So wow, that was pretty cool. And noisy. And intimidating. And exciting. And adrenaline-filled. And terrifying. And thrilling. And filled with pressure and expectations and surprises.
The skate sprint was, for me, an ok race…not the best I’ve ever had and not what I was hoping for, but there were also a lot of things I’m happy about. I suppose if I was going to design a sprint course that played to my strengths, it would have looked very different; it would have been much longer with more opportunities to pass and without so many 180 degree corners. But I can’t design the course, only work with what we’re given, and I gave it my very best shot!
I qualified in 12th place and was in the 4th quarterfinal with Sophie, a Slovenian (Katja) and three Russian girls. I was pretty psyched because the crowd only got loud when Russians were racing, so our heat had a lot of stomping and clapping going on as we marched out to the start gates! And it was great to race in a heat with Sophie; I know that when we race together, we are of course both hoping to move on from the heat, but I never even think about trying to cut her off and I know she would never step on my skis, and it feels so good to know that I have a teammate by my side!
I have always struggled with the really fast-twitch things, and getting out of the start gates first was a crucial part of this sprint course since it had so many turns. I had one of my better starts, but it wasn’t quite good enough, as I settled into 3rd place and couldn’t find any windows to pass. The course was also a bit tricky as it was slushy in some places, but still hard and fast where they had salted and the track hadn’t broken down yet, and I struggled to adjust my technique during the rounds. When we hit the finishing lanes, I bobbled a bit in the suddenly hard and fast snow, and lost crucial time. You can probably tell from my writing that I’m pretty good at immediately knowing exactly what I need to improve on and where I made mistakes. But I’m also getting better at finding the things I did well! I am proud of how I skied, how I handled my nerves and expectations coming into the race, and I am proud of how I kept looking for windows to pass and didn’t give up.
I finished the day in 13th overall, but my own race wasn’t the one I had the highest hopes for that day! My heart broke a little when I saw the lucky loser times and realized Kikkan wasn’t going to make the semis. But you know what? Anyone can be smiling and happy and a good sport when they win; it’s in defeat that true character comes through, and in the sprint Kikkan showed the world why she such an incredible sportswoman and role model. She was so gracious and composed, even though immediately after the quarterfinal she had to go through a huge round of media asking questions and throwing cameras in her face to try and capture her reaction. Not many people could have done what she did, and I am so proud to be her teammate.
Sophie gave us something to really celebrate, though!! I was just so proud of her, how calm and smoothly she skied through the rounds, and I thought I was going to die of nerves watching the final! After a tangle, she came in 6th, but regardless of where she finished in the heat she is such a winner in my eyes for skiing so well and giving it everything she had!
As promised, here are some pictures of the venue (finally! geez!) As you can see, the stadium area is HUGE and so beautiful with the mountains as a backdrop!
There is easily enough room on the trails to have a couple classic tracks and two skate lanes….
And to further assure you of the extremely good security around here, during the races they have cameras up in the air! One of them is on this white blimp thing that flies on race day above the village, and before and during the race you can hear helicopters circling. Cool beans!
The day after the sprint, I did some light strength in the hotel gym, which is super nice and well-stocked! Michael Naperalsky, our strength coach, came up to lift with me. His words, not mine: “This gym needs more ”MURICA!!!” So, he dressed the part!
We had a really fun time! I think the other countries in the gym may have been laughing too 🙂 I really enjoy lifting because it’s so different than the rest of our training, and it’s a great mental break from being out on the race trails with the announcer in your ears, reminding you how high stakes the races here are.
I got to see my family yesterday afternoon! It really made my day, to finally be able to spend some time with them off the race trails. I showed them around the Endurance Village, and then we just sat out on the deck in the sun and caught up.
I think what I missed most about seeing my family was being able to get hugs. I have kept in touch with them all winter over Skype, which has been great since I can see them, but I always sign off wishing that I could just get one good hug in. So now I’m finally able to!
They have been staying down on the cruise ship in Adler and from what I hear, having a ball! I got the reports from them about what the Olympic village, P&G house and USA houses were like, since it’s likely I won’t be able to go check them out because my races are all evenly spaced out over the games. They have also been making friends with people from other US teams, and other countries. The spirit of the games is a pretty fun thing to be involved in!
I also got to visit with Ken and Barb Larson, who have sponsored me and supported me for years, long before I had a chance at making the Olympic Team! It was so kind of them to come cheer, and it was great to see them after the race!
Today I was out on course cheering for the girls in their 10km classic race…and it was so SO hot and sunny and slushy out there! I was proud of our girls for pushing so hard and racing well in the heat!