Opening Ceremonies and First Race

OK, so maybe that doesn’t count as a creative title but at least it’s DIFFERENT than the last three.

It’s been an incredible 24 hours. Time is flying. By the time I finished blogging yesterday I had about 10 minutes to get dressed for opening ceremonies. It was a little frantic. Luckily the time we were requested to be ready had a built in cushion before we actually needed to leave. They must know that promptness is a struggle for some of us. The extra time gave us a chance to take some group pictures. Kris Freeman, Torin Koos, Liz Stephen, Holly Brooks, Sadie Bjornsen and Kikkan Randall all decided they couldn’t afford the time and energy to go to the ceremonies. I respect their decision, but I’m so glad I chose to go. Liz, Holly, Kikkan and Sadie got dressed in their outfits to take pictures with us before we headed down. Here is our entire team less Kris, Torin and Simi Hamilton (who was down visiting his family before the ceremonies). (Top row left to right: Bryan Gregg, Andy Newell, Erik Bjornsen and myself; bottom row left to right: Holly, Sadie, Kikkan, Liz, Sophie Caldwell, Jessie Diggins and Ida Sargent.)

U.S. Ski Team in Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremonies Dress

And here is just our very good looking women’s team.

Sochi 2014 Cross Country Women USA Opening Ceremonies Outfits

After those of us that were walking in the ceremonies departed the village, the four remaining women took some cool shots. I was sent this picture of Kikkan (upper left), Sadie (upper right), Liz (lower left) and Holly on the village rings.

Kikkan Randall, Liz Stephen, Holly Brooks and Sadie Bjornsen on Olympic Rings

And the four of them (left to right Holly, Kikkan, Sadie and Liz) in the weight room.

Liz Stephen, Holly Brooks, Sadie Bjornsen and Kikkan Randall in Olympic Weight Room

Those of us that were attending also took a group photo. (From left to right Biathlon Doc Ed, Jessie, Erik, Bryan, Ida, Sophie, Andy, our massage therapist Stephanie Caverhill, the lone biathlon athlete Lanny Barnes, myself and our USSA Nordic Program Director Joey Caterinichio.)

U.S. Ski Team Endurance Village USA Opening Ceremonies Crew

I was a little relieved to see as soon as we stepped out the door that I was not the only top level male distance cross country skier attending the ceremonies. Czech skier Lukáš Bauer, who is an Olympic Silver Medalist from the Torino Games in 2006, was headed to the gondola as well.

Lukáš Bauer Headed to Olympic Opening Ceremonies

I’m really glad that our uniforms said USA on them. Not every country was easily identifiable.

USA on US Olympic Opening Ceremonies Outfit

Everyone was very excited. Here are Sophie (left) and Jessie.

Sophie Caldwell and Jessie Diggins Heading to Olympic Opening Ceremonies

We walked from our lodging to the top of the gondola which only takes about 10 minutes. Here are Bryan, Jessie and Lanny in the gondola headed down.

Bryan Gregg, Jessie Diggins and Lanny Barnes headed to Olympic Opening Ceremonies

We then got on a huge line of waiting buses.

Waiting Buses for Olympic Opening Ceremonies

The bus ride took about an hour.

Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremonies Bus

Before we got on they gave us bagged dinners. I grabbed two, one vegetarian and one meat. I thought I was being greedy until I learned Simi took three dinners.

Opening Ceremonies Bagged Dinners

Here’s Andy chilling out on the bus.

Andy Newell Chilling out on Opening Ceremonies Bus

I was pretty excited when the Olympic Park finally came into view.

Sochi Olympic Park In View

The tops of all of the arenas are covered in LED lights that keep changing colors. It is absolutely stunning.

LED Lights on Sochi Olympic Arena

We were all herded to one of the ice arenas to stage before making our way to the Fisht Olympic Stadium. Here I am with Ida:

Noah Hoffman and Ida Sargent at Olympic Opening Ceremonies

Basically I was taking pictures constantly, but it seemed like everybody else was also. We eventually joined the constant stream of athletes coming from the coastal village.

Olympic Athletes from Village to Opening Ceremonies

We were shuttled to the U.S.A. holding area while thousands of other athletes funneled by to their holding areas.

USA Endurance Village Athletes in Opening Ceremonies Staging Area

Because we have such a huge delegation, our staging area was enormous. We were the first athletes from the U.S. to arrive and it seemed very empty.

Empty USA Opening Ceremonies Staging Area

Other countries were packed right next to each other.

Opening Ceremonies Small Countries Staging Area

We did a little sitting down to rest our legs. In general it was a lot of time on our feet. (From left to right: Simi, Sophie, Jessie and Ida.)

US Cross Country Team Sitting on Concrete

Eventually our delegations from the coastal village, the mountain village and the USSA Hotel arrived. I was amazed at the size of our delegation.

USA Delegation Opening Ceremonies Staging Area

Soon the media showed up as well.

Media at Opening Ceremonies Staging Area

As you’d expect, they knew exactly which athletes they wanted to talk to (like Bode for instance.) The person I was most excited to see all night was Mary Carillo. I’ve been a tennis fan for my whole life and I’ve admired Mary for her tennis career and her sportscasting for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to meet her. Here is a very dark picture of her interviewing Lolo Jones:

Mary Carillo at Opening Ceremonies Olympics

We were in the holding area for a while (probably 45 minutes). It was a fun chance to socialize, see all of my friends from other sports on the U.S. Olympic Team and meet new athletes. Everyone had so much energy. Some of the figure skaters showed off by standing on each others’ shoulders.

U.S. Olympic Figure Skaters Showing Off in Opening Ceremonies Staging Area

Once we got moving it was still a long process. It was a game of hurry up and wait. We would move quickly for a couple hundred meters than stop for a while again. None of us knew how far we had to go. As we made our way between arenas there were thousands of volunteers out cheering us on.

Volunteers Cheering outside Olympic Opening Ceremony

It was an interesting test in group mentality. Everyone would get super excited as they thought we were getting close then come back down when it became apparent we still had a long ways to go.

OS Olympic Team Walking Towards Olympic Opening Ceremonies

Here I am with Heidi Kloser. If you watched the opening ceremonies you probably know that Heidi blew her knee in training on Thursday. If you somehow missed the story, you can read about it here. I was so sorry to hear about her accident, but I’m really glad she still made it to the ceremonies, painkillers and all.

Noah Hoffman and Heidi Kloser at Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremonies

Vancouver 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist in Nordic Combined Billy Demong has been an inspiration to me.

Noah Hoffman and Billy Demong at Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremonies

It was really fun to see many of my friends that I train with all summer at the U.S. Ski Team’s Center of Excellence but have not seen since I left the States in the fall. Here I am with alpine speed skier Steve Nyman:

Noah Hoffman and Steve Nyman at Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremonies

We got a huge tease when we walked into the Olympic Stadium and could see straight ahead into the arena. I figured we were about to enter when we took a last minute turn. We still had to do a lap of the stadium. It was another 20 minutes from that point until we actually walked in.

Olympic Opening Ceremonies Tease for Athletes

We walked by some of the props for the show.

Sochi Opening Ceremonies Props

Here are the three athletes from the U.S. competing in aerials: Ashley Caldwell (left), Mac Bohonnon and Emily Cook.

Sochi 2014 Olympic Aerials Team USA

By the time we actually got to the staging area to enter the arena we were laughing at ourselves for thinking we were entering early. For instance, Todd Lodwick had to be given the flag.

Todd Lodwick Carrying US Flag before entering Olympic Opening Ceremonies

I cannot tell you how impressive it is to me that this is Todd’s 6th Olympics. He is a deserving flag bearer.

Todd Lodwick as US Olympic Flag Bearer

We also had to meet up with our escort into the stadium. I really like her costume.

USA Escort into Olympic Opening Ceremonies Stadium

Entering the stadium was unlike anything I’ve ever done before. I didn’t feel any special significance of “representing my country” and all the normal cliches. It was just very cool to be in the middle of a stadium like that when it is full. I felt like I was floating. I didn’t take any pictures for most of the walk around as I wanted to take it in. It was incredible.

View From Middle of Olympic Opening Ceremony

We were very well directed by volunteers when we were on the arena floor.

Volunteer Directing Athletes in Olympic Opening Ceremony

It was a bit of a process funneling up to our seats.

U.S. Athletes Funneling to Seats in Olympic Opening Ceremony

Everybody was smiling from ear to ear. Here are Sophie (left) and Jessie.

Sophie Caldwell and Jessie Diggins in Olympic Opening Ceremony

It was very cool to check out the stadium once we were in our seats. Here is the panoramic view.

Panoramic View From Olympic Opening Ceremony Seat

Here are Bryan, Sophie and Jessie sitting next to me.

Bryan Gregg, Sophie Caldwell and Jessie Diggins in Olympic Opening Ceremonies Seats

And here I am with Erik and Andy:

Noah Hoffman, Erik Bjornsen and Andy Newell in Olympic Opening Ceremonies

It was pretty fun to watch the rest of the countries enter.

Parade of Nations in Olympic Opening Ceremonies

The standing ovation when the Russian delegation entered was heart stopping.

Russian Delegation Walking Around Olympic Opening Ceremonies

On our seats were necklace lights. We put them on and they flashed different colors in sequence with the entire audience, creating an LED display in the crowd. It was brilliant. Here I am with my necklace.

Noah Hoffman with Sochi Opening Ceremonies Night Necklace

The last thing we got to see was the entering of the Sochi 2014 mascots.

Presentation of Sochi 2014 Mascots at Opening Ceremonies

I loved the fact that the stadium floor was a giant screen.

Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremonies Stadium Floor Screen

When it was time for those of us that were leaving early to depart, there were tons of volunteers waiting for us.

Volunteers in Lobby of Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremonies

I was amazed that so many athletes were also leaving early.

Athletes Departing Early from Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremonies

Before we got back on the bus we were offered another bag dinner. I’m ashamed to say I ate one.

Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremonies Bag Dinner Table

There were tons of buses waiting for us.

Buses at Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremonies

I want to put up a picture of the opening ceremonies boots because I don’t see myself ever wearing them again.

US Olympic Team Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremonies Boots

The bus ride back to the gondola went pretty quickly. Many athletes slept. All of the volunteers we saw along the journey back up the gondola were complementing us on our outfits. These two ladies asked if they could take their picture with me.

Noah Hoffman with Sochi 2014 Volunteers in Opening Ceremonies Outfits

The biathlon stadium was all lit up as we made it back to the village.

Sochi 2014 Olympic Biathlon Stadium Lit Up

We made it back to our beds at 11:30 and were able to sleep in this morning.

I’m just starting to realize that almost everything we see in the village is custom for the Olympics. I looked closer at our towels.

Custom Sochi 2014 Olympic Towels

Simi’s family brought over a Colorado flag given to us by state senator Gail Schwartz. Here is Simi showing it off.

Simi Hamilton with Colorado Flag at Olympics

He hung it up in our apartment.

Colorado Flag Hanging in US Olympic Team Apartment

I’m not sure how I feel about it. Of course I’m proud to be a Coloradan, but we are here as a team representing the United States. I remember being a little ticked off when I heard there were Alaskan flags being waved in the crowd of the Vancouver Olympics.

I took a super chill morning, basically just lounging in my bed. This afternoon we got to watch the first Sochi 2014 Olympic Cross Country Race, the women’s 15 kilometer skiathlon!

Sochi 2014 Olympic Ladies Skiathlon on Television

Our ladies made it very exciting by falling back in the classic portion then rebounding with incredible skate legs. Jessie skied all the way up to 8th place, the best ever result for the U.S. in women’s Olympic cross country skiing. I am so excited and proud to be her teammate. Liz Stephen also had a great race in 12th place. I truly believe it is just the first of a string of great results from our team this week. Full results from today’s race are here. After watching the race I headed to the venue for my pre-race ski. When I arrived there were still athletes giving interviews. The Olympics are a big deal.

Sochi 2014 Olympic Interview Ukraine

The temps were a little warmer today and the snow is starting to get wet.

Melting Snow at Sochi 2014 Cross Country Venue

Here’s a look at the transportation depot at the venue.

Sochi 2014 Olympic Cross Country Stadium Transportation Center

My friend Tom Troutner is here this week waxing for one of the non-typical skiing countries.

Tom Troutner at Sochi 2014 Olympics

Our wax room looks directly into Italy’s wax room. The windows are about a foot apart.

U.S.A. Wax Room to Italian Wax Room

The Italians hung this awesome note on the window.

Italian Note to U.S. Ladies in Olympic Wax Room

I had a great ski with my coach Zach Caldwell. I’m excited and nervous for tomorrow. There were lots of other skiers who also waited till after the women’s race to do their workouts. Here is Finland’s Sami Jauhojärvi:

Sami Jauhojärvi at Sochi 2014 Olympics

Here is the reigning Olympic Sprint Champion, World Sprint Champion and World Team Sprint Champion, Russian Nikita Kriukov rounding the top of the sprint hill:

Nikita Kriukov Skiing in Sochi Russia Olympic Venue

Here is Australian coach and fellow Aspen native August Teague:

August Teague at Sochi 2014 Olympics

Here are German skiers Denise Herrmann (left) and Hannah Kolb:

Denise Herrmann and Hannah Kolb skiing on Sochi 2014 Olympic Trail

And here they are (with Hannah on the left) posing for a picture:

Hannah Kolb and Denise Herrmann at Sochi 2014 Olympics

This afternoon the male Swiss sprinters were having a very important time trial. They brought six sprinters to the Games, but each country can only start four athletes. Two of the athletes are guaranteed their spots, but the other four had to race for the fianal two start positions. Here they are coming up the exceptionally long men’s sprint hill:

Swiss Skiers Sprinting For Olympic Start Spots

Unfortunately I don’t know who earned the spots.

Tomorrow is my first ever Olympic race! It is the 30 kilometer mass start skiathlon (15 kilometers classic, change skis and poles in a pit zone then 15 kilometers skate). It begins at 2 p.m. Sochi time which is 11 a.m. in central Europe, 5 a.m. on the East coast of the U.S. and 3 a.m. (ouch) in the Rocky Mountains. In the U.S. it will be live on the NBC Sports Network. It will then be re-aired on NBC at 3 p.m. Eastern (1 p.m. Mountain Standard Time).

My goal for the race is to ski smart with an external focus. I want to be relaxed and conserve energy through the classic portion and look to move up once we start skating. My outcome goal is to finish in the top 10. Full results will be available here.

79 thoughts on “Opening Ceremonies and First Race

  1. Sending you lots of love, stamina, and luck for skating your best! We are so proud of you Noah! Thanks for sharing your photos and experiences and representing the best of the United States. Your San Jose fans, and friends of the Hoffmans, Suellen, Jacqueline, & Isabel Haggerty

  2. Great blog, Noah. Love your telling of the opening. The floating feeling must have been amazing!
    Best of luck tomorrow. We will be watching. For sure!

  3. You guys were great at the opening ceremony, so much energy! Reading your blog is bringing the Olympics to life for me. Thanks Noah.

  4. Ur gonna fly around the course. I’ve always been a fan and I’m sooooo excited for u and this amazing experience. Can’t wait to cheer u on. U might be able to hear me from over there, ha!!!

  5. Noah–I’m so excited for all of you guys!! Loving all of your updates. Have a great race tomorrow. I’ll be getting up at my usual hour of 5:30am (err…) to watch.

    • Noah, I am so enjoying reading your posts! Thank you for taking the time to write them. Best of luck to you and the rest of the XC team! Go USA!

  6. Fantastic post! Thanks again for taking the time to give us an inside glimpse. I cracked up at the Italians leaving a note for the U.S. women. They are such flirts. Good luck tomorrow!

  7. YOUR INET speed is obviously quite good with that huge file. I was WAAYYY more excited watching the complete replay of the women’s skiathlon than I have ever been for the Superbowl. GOOD LUCK NOAH on your race. We are so proud of the amazing results the women got on that first race. BEST EVER SO FAR!

  8. Thanks for the great blog posts. So much fun to read about what it’s like from an athlete’s point of view. Best wishes for all your races.

  9. rip them up noah good luck on your first race. EMBK had classic time trials today it was great weather and it was verry fun

  10. Thanks again for the great blog…Your posts are fantastic. Good Luck tomorrow in your race.

  11. Noah – best of luck (may Ullr be with you!) on all of your races and the whole experience. Great to have met your family in October.

  12. Reading you report adds so much to the excitement of watching the Olympics ! Thanks….and good luck!!!

  13. HOFF! Good luck tomorrow, get some!
    Also for an intro idea you could say the day etc but in another language and you have to meet someone in the village who speaks that language and teaches it to you!

  14. So proud of all that you have and will accomplish!!
    So fun to read your blog.

  15. We’re with you, Noah. Your pix are like being there. Nice work! Esquiar con Dios.

  16. GO NOAH. Thanks for the post and pictures. Good luck in your race tomorrow. You will do GREAT!

  17. The USA is honored to have a humble and positive representative for our country. Top ten is well within your grasp and everyone is pulling for u.
    You’re an Olympic Nordic skier. Congratulations!!!!

    Way to go ladies team. The energy must be so powerful. Enjoy every second.

  18. Noah! Thanks for taking the time to share your photos with us… it’s so cool to see it from an “OLYMPIAN’S” perspective!
    you are going to KICK ASS tomorrow, Noah. Believe in yourself
    Hugs and kisses and stay in shape over there so you can keep up with me when we hike the bowl.

  19. Loved reading about the opening ceremonies. so glad you experienced it first hand. Good luck in your first race. Go get ’em!

  20. We honestly don’t understand where you’re finding the time to prepare such an incredible blog! A friend called to say that reading your account of the Opening Ceremonies was better than watching them on TV last night!
    Have fun tomorrow!

  21. WOW! Such a great post and pictures. So nice to be there with you and share the team energy and excitement, all thanks to your icredible ability to capture it! Good luck!

  22. Good Luck in the race Noah! Can’t wait to watch the replay on NBC! Hope I can keep myself from spoilers online before they air it!

  23. Good luck, Noah! Thank you so much for your blog – I’ve loved the Olympics ever since I was a little girl and we had the good fortune to go (as spectators) to Vancouver 2010 and London 2012. Have been glued to the TV and Internet for Sochi 2014 – but so far the very best part has been reading about your experiences and seeing your pictures. We’re so proud that you are representing us! We hope you have a wonderful Games!! We’ll be watching your race tomorrow 🙂

  24. Good luck Noah! And thanks for your blog – it’s so fun to read! We’ll be cheering you on! With love and best of luck from the Williams family – Janet, Ben, Brycen, and Courtney.

  25. Hi Noah, I’m your dad’s cousin, Ruth. We don’t know each other, but I want you to know that I am rooting for you! I’m very proud to be able to say we are related! Wishing you the best of luck and thank you for the details and photos of your experience. It is very cool to see it from your inside point of view!

  26. Bad that u didnt watch all ceremony ) And bad that u broked your ski poles. But we can make very cute gif of this moment 🙂

  27. USA, USA, USA, Go NOAH! Love the Blog! Really good stuff! Proud to be an American! Proud to be a cousin!!

  28. Alright…so it is generally the case that bad luck happens in 3’s. You are all set now: Fall, Elbow in the Nose, Broken Pole. Boom, done! From this point forward luck will be on your side!

    We’re rooting for you!

    Chris, Dani, Cooper and Mia Hartmann
    Eastern Mass Bill Koch

  29. Noah—
    Just finished watching the 30km skiathlon and wow, what a great effort on your part. Sure looked like you would have made your goal of being in the top ten—you were skiing great. Too bad about the fall, broken pole, and that elbow in the face… But that’s racing and your best events are yet to come. Looking forward to hearing the announcers shouting your name a lot more as these Games progress!

  30. Ain’t that just the luck? It broke my heart watching today’s race. Looking forward to Friday and the big 50km. On the bright side, you’ve really impressed
    the BBC commentators. They said some really complimentary things about you and the U.S. team.

    Love the photos! I’m so glad you decided to go to the opening ceremonies. Keep ’em coming!

  31. Hey Noah, thanks a lot for your writing!

    Pls write more, and don’t hesitate with every detail you notice. For us Russians it is extremely important to know what you think of what we’ve done for all of you there.

    Thanks and good luck at games!

  32. Noah, thanks for your blog from Russia! Every day I update it and waiting for your comments about the Games! Rooting today for Russian skiers and you! Good luck at the Games! Thank you for the positive and the absence of policy in the post!

    Regards from Russia.

    P.s. Look here every writes that state with you … Once lived in Wisconsin, Wisconsin so you 🙂
    P.s.s. I hope your team and you will enjoy your stay in Sochi.

  33. Great blog. Too bad about the bad luck today in an otherwise exciting race. You are an inspiration in this great sport. We are cheering you on here in Vermont!

  34. Noah, congrats on your great performance today! We are rooting for you! You are the best!

  35. Such composure after the elbow to the face. Olympic racing is serious business. We’re looking forward to watching you fly later in the week. Loved the Italian wax trailer note. – Paul and Samuel from the Eastern Mass BKL

  36. It was fantastic to watch you today! I am so impressed and proud by what you have accomplished, competing at the highest level in the world. Your blog is great, and I am looking forward to seeing more of you and reading more about your adventure in the coming weeks.

  37. Great blog post here, Noah!

    Man, tough luck in the skiathlon. You were givin’ it hell before that fall and were making it very exciting for us to watch. Way to go. It looks like the form is there for you; it was just a tough break, no pun intended. They didn’t show what was described as having happened to you in the transition with the pole straps. That actually sounds worse than the fall and broken pole (and elbow to the face…holy crap!). Way to maintain composure and pull of a great result anyway.

    It was a good race to blow out the pipes. Now you can get on to business with the relay and 50km race! Keep the pedal all the way down, man!

  38. Thank you for your nice comments about our country. Unfortunately the world is full of stereotypes. I really want something to as many people in the world and America knew and loved our Russia. Thanks again and good luck!
    Denis from Moscow.


    THANKS for sharing all these pictures! So interesting to see! You all look awesome!

    The USA uniforms are absolutely gorgeous and so patriotic, really beautiful!


  40. Привет из России! Спасибо за блог! Побед в спорте!

  41. Good blog, Noah! Its interesting to see Olympics from your point of view. You have a good style! and GOOD LUCK!

  42. Noah, please open the water when will be in a hotel, US Military Vets want to know the truth ! =))

  43. Hi from Russia! It was so nice to see these pictures and read your post. I hope now you can see that in Russia are many friendly people, and we aren’t so scary as media draw us.
    We are wishing you have a nice time there. And would be glad to see you again! Good luck Noah, you are cool guy!

  44. Ной, в пятницу буду держать кулаки за тебя!

  45. Hi! 🙂 Thank you, Noah for your LOVELY words about my country. I hope you felt pleasure and safety while being in Russia 🙂 I hope you felt warm russian soul =) I wish you greatest success. And i hope to see you here in Russia someday again =) We will be glad to take you as guest =)

    P.S. I recommend you to try national russian food. it is really tasty. =)

    I’m sorry for my bad english =)

  46. I am Russian, but read with great interest. This gives a feel of the atmosphere of the inside.
    Good luck!

  47. I am Russian, living in Europe and was living in USA as well, thank you so much for such a great photos+comments, I was really impressed by level of the Games and it makes me proud to be a Russian. Thank you again and good luck to you and all American team!

  48. Thank you so much! Lovely post, especially for Russians:) I’ll keep reading r blog all games long:)

  49. Hi, Noah!
    Thanks a lot for sharing such a friendly comments about Sochi. You and your US olympic fellows are more than welcome to Russia. Good luck! Screw up politicians, they can not ski!!!

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