By Trish Jordan
Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly pack more into a day, my Day #2 at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia became one of my longest yet.
There was curling and NHL players and Elvis, oh my! And figure skating, coaches and bus trips that went awry. I got lost (with Carol Jones, mother of team Canada skip Jennifer Jones) and then found my way after pounding pavement for miles. Then I finished my day – well it was actually well into the night – with more walking and finally supper at 1:30 am and back to the room by 2:30 am where I collapsed with sore feet and aching arthritic hips but some great stories in my head and more memories to share.
The day started off early as Team Canada had the first draw at 9 am. To get to Olympic Park we have about a 10-minute walk to the bus stop and then about a 20-minute ride to the gates. Once there, you have to walk through security where your accreditation is swiped and checked and your backpack emptied for inspection – all part of the intense but impressive safety precautions for this Olympic Games. Once inside the gates, the hike to the curling venue is about another 30 to 40 minutes to the furthest spot within the massive “coastal cluster” where all the ice sports are held.
The girls’ second game was against Sweden – a team that is highly ranked and expected to medal. From the very first end, you could tell the girls were “on.” It is such a treat to cheer on your country and your favourite team and see them curl so well. And to experience that alongside their families has just been amazing for me. We had a lot to cheer for with some terrific shot making by all team members that resulted in another Canada win by a score of 9-3 in 8 ends and Team Canada skip Jennifer Jones curling 100 per cent!
After the game we hiked back to Canada Olympic House (COH), our home away from home within the park and a place that is a welcome respite for the friends and family of all the Canadian Olympians. We bumped into Daniel Sedin of the NHL Vancouver Canucks along the way – or possibly it was his twin brother Henrick? I was too awe-struck to ask.
The NHL players have started to arrive for the hockey games later this week. They, too, are filtering into Olympic Park and can be found attending other events. Daniel Alfredsson of the Detroit Red Wings, who will play for Team Sweden, was at the morning curling draw and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who will play for Team Russia, was at the pairs figure skating last night. I have yet to see Alex Ovechkin from the Washington Capitals but he is the face of the games here for Team Russia and you “see” his gap-toothed grin branded in various spots throughout the park.
The Canadian athletes often stop by Canada House to meet up with their families and this has given me the opportunity to meet and see many past and present Olympians. I have met former Canadian Olympians such as figure skaters Tracy Wilson, Brian Orser and Elvis Stoyko, as well as Gold Medal winner Charles Hamelin, who was fresh off his 1500-metre short track victory. I have also met many parents and family members of speed skaters and figure skaters. It has been great to get to know these folks and experience the Olympics through their eyes as parents, spouses, brothers and sisters.
While hanging out at Canada House, I also met some more Canadian farmers! I love it when things turn back to farming and I can chat with Canadians about agriculture, their farms and communities. Jesse and Jim Lawrence are cattle ranchers from Kennedy, Saskatchewan. Their daughter and sister, Paige Lawrence, and her partner Rudi Sweigers from Virden, Manitoba, are in the pairs figure skating competition. Thanks to Jesse, I was able to grab a ticket to last night’s short program. The three Canadian pairs teams all skated well, with Lawrence and Sweigers recording a personal best score on their first-ever Olympic skate.
Our group was split up yesterday for the return trip at the end of the day as we were all doing different things. I learned this morning at breakfast that several of us ran into trouble getting back to our hotel after getting dropped at the bus stop. Our hotel is well-hidden and unlike North American hotels, they don’t have obvious neon signs and welcoming lobbies. We had a good chuckle sharing stories about each of the adventures we had and the people we met trying to find our way home.
What was comforting though, as Carol and I wandered the streets in the dark, lost – two women alone in city and country we don’t know and where we don’t speak the language – is that I never felt nervous, scared or threatened. Not even for a minute. This city has welcomed its visitors and the volunteers constantly ask us if we are having a good time.
Those of you back home worried about our safety need not fret. The Sochi I am coming to know is safe and welcoming. And it continues to offer up new adventures every day.