Z’s Sochi Blog – Wed Feb 12th

Security,
Some of you have had questions about security. For the most part it is pretty tight…..going in and out of the venues you get your car and bags searched, your body patted down/scanned, and depending on the mood of the searcher your fruit taken away….which is a sore subject given that I was starving and some access control worker decided that my banana was dangerous.
Outside of the venue security is everywhere. From sniffer dogs to cameras in the sky. It’s a little disconcerting  to have guards with large automatic weapons  watching you ……but it’s the silencers on the end of those large guns that really make one uncomfortable.

Serious Security ( sorry not the best photo.....but didn't think they would pose with me) with serious weapons.

Serious Security ( sorry not the best photo…..but didn’t think they would pose with me) with serious weapons.

Men's Doubles race was tonight....the US men put forth a valiant effort but with this strong of a field you pretty much had to be perfect.

Men’s Doubles race was tonight….the US men put forth a valiant effort but with this strong of a field you pretty much had to be perfect.

Cossack security?

Cossack security?

Organizing committee security

Organizing committee security

Z’s Sochi Blog – Feb 11th

Women’s  Finally

Holly Cow……Erin did it…..she won the first ever Luge Medal for Singles for the US. First of all
Congratulations to her, her family, and the coaches and staff of the USLA. It’s been years of hard work on everyone’s part….. Hope you all take a min. to savor the moment! Also a thumbs up to Kate (10th) and Summer (15th) both of them did a great job and were crowd favorites.

Last night the finish Dock was especially festive. Lots of parents and family members came to support their athletes. There were cheering competitions between the Russians and any other nation loud enough to take them on. The US and Canada, vastly outnumbered, joined forces and cheered for each other’s athletes. As it was in Vancouver, the Germans may be faster on the track but their Fans can’t hold a candle to the enthusiasm of the North Americans!

I have to admit standing there watching the race unfold was excruciating. With Erin sitting in third and one of the last sliders to go everyone was holding their breath. When she crossed the finish line  and secured a medal everyone lost it….Her Coach Mark Grimmette let out a deafening whoop and exploded into to the air. Coaches from other countries were hugging and pounding any American they could find on the back (my ribs are still sore) and in the middle of it all was Erin with a huge smile…. it was an incredible moment.

Z’s Sochi Blog – Feb 10th

A Day of Fast Women

Had the morning free so a couple of us took off to watch the women’s Super G. Getting there was an adventure.  I lost count of how many gondolas  ( the main form of transportation between the hotels in the valley and the competition  sites) we took and how many times  volunteers told us ‘you can’t get there from here.” We just kept trying…  Finally we ran in to an Austrian Priest that showed us  the way   ( I guess he’s use to guiding lost sheep).  Anyway we made it to the race in time to see Julia Mancuso take third in Super G .

Later at the luge run for The Women’s  1 & 2 Race run I was assigned to monitor the finish. While the Start tends to be  very quite and controlled…..the finish is a zoo. Spectators cheer at the top off their lungs for their favorite competitors, and athletes themselves often express their relief or frustration. It’s loud, chaotic and gives you an energy buzz.
After the first 2 runs  Natilie Geisenberger and Tatiana Huefner ( both of GER)sit in First & Second. Erin Hamlin (USA) is in third.( by the way Russians are wowed by her mega watt smile)
Then in 5 & 6th are two of our neighbors to the north ( Alex Gough & Kimberly McRae.

The next two runs will be exciting!!!

Erin chilling earlier in the week

Erin chilling earlier in the week

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North American Fans

North American Fans

Z’s Sochi Blog – Mon. Feb 9

Runs 3 & 4  Men’s RaceTension  at the start tonight was thick…During the last 10 sleds I’m pretty sure no one was breathing…….

Felix Lock (GER) claimed his second Olympic Gold by blowing away his closest competitor, Albert Demchenko (RUS) by 4 tenths of a second (for those of you unfamiliar with luge…. in a sport measured to a thousandth of a second, 4 tenths is a life time) In third place was Armin Zoeggler (ITA) who was was rock solid.

The US Team of Chris Mazdzer, (13th place) Tucker West (22nd place) and Aiden Kelly (24th) seemed to struggle a bit in the beginning  but they all finished strong.

And using co2 to freeze

And using co2 to freeze

Filling the start grooves

Filling the start grooves

Aiden Kelly

Aiden Kelly

Chris Mazdzer

Chris Mazdzer

Tucker West

Tucker West

Z’s Sochi Blog – Sat Feb 8th

Men’s Race Runs 1 & 2

Tonight was the first two runs of the Men’s  Race and I was assigned to monitor the Start. It’s always interesting to observe how different team coaches handle the pressure. The Italians get quiet, the Russians loud, the Germans huddle together and the US crack jokes….but no mistaking these guys are here to race and there is a lot riding on their athletes performance.

The start was a zoo, every Russian (and his brother) who has ever had anything to do with luge was there. So much for access control.

Albert Demchenko from Russia and crowd favorite threw down two great runs (52.170 and 52.273 for a total of 1:44.443) to set the pace. Felix Loch from Germany seemed unfazed and took the lead with two blistering runs including a New Track record of 51.964 (total time of 1:44.149). Armin Zoeggler, from Italy and sentimental favorite had two solid runs of 52.506 and 52.387 for 1:44.893 and third place…..tomorrow are the final two runs.

sled prep between runs

sled prep between runs

Z’s Sochi Blog – Feb 7 – Opening Ceremonies

Opening Ceremonies.

Have to admit I’m impressed at how smoothly transit to the Opening Ceremonies  went. There was very little congestion in the “Olympic Lanes”….in reality the Olympic Lane” between “Sochi and Rosa Kutor is a full on highway that only accredited vehicles can use ….everyone else is stuck on a small mountain road winding it’s way down the valley.
Once we were parked and past security it was a fifteen min walk through the Olympic Park to Fisht stadium. I actually enjoyed it as the weather was nice and it made for great people watching.
I’m not sure how the show came of on TV but it was pretty spectacular in person. The props hanging from the ceiling were massive.  My personal favorite was the three white horses followed closely by the metal  athletes that lit up making it looked like they were moving. I also thought the male ballet dancer held his own….that guy had a vertical jump that would make most NBA players weep,

One area that was a little disappointing to me was the lighting of the Olympic Flame ..It’s usually one of the more powerful moments of Opening  Ceremonies…. and considering the Russians dragged the thing all over their country and into outer space, I would have thought they’d do  more then take it for a lap around the stadium…then run it out the back door.

Z

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Horses

Horses

Z’s Sochi Blog – Feb 5. Thurs

In case you didn’t know there is a 11 hour time difference between Sochi and Salt Lake. It’s made for some painful jet lag and some confusion as to what day it is back home.
Everyone is busy with last min. preparations at the Sanki Center. Banners are going up, volunteers are running around, and everywhere you turn photographers are fighting each other for prime spots. When the excitement on the track slows down the media circus is always a good source of entertainment.

Tomorrow is Open Ceremonies  it will be a long day as we start at 7:00am. After sliding we have the draw (this is were the athletes get their start numbers) then race back to the hotel to catch the shuttle down to the Olympic Park in Sochi. The big concern is traffic. There is one road down from the Mountain Cluster and all the athletes, officials will be utilizing it at the same time (the name Cluster may prove unfortunate). I’m excited to see what the Russian have come up with for the ceremonies. I’m sure like everything else it will be over the top.

Z

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Photographers hustling for spots

Photographers hustling for spots

Austrian group photo

Austrian group photo

Z’s Sochi Blog – Tuesday Feb 5

Men’s Training Run 1& 2

Got my first real look at the track…all I can say is WOW!!!

Sliding wise:
There are very few tracks that give me the itch to break out my sled and go for a ride….this one does…it’s a fun looking track with’s long sweeping curves and mostly forgiving transition. It’s one of those tracks that appears easy to get down…..but hard to get down fast.

Architecturally wise:
There is nothing subtle about this track or it’s support buildings. Everything here seems massively overbuilt. The men’s start house looks more like a football stadium  then a start house. It’s about the width of a football field and about half as long with three levels. The top level is a sprint track for the athletes to warm up on. It is all covered with this incredible  roof with massive beams. The track itself runs inside what I can only describe as a wooden tunnel (it kind of looks like it was swallowed by a wooden snake) who’s purpose is to keep the sun & snow off.

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Z’s Sochi Blog – Mon. Feb. 3

Woke up this morning surrounded by the massive peaks of the Caucasus mountains. They are the highest in Europe and because  they protect the area from the cold northern air they are responsible for the  subtropical climate surrounding Sochi….. you can actually see palm trees along the coast (gotta be a first for the Winter Olympics). Krasnaya Polyana center of the mountain cluster is about 50 min. from Sochi and at a much higher elevation allowing for snow and ice.

It’s a beautiful area but in the rush to get everything built there has been some sacrifice of the environment. I’ve been told that the resort area that we are in didn’t exists 3 years ago. With opening Ceremonies less then 4 days away there are back hoes and work crews working 24 hours a day to finish things up.photo 1

The First Team Captains meeting was this afternoon. It took a fair amount of time to get all the translations completed and by the time it was over jet lag was kicking in……

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New resort….with many unfinished rooms

Z’s Sochi Blog – Salt lake to Sochi

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