(a continuation of до свидания, Сочи)
It looks like I didn't have a chance to finish my last post. My plane boarded earlier than I thought, and all of a sudden, I was off. Flying away from Sochi. Up up and away, just like the eagle I landed as. I suppose things come and go, time passes, no adventure is permanent. Just as it came, it went. And I went with it... but below I will look back...
The Olympics were insane. Complete insanity. So many people, so much work. so much construction, bustle, cheering, hustle, energy and warmth. We (speed alpine skiers) got incredibly lucky with weather...for the 2 weeks that we were in Sochi the sun shone down on us almost every single day, and never did a flake or fleck or speck or spit fall from the sky. It was amazing....especially given all the hype around the absurd weather predictions. Although it was warm and the snow deteriorated a bit, we were so, incredibly lucky. And it was so so so wonderful to spend some time in the sun.
I had to throw this photo in there, because I loved the Sochi slogan, "Hot. Cool. Yours." At first I laughed and guffawed at the ridiculousness, but I grew to love and embrace it. It was certainly hot during the time I was there. I guess it was also sexy in some way or another... If not sexy at least hip. Cool. Neato! And all yours. Or, was it mine?
Jackie and I at processing in Munich.
Processing was nuts. We stepped into this warehouse to get our credentials, uniforms, phones, etc. and it was like a dream: free shit everywhere. The opening ceremonies uniforms (and shoes!) were hysterically awesome, all the Nike stuff we got is so so nice, comfortable and super duper stylish. There were free goggles, sunglasses, P&G stuff (razors, soap, face cream, body wash, etc), watches, Olympic rings, ski gear, off-hill gear, casual wear, cell phones, blah blah blah IT WAS NUTS.
the Olympic torch the night we went down to cheer on Jules
Jules started it off with a bang. She won the Downhill run of the Super Combined and had a miraculous slalom run to pull into third. Watching her excitement and being a part of it was so fun and inspiring. It was so cool to see her receive her medal... PROPS for performing when it counts. Rock on.
dancing around as per usual
Unfortunately my ski fell off toward the top of the Downhill portion of the Super Combined, so that wasn't super rad. Regardless, the energy in the start was unbelievable: it was my first Olympic race, and the incredible atmosphere in the starting gate that day proved how special of an experience it was. I have never been more excited to send myself down a Downhill course. It was extreme, intense, paranormal, and extraordinary.
Racing in the Downhill felt similar. I had a lot of excitement and pent-up energy left over from the Super Combined. I felt like I skied really well, and had a good, but not perfect, run. At the Olympics the only places that matter are first, second and third. Everyone is skiing to win, and even one tiny mistake puts you that far behind the leader. Because somebody out there is going to have a nearly flawless run...and it's really tough to compete with that. But I'm really happy with my skiing, and am going to take that feeling into the remainder of my ski season.
Leanne bein peachy-- on our way to the medal ceremony
Of all the things I saw, places I went, and energy that I felt, I enjoyed most the happiness. The giddiness that comes along with simply being at the Olympics. The smiles from unknown Moroccans, high-fives from Peruvians, hugs from Canadians, bright eyes from Jamaicans. Those I will always hold so so close to me...the diversity that comes together for a mere sporting event is truly remarkable.
Aside from the competitions, the 'shows' that we as athletes put on, the most significant thing about the Olympics was the unity. It shows, time and time again, that we can all come together, from different nations, different backgrounds, different religions, different political beliefs, even different ideas of good and bad, to form an amazingly diverse and unique group of young people. And the potential within that distinctive group, those unconventional friendships built, is limitless. It proves that we can work together, no matter how varying our beliefs, for the good of the world. We are the future, and as we step onto the stage to perform in front of the world, we give ourselves an opportunity to make amazing changes in so many ways. Just with one step.
Shuang Li competing in the women's snowboard cross finals
Attending other events was also a significant step on my Olympic journey. Seeing how other athletes in incredibly different sports work and compete was huge. The women's snowboard half-pipe was definitely one of my favorites. It really gave me a new perspective and sense of respect for those girls--they completely huck themselves! So awesome and inspiring. I want to bring that fearless flight into my sport, and hope I can push it like those girls do theirs.
although I cannot tell or recall, I believe I took this delirious photograph at a men's hockey game
Another one of my favorite events was ski jumping... I have watched ski jumping countless times on the TV over here in Europe, but have never understood the magnitude of the jump/landing. It was really neat to see it in person, and gave me a new respect for that sport as well.
Having my family in Sochi was so huge for me. It was a serious event, surrounded by serious people, so to have my parents and sisters there to lighten things up was really meaningful. We got to explore the actual city of Sochi, which was incredibly different from any of the Olympic venues. There were definitely signs of Olympic happenings all around the city, but it felt so raw compared to all of the other places I had experienced (the mountain villages, venues, etc) that were so recently built and updated. I'm glad I got to see a bit of the real Russia...
It was a crazy interesting experience...I learned some remarkable things about competing, culture, friendship, and myself. I am so lucky to have raced in the Olympics, to have experienced the energy and spirit, to have been a part of such a huge event, to have met so many varying individuals. Thank you to everyone who has supported me along my journey...your love and kind words mean the world to me. Although my Olympic performance wasn't perfect, it was good. I went in with no expectations; I just wanted to soak up the experience, live in the moment and leave with no regrets. And I did just that. So I'm smiling :)
Below are a few pictures I took while walking around Krasnaya Polyana. Enjoy. Peace and love.
a beautiful, but sadly unfinished building
finishing up a paint job. this and similar sights were extremely common around Sochi
lots and lots of trash cans...where they were supposed to go I'm not sure...
a different angle
some more interesting trash cans...
just what you see <3 <3 <3
I'm sitting in the airport in Sochi, waiting to depart. The last few days have been pretty nuts--a crazy super-g race (women's AND men's!), a USA Olympic hockey game, exploring the Olympic park, packing, and soaking in the last little bit of all the possible.
The super-g race two days ago was so tough. It was a challenging set on a difficult hill...and when starting early is often an advantage, it was definitely not the case on that day. Leanne started 2nd, and she was the first girl to make it to the bottom. When I, bib 7, came through the finish (after skiing out on the bottom section), Leanne was still the only racer on the board. That was a bit of a surprise... but neat that Leanne was winning the Olympics for a while!!! My family, being my wonderful family, thought Leanne would win the race, and also suggested that I ask for a 'redo.' Spectacular.
Unfortunately, I just didn't have enough direction coming off the bottom jump, and, as it turns out, flew a lot further than I did in the downhill. I landed nearly at the next gate, and couldn't pull the late line off on the steep bottom pitch. Once I knew I was going to miss a gate, I decided to ski switch for style points...
Hah. If only.
What a day I had yesterday!!! Racing in the Olympics has always been a dream of mine... Racing in the Olympic downhill always seemed like the most extreme, insane thing I could ever shoot for... And yesterday, I did just that. It was such a crazy, intense, magical atmosphere in the start gate--I couldn't decide whether to be jazzed or pee-my-pants-nervous. I think a combination of these emotions pushed me out of the gate and caught me charging down the course.
It was a tough day of racing. I knew I had a shot at a medal, and I think that knowledge in itself made me a little stiff. Needless to say, I was incredibly nervous. I was feeling good and fast on the top part of the course, but I came into the flat section a bit tentatively and didn't carry quite as much speed as I could have. I was a bit tense, getting tossed over a few rollers and not tucking quite as much as possible... but in the end, it turned out to be a really good run.
The best run of my season, in fact. I came down into 3rd position, behind two really talented, speedy girls, so I was happy (I ended up 11th overall!). Having my family in the finish was also such a warming feeling...knowing that there were people at the bottom to hug and love me, regardless of what place I came in to.
(plus, they had an awesome sign)
It was a relief to have made it down with both skis on, as I managed to lose one part way down the course two days before. Just crossing the finish line was such an incredible feeling, I knew it didn't matter who I beat, or what the outcome was. Just being here at the Olympics has been more than I could have ever asked for...
I had a function this morning with some USSA trustees, and while we (the alpine speed girls) were at the front of the room talking about our experiences, Stacey brought up a really neat point...
It's not all about winning medals. Although the medal count is pretty much all anyone talks about, the experience we're gaining just by being here is so significant, life-changing, and irreplaceable, it's hard to think that a medal could elevate it any more. I'm learning so much about myself, about traveling, about the world and about living that I would have otherwise completely missed out on. These lessons are extremely special in so many ways: I had to work my ass off to get here, so much luck has come my way during my journey, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Like now... here I am, in Russia, riding a train up into the mountains, learning about the ways of the world, change, and all about myself. I'm growing tremendously with these experiences, suffering unbelievably, bouncing up and down, sometimes flying and sometimes drowning. And I wouldn't trade it for the world.
On a lighter note, after the downhill race yesterday I found out that I also get to race in the super-g!!! That race is on Saturday (Friday late night if you're reading this from Oregon), so I took a day off to rest and hang out with my family today.
While riding down on the train from the mountains I looked out my window to see sun-bathers on the beach. It's amazing how warm it is here right now, yet how great the conditions on the hill are. It's definitely getting warmer every day, and the snow softens up and gets bumpier with every sun rise and set, but the weather has been basically perfect since the day we arrived here in Sochi.
I met my family at their train stop, and we headed into Sochi (actual Sochi, the city) to check it out. We walked all over the city, exploring the arboretum and riding a crazy tram to the top of a hill that overlooked much of the city.
We walked some more, and then some more, and made it down to the boardwalk where all the cruise ships are docked. I actually heard that some of the athlete's parents are staying on these cruise ships, due to lack of space in (completed, occupancy-approved) hotels. It seems crazy to step off a cruise ship in the morning and be in the snowy mountains a few hours later... that's dedication! And a lot of walking, shuttles, train and gondola riding, etc.
But walking along the Black Sea was beautiful, and such a nice change from the insanity of the Olympics for a few hours.
Not only was it beautiful, it was WARM. As in, walk-around-in-a-tank-top warm. It felt lovely to soak up some sun on my pasty-white skin. We ate lunner (lunch-dinner?) at an amazing Georgian restaurant that my sister Allana was determined to dine at. It was quite the trek to get there, but we were all thankful after filling our bellies with scrumptious Georgian food (Allana visited Georgia last year, so ordered perfectly for the whole table...nom nom).
(above--view from the tram at the top of the city, and a self-proclaimed 'bench' in the park)
After gorging ourselves on too much food, we headed back to the train. My family disembarked at their stop, and I'm continuing up to Rosa Khutor, the Olympic mountain village. The sun is setting peacefully over the Black Sea, and I'm feeling fulfilled and rejuvenated after a day of adventuring.
Thus far my journey has been insane, busy, uplifting, stressful, and enchanting. I'm glad I have my family here to help me soak it up and keep me grounded, because there's a lot to take in. I'm so blessed to be here...it's all still a bit surreal. But I'm embracing it and enjoying seeing all of your support and kind words during this ride of my life. I've got a few days left, so I'm going to live it up and take advantage of every minute.
So with love, hope, and hugs, I'm signing out.
<3 <3 <3 Laurenne
Well, I got to race in my first Olympic event yesterday... and it was so exciting!!! I was pumped up and ready to go in the start, so charged with all the energy and excitement. I went out skiing hard and making some fast turns, but unfortunately my binding pre-released on the pitch and I slid on my side instead of finishing on my feet...
But I had an amazing day anyway. It was so inspiring and incredible to watch Jules ski to bronze...what a crazy race! Her ability to perform when it counts is unbelievable. She is such an awesome teammate to have around and I was so psyched to cheer her on in the finish.
I was skiing really fast before my mishap yesterday (green light!), so I'm happy to say I left it all out on the hill. Sometimes those freak things just happen--there's no one to blame and nothing to do about it now, so I'm just glad that I gave it all I had and can take my speed into the downhill race tomorrow. I have some pent-up energy from yesterday that I didn't get to use, so I'm harnessing that for tomorrow's race. I'm starting #7, and the race is at 11am (11pm PST).You can stream the race live on NBColympics.com so tune in and cheer me on!!!
It's been so wonderful to have my family here with me. They bring a little piece of home and a whole lot of love to me here in Russia. It has also been absolutely AMAZING to see and feel all the love and support from friends, fans, and family back home (and all around the world!). I have received countless emails, messages, posts and wishes from all of you and it means so much to know I have so many supporters and so much love on my side. So THANK YOU :-)
No matter what happens over these next couple of days, I have had the time of my life thus far. The energy here is so magical and indescribable, I fear I won't feel it for another 4 years, or perhaps ever again. So I'm embracing and enjoying every moment of this journey and feel so so blessed and lucky to be here. Win or lose, I have made here and know that it doesn't get any better.
peace and love to all
It appears as if the text in my previous posts is not showing up on my blog, which is unfortunate because I have been updating on my life experiences, which have been plentiful over the last few days. Alas! I am on it now.
Today in our training run we had a time trial for downhill race spots here in Sochi. It was a bit nerve racking to think that I was racing for a spot in the Olympic downhill...and although I skied a bit passively on the upper section of the course, I let it go and was pretty speedy on the bottom. I was fifth in the training run today, with two girls in front of me who missed gates (one being Jackie, my fellow Oregonian). To earn a spot, we had to be top 7, so it feels good to say....
I'M RACING IN THE OLYMPIC DOWNHILL!!!! YAY!
Last year at World Champs I missed out on the downhill spot, so it feels like I have earned my spot back. I am getting more and more comfortable on my skis, and I feel really good about the course and conditions here in Sochi. The snow is a bit harder, icier than we're used to on the World Cup circuit, which I think plays nicely to my style of skiing. I'm really psyched to race, to get out there and see what I can pull off on race day...
Tomorrow is the men's downhill, and I plan on going up to be a spectator. I'm trying to embrace every part of this experience that I possibly can because, who knows, it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.My family landed I'm Sochi today, so I look forward to having them here for support and love, and to bring a part of home into my Olympic journey. Fun :-)
The opening ceremonies last night were incredible. With all of the production that went into it: acting, choreography, costumes, music, lights, fire, smoke, dancing, fireworks and props--it turned out to be everything they had hoped, perhaps more. I'll post a few pictures below.
Anyhow, tomorrow is a rest day, so I'm going to get to bed soon and get some more sleep. I lost a little last night with the opening ceremonies going so late and our training run starting so early. SO worth it! peace and love.
adventures to and from, here and there, home and away, around the world--through my eyes, lens, and mind