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.)
And here is just our very good looking women’s team.
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.
And the four of them (left to right Holly, Kikkan, Sadie and Liz) in the 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.)
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.
I’m really glad that our uniforms said USA on them. Not every country was easily identifiable.
Everyone was very excited. Here are Sophie (left) and Jessie.
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.
We then got on a huge line of waiting buses.
The bus ride took about an hour.
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.
Here’s Andy chilling out on the bus.
I was pretty excited when the Olympic Park finally came into view.
The tops of all of the arenas are covered in LED lights that keep changing colors. It is absolutely stunning.
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:
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.
We were shuttled to the U.S.A. holding area while thousands of other athletes funneled by to their holding areas.
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.
Other countries were packed right next to each other.
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.)
Eventually our delegations from the coastal village, the mountain village and the USSA Hotel arrived. I was amazed at the size of our delegation.
Soon the media showed up as well.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Vancouver 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist in Nordic Combined Billy Demong has been an inspiration to me.
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:
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.
We walked by some of the props for the show.
Here are the three athletes from the U.S. competing in aerials: Ashley Caldwell (left), Mac Bohonnon and Emily Cook.
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.
I cannot tell you how impressive it is to me that this is Todd’s 6th Olympics. He is a deserving flag bearer.
We also had to meet up with our escort into the stadium. I really like her costume.
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.
We were very well directed by volunteers when we were on the arena floor.
It was a bit of a process funneling up to our seats.
Everybody was smiling from ear to ear. Here are Sophie (left) and Jessie.
It was very cool to check out the stadium once we were in our seats. Here is the panoramic view.
Here are Bryan, Sophie and Jessie sitting next to me.
And here I am with Erik and Andy:
It was pretty fun to watch the rest of the countries enter.
The standing ovation when the Russian delegation entered was heart stopping.
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.
The last thing we got to see was the entering of the Sochi 2014 mascots.
I loved the fact that the stadium floor was a giant screen.
When it was time for those of us that were leaving early to depart, there were tons of volunteers waiting for us.
I was amazed that so many athletes were also leaving early.
Before we got back on the bus we were offered another bag dinner. I’m ashamed to say I ate one.
There were tons of buses waiting for us.
I want to put up a picture of the opening ceremonies boots because I don’t see myself ever wearing them again.
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.
The biathlon stadium was all lit up as we made it back to the village.
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.
Simi’s family brought over a Colorado flag given to us by state senator Gail Schwartz. Here is Simi showing it off.
He hung it up in our 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!
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.
The temps were a little warmer today and the snow is starting to get wet.
Here’s a look at the transportation depot at the venue.
My friend Tom Troutner is here this week waxing for one of the non-typical skiing countries.
Our wax room looks directly into Italy’s wax room. The windows are about a foot apart.
The Italians hung this awesome note on the window.
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:
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:
Here is Australian coach and fellow Aspen native August Teague:
Here are German skiers Denise Herrmann (left) and Hannah Kolb:
And here they are (with Hannah on the left) posing for a picture:
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:
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.