know that your blog is very popular in Russia. Your kind words about Sochi are very much appreciated! I support Russian team of course, but I wish you good luck next time. You can win. Really…all of us have seen it.
    All the best to you

  9. Noah,

    Watched the event live from Canada, nothing to worry about, it’s life, right!? Good Luck with the next race.

    Question though, what’s happening with water over there? Is it always like this? Is it just your room or all rooms have the same issue?

    Cheers,
    Alex

  10. Thank you very much for this incredible blog! Good luck Noah, We wish you the victory!
    Kostya, Russia.

  11. SPB (Russia) reader here, writing from Western EU. great, really natural and vivid reporting, keep it up, makes the whole Olympics feel as if I am right there – a feeling that you dont get at all watching on TV or reading Western newspapers’ (very negatively biased) coverage. best of luck for your other races!

    P. S. sorry for the water, I had seen some fake pics of that, but if you write it it’s surely true. maybe the plumbing is a bit too new as yet.. normally tap water in Russia is quite drinkable.

    • Sergey — I think you’re correct about the plumbing (being too new…). I’m sure it was quite a rush to get everything installed and some piping and fittings were not flushed well before/after installation. That really looks mostly like rust and probably a lot of fine, silty dirt. All of the ridiculous reporting of this stuff makes it seem like such an epidemic problem. I don’t think stuff like this will end up being the lasting impression of the Games or of Russia itself. I think everyone can see how great things are and how well the Russian hosts are handling everything.

  12. Hi Noah,

    Great blog. Stay focused and keep up the good work. Good Luck to you and your teammates!

    From Russian with Love.

    Ellena,
    Moscow, Russia

  13. A relative from Russia sent me your blog (I live in Boston). It’s great. Thanks for such an unbiased, positive view of the Sochi Olympics. The Western media has been really rough on it and seems to always look for the negatives so it’s nice to see how things really are from an athlete’s perspective. Sorry for the bad luck in your first race (saw the video, ouch!). Hopefully, you’ll have much better luck in your next race, Noah.

  14. Hey, Noah

    I had no idea who you are and how good you are in skiing. But glad to come across your blog. It’s awesome to get an insight into the everyday life of the Olympic athlete. Keep on blogging and good luck!

  15. Thank you very much for your report and for these warm words about our Sochi!
    Good luck!

    Mariya,
    Moscow

  16. Noah. Loved reading your blog. I’ve never felt closer to any Olympics. Aspen is proud of you. Enjoy the experience.

  17. Noah,
    The fitness is in YOU! Can’t wait for the 50k. With the Madshus grips if you take a piece of athletic tape and tear it in 1/2 length wise and wrap it around the end of the strap it will prevent the strap from pulling through. I have experienced the same thing in Biathlon races ( I don’t like biathlon straps ) putting a piece of tape enables you to leave the strap all the way open and slide your hands back in easily and makes for a quick transition. Thanks again for taking the time to work on the blog !

  18. Enjoyed watching the race yesterday and your blog is great, I remember how well you ran in high school. I know Alex and Zeke and my daughter, Chelsea, are thrilled for your success. Have a great time and as us Mick’s like to say ” May the wind be at your back” for your next race.

  19. Since 99.99999999999999999% of us will never be an Olympic athlete ourselves, it’s great to see what it’s like through your blog. Thanks for giving everyone a peek into your life! Good luck in your next race!

  20. Another fantastic post. Keep them coming and I am contemplating getting up at 5am to watch the sprints. So exciting. Hope team US has a great day!

  21. Thanks for the great writing. I get you are really enjoying your Olympic experience and thank you for sharing it with us. We are very proud of you and your Nordic team members and wish you the best!

  22. Noah,
    Looks like your blog has gone viral after all! I’m so glad I came across it as it’s been such a pleasure reading about your Olympic experience!! Best of luck in your next race!!

  23. So sorry about your fall, Noah! But, man, you pulled yourself together and finished no matter what! :) That’s admirable!

    Thanks for your great blog and finding the time to share with us! So much appreciated!

    Good luck with the rest of the competition! And have some fun there!

  24. We were cheering you on all the way. Your fall and determination to finish well is a great example to all of the younger and less experienced skiers. Noah, you have a great way of showing the behind the scenes look at the Olympics and way more interesting than the media. Thanks for all of your hard work; skiing and blogging.

  25. The entire 8th grade at AMS is following you and Simi. Chris Keleher’s curriculum for the next two weeks: “Nordic Skiing at the Olympics”. So proud of all you have accomplished. Rip it up!

    • Ha! I witnessed this yesterday evening pulling into the ARC (Aspen Rec Center) as I watched the x-country team storm in and fly over the bridge back to the school at what I assume was the end of practice. Obviously Noah-inspired. I also eavesdropped on some of the girls from the Aspen Speedos swim team talking about Sunday’s race in the locker room. Noah, I work with your dad at G&H and I enjoyed catching up with him today about how you’re doing and this extraordinary blog. He’s very proud, as you know. We’re all cheering for you! Best of luck! Enjoy the ride!

  26. Thanks a lot, Noah, great blog, great job! Precious insider’s opinion! Een we in Russia do not know what is going on. We are happy you enjoy the event despite some minor faults. We Russians cannot be perfect in everything ;) But we do put all of our soul in Sochi. Good luck!

  27. Good luck going forward Noah. I have been enjoying your Blog for a year now, since we saw you ski with the leaders at the Canmore Skiathlon! Thanks for keeping it up, even now. I have followed and supported Jessie Diggins for threee years and always read her Blog. Very cool to see so many from Russia following you here now! I think the coverage in the US, on NBC and through some of the advertisers, is getting much better. Sochi looks gorgeous, especially the mountain venues. The games are going along well, volunteers are enjoying meeting folks from abroad. I hope to see you ski in our 4x10k Relay! Some of us are gathering in Stillwater Minnesota to watch Jessie anchor the Womens 4x5k Relay Sat.
    Cheers!!

  28. Hi Noah: My brother who lives in Aspen has been following and sharing your Olympic journey via his Facebook. Thank you for sharing and posting the wonderful photos and words that have given me a unique insight into an elite athlete competing across the world at these Games. It is a wonderful experience to travel with you and share this awesome adventure of your life. I wish you success and believe you have the necessary focus to achieve anything you desire. Cheers and best wishes from Australia. Liz G

  29. Noah, we are so proud of you. I actually got to watch the race on Sunday afternoon when it was rebroadcast. Watched it with my daughter Tessa. Saw it all including your finish. We both just swelled up with pride. How exciting this is for all of us. The blog is, of course, fabulous, its as if we were walking side by side with you. A real treasure. Thanks!

  30. Sorry to hear of your fall Noah, but way to push through it! As I don’t have television I haven’t seen one minute of Olympics coverage, so I really appreciate your inside view of your experiences there. Thanks for sharing your experiences with all of us, and it’s great that you share little details like the food and things you see around you, like the lit up pathways in the trees. Go kick some butt in the 50k.
    As usual, cheering you on from Aspen and will keep following your blog.
    Cheers, Alena

  31. Hi Noah,

    Your blog is sensational. My husband is a Russian emigre and really appreciates the objectivity alluded to in many of the comments above, as do I. We thought their closing ceremony tonight was the classiest ever.

    We’re pretty new to Aspen but met your parents recently, so I was at the party today to see the local broadcast of the 50k. We feel really honored and proud to know “Noah’s parents” :) You will obviously again be a hot item in 2018 and it was thrilling to watch you today.

    Your dad told me you’ll be racing in Anchorage in March. Wish I could come cheer for you because I’ll be there just before…..I’m leaving the 22nd so I think I’ll just miss you. I’ve run in Kincaid when visiting my brother’s family there.

    Congratulations!

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