Last weekend I raced the Olympic Downhill in Sochi. The camaraderie and spirit of the games is intoxicating and it was a great week that I was able to spend with my USA teammates. I am back in the states now, but looking back at Sochi there were a few experiences that really defined my stay there.
The first happened right after we landed on our charter flight from Munich, our entourage, which included men’s alpine, all the snowboard halfpipe team and some of the Nordic combined crew, were taking it all in wide eyed and happy to finally be there. I was laughing and talking with my coaches when a somber faced older Russian man came over and asked if he could take our picture. Of course we obliged, but his reasoning is what sticks with me. He said he wanted to take our picture because our big smiles were so nice to see. He explained that we could travel all through Russia and rarely see people smiling and laughing unabashedly. He hoped that the Olympics was going to help the young people of Russia see a different culture and see happiness and joy being spread freely. I think that his hopes are being realized because throughout the games the thousands of volunteer workers, predominantly young Russians, were happy and gracious and so helpful to our needs. Amidst all the negative press that Sochi was receiving back home it was nice to see that no such attitude was reflected on the volunteers or the locals of Sochi itself.
The second memory that will stick with me was on the Downhill race day last weekend. To get to the start you take a long gondola ride that briefly passes over the race course. I was heading up for my run and I saw the entire US Men’s Slopestyle team perched just outside the fence, fist pumping and cheering as the racers passed. That made me really happy to see and throughout the week I saw similar examples of athletes just excited to be competing at sport and excited to watch others give their best. The perceived differences of rival sports are forgotten in the Olympic arena.
Lastly I think back to my race, of course things did not go optimally, but the feeling of adrenaline standing in the start and seeing such high emotion from all the competitors was really special. There was lots of great skiing on a really tough course that tested the resolve of all the racers. Congrats to the medalists of all the events, I am excited to keep on watching.
Below are a few pics that i snapped from the games. Thanks for reading!