PyeongChang Opening Ceremonies

The Olympic Opening Ceremonies are so cool, and I can’t believe that I’ve had the honor of walking into them twice as a member of Team USA. Last night was perfect, as was my experience in Sochi. I feel so lucky to have these opportunities. Thank you to everyone who has helped me get here.

I want to say a special thank you to my parents. They have been a stabilizing force in my life forever. As I have matured, I have become aware that my parents put up with the worst version of myself. I take advantage of them, I don’t communicate as well with them as I do with others and I don’t show them my appreciation for everything that they do for me. As I’ve gained this awareness, I’ve tried to do better, but I often find myself falling back into old habits. I know that they’ll read this, and I just want to tell them that I think they’ve done a perfect job of parenting and that even when I don’t show it, I’m so lucky to have them and grateful for everything they do. We made a decision as a family for them not to come here to Korea. It is expensive and requires a lot of time away from work and from their new farm in Montrose, Colorado. I would rather spend that time with them adventuring in the desert this spring, which we are planning to do instead. It would be nearly impossible and very stressful for me to spend any time with them here in Korea.

On the other hand, my sister is going to come next weekend. I will hardly see her, but she is going to watch the 15K and the relay if I am on the team. She is traveling with a friend and will be entirely self-sufficient. They are coupling this trip with some time powder skiing (hopefully) in Japan.

Last night’s excitement started with a dress up party in our apartment. Erik Bjornsen made the hard and personal decision not to walk in the Ceremony because he felt it was the best thing for his performance at the Games. Although we missed him last night, I highly respect his decision. He still participated by helping us look sharp. He even laced up Paddy Caldwell’s boots.

Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton, who are on their 4th and 3rd Olympics respectively, also chose not to go. Andy still got dressed up to see us off! Pictured below from left to right: Andy, me, Scott Patterson, Paddy and Logan Hanneman.

As we walked down from the 13th floor of the Team USA apartment building, more and more identically dressed athletes came into the stairwell from every floor. It was a little comical.

We convened as a team outside the building.

We took a bunch of group photos.

The majority of the night was spent mingling in one location or another. I really enjoy meeting other athletes, and I already have so many friends across sports that I had a great time seeing.

We were each given a marching pass.

Annie Hart was having the time of her life at her first Opening Ceremonies.

Here’s another men’s team shot with (from left to right) Reese Hanneman, Tyler Kornfield, Logan, Andy, Scott, Paddy, me, US Ski and Snowboard Nordic Program Director Robert Lazzaroni and an awesome photo bomb by snowboarder Hagen Kearney.

Here’s the biggest cross-country team group shot of the night.

We soon loaded buses and were driven less than 10 minutes to a large staging tent outside the stadium. We were greeted by wonderfully enthusiastic volunteers.

Last night in particular, but also throughout my time in Korea, things have been remarkably well organized and efficient. Everything has run like clockwork. I am very impressed. POCOG, the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, and all of the volunteers, have done a fantastic job.

Once we arrived in the staging tent, we had another hour of mingling and photos.

Here are Alpine skiers (right to left) Lauren Ross, fellow Aspen Valley Ski Club alumni Alice McKennis and Megan McJames along with the Games mascot, an athlete from Moldova and Bryce Bennett doing an awesome photo bomb in the back.

Several American Olympic cross-country skiers and biathletes ski for the Craftsbury Green Racing Project. Their coach, Pepa Miloucheva, is here coaching an athlete representing Bermuda. (As part of the Bermuda delegation, she had to wear shorts into the Opening Ceremonies.) Here she is (center) with two of her Craftsbury athletes who are both biathletes: Emily Dreissigacker (left) and Clare Egan.

In case mingling wasn’t enough, there were dancers to entertain us.

They were really fun.

A couple weeks ago at the college races in West Yellowstone, Montana I met Casey Wright, an Australian skier currently attending the University of Alaska Anchorage. At the time Casey was unsure whether she would qualify for the Olympics. I was very excited when she was named to the Australian Team, and it was great to see her last night. My gloves went well with her outfit!

The staging tent was a sea of people. If I found people I knew, it was simply luck.

Before walking into the stadium we managed to gather as a cross-country team. Here are the US women. From left to right: Caitlin Patterson, physical therapist Zuzana Rogers, Jessie Diggins, Rosie Brennan, Liz Stephen, Sadie Bjornsen, Kikkan Randall, Annie Hart and Rosie Frankowski.

Here I am with Liz.

And here I am with my roommate Paddy (with an exceptionally creepy photo bomb from Scott in the back).

Here is Scott with his sister Caitlin, one of 3 sets of siblings on our US Olympic Cross-Country Team.

There was a lot of standing around and it was a little tiring. Here are Sadie (front), Jessie (left) and Rosie taking a little break.

Eventually we got in line behind our flag bearer and made our way outside.

Unfortunately this selfie with Jessie came out a bit blurry.

This might be too much information, but it was two hours and ten minutes from leaving our apartment until the time we actually walked into the stadium. I don’t generally have trouble holding my bladder, but I’ve been focusing on hydration lately, and because of all the excitement, I didn’t use the restroom while we were in the staging tent. We had another 20 minute wait right outside the stadium before walking in and I seriously had to pee. There were no restrooms available and certainly no place to go discretely. I held it and refused to let my discomfort detract from my experience as we entered the stadium.

Besides the same event in Sochi, I have never experienced anything like walking into Opening Ceremonies.

The only word I can think of to describe the feeling is ecstasy, maybe with a hint of wonder at having this opportunity.

Although this picture of Sadie is blurry, the looks on my teammates’ faces matched exactly what I was feeling.

I savored every step around the stadium.

I love that, because of all the lights and the ability to make both the floor and the stands a giant screen, the entire stadium was different every time I looked around.

It was cool to see the LED lights next to each seat that enabled the changes.

As was my plan, I never took a seat. Instead, I kept walking straight up the stairs and then back down the exit. Here’s my final view back into the stadium.

Luckily, I found a bathroom before heading towards the buses!

There were still many teams lined up outside waiting to walk in as I left.

The buses were waiting for us when we arrived…

…and there were dozens more lined up ready to go.

Less than 20 minutes elapsed from the time we walked into the stadium until we were back in the Village. The whole process was remarkably efficient.

As I’ve mentioned many times, we have been discouraged from eating at the Village dining hall in order to limit exposure to illness, but it is expected that we will eat there at times when there is no other good option. Last night was one of those times.

It was fun for me to check it out for the first time, and I am very impressed with the precautions they have taken to prevent the spread of germs. All food is pre-served into single portion disposable containers.

All servers are wearing masks and there are large sneeze guards in front of the food.

After a late second dinner, we made it back to the apartment to undress and decompress. I noticed for the first time the cool button on my pants. (I had previously noticed the large Olympic motto; I’m not that oblivious.)

Each seat at the Opening Ceremonies came with a goodie bag. Although we didn’t stay, we were able to snag the bags from our seats. It contained more souvenirs.

We watched the end of the Ceremony on TV. It made me sad that I hadn’t stayed, but I made the right call to not sit out in the cold two days before my first race.

It took me a while to fall asleep after an exciting night.

This morning has been chill. I got a massage and then went to The Haven early to spin and stretch. Many of my teammates were there doing strength. Here’s Sophie Caldwell doing med ball throwdowns.

The first cross-country ski race of the 2018 Olympics is in an hour. It is the women’s 15K Skiathlon. As a country, we have never won an Olympic medal in a women’s cross-country ski race and the only medal we’ve ever won in either gender was Bill Koch’s silver in the 30K in Innsbruck 1976. Although the term is overused, it would be historic if one of our women wins a medal, and today is the first of many really good opportunities for it to happen. I can’t wait to watch! If you’re awake, here’s how you can watch too:

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 10 —WOMEN’S SKIATHLON
ON TV: NBCSN
2:00-5:00 a.m. EST – (live–same as live stream) along with men’s normal hill ski jumping (live), plus men’s slopestyle snowboarding qualifying.
ON COMPUTER: NBCOlympics.com and NBC Sports Phone app – Live Streaming
2:15-3:20 a.m. EST – Women’s cross country skiathlon
ON TV : Olympic Channel
5:00-7:00 a.m. EST – Medal Ceremony (live)