So, it’s officially been one week since the 2010 Olympic Winter Games (that’s the “correct” way to refer to the Olympics) began, and I figured I should sit down and let you all know what I’ve been doing. I don’t have time or permission to tell you everything, but I’ll say what I can!
As you know, I’ve been working at The Whistler Sliding Centre (yep, “The” is capitalized in that — one of the many things I have learned so far) — the home of the Olympic Luge, Skeleton, and Bobsleigh events. Only one week into the Olympics, two of those events are already finished: Luge and Skeleton.
Luge started with Men’s Singles last Saturday, February 13th. The event consists of 4 runs, and the luger (funny word — if you say it outloud it doesn’t sound like a complimentary term…!) with the lowest cumulative time wins the Gold medal. Germany took home both the Gold and Silver medals, from Felix Loch and David Moeller. The Bronze medal went to Armin Zoeggeler (who was originally favored to win the Gold, and is a very tough interview to snag, for the record). I also must mention the late Nodar Kumaritashvili, from Georgia, who died tragically the day of the Opening Ceremonies on an Official Training run. My thoughts are with his family and friends, and he will never be forgotten at The Whistler Sliding Centre. He was a 21-year old man who died doing what he loved, and it is clear that everyone here in Whistler respects him and feels for his family in their time of need. There is a picture of him, next to which many people (including my co-workers and I) have left flowers and candles in honor of Nodar, under the Olympic rings in Whistler Village. The Men’s Singles lugers donned black tape on their helmets, and many staff, volunteers, and others (including myself) have black ribbons pinned on ourselves — all in his memory.
Then came Women’s Singles, and Germany grabbed another Gold from Tatjana Huefner. Silver went to Nina Reithmayer (Austria), and Bronze to Natalie Geisenberger (Germany, once again). Reithmayer is now the only Women’s Singles luger to win a medal in the 21st Century! Crazy, eh? Germany won all the Olympic Women’s Singles luge medals in 2006 and 2002, and two of them in 1998. So props to Miss Reithmayer for carving out her place in history!
Double’s Luge was next. I was excited to see this sport, because I wasn’t quite sure how it would work, exactly. I knew there would be two people, but I couldn’t remember from past Olympics how that worked. Turns out, the two sliders lay on top of each other, both face up. The one in front has straps on his suit attached to the sled. I also learned that women are allowed to compete in the event, but there has never been a female in Double’s Luge. In the end, the Linger brothers (Wolfgang and Andreas, from Austria) brought home the Gold medal, and the Sics brothers (Juris and Andris, from Latvia) took the Silver. It was cool to see those teams of brothers working together so well, and succeeding enough to win medals! Alexander Resch and Patric Leitner (Germany) got the Bronze.
And that was the end of luge! After a jam-packed, crazy few days, all Olympic luging is done until four years from now! That’s crazy to think about — after each competition ends, that’s the last one until 2014!
Next, it was time for Skeleton. And that sport came and went quickly! In just two days, 6 medals were given out! On Wednesday, the men and women completed heats 1 and 2. On Thursday, heats 3 and 4 — the medalling heats — happened. This is the first time they’ve all had 4 runs in Olympic competition. But the events did not seem dragged out at all. None of the events went as expected. Mellisa Hollingsworth, from Canada, was seen as “the one to beat” by many of the Women’s Skeleton athletes, but she ended up finishing in 5th place at the end of the competition. Amy Williams (Great Britain) came out of nowhere and won the Gold medal, making her the UK’s first Gold medallist in an individual sport at the Winter Olympics in 30 years! She was in first place after Wednesday’s two heats, but no one thought she could stay consistent for four whole runs. Yet somehow, she did it! Kerstin Szymkowiak (Germany) took the Silver, and Anja Huber (Germany) grabbed the Bronze. In Men’s Skeleton, Alexander Tretyakov (Russia) got the Bronze, Martins Dukurs (Latvia) got Silver, and — last, but definitely not least! — Jon Montgomery, from Canada, won the Gold medal! The crowd went absolutely nuts! I have never heard the crowd at The Whistler Sliding Centre so loud before! There were Canadian flags everywhere, and no one could contain their excitement (myself included — even though I am an “unbiased member of the press” — oops!). Montgomery pulled out an amazing 4th heat, and just barely came out above of M. Dukurs. Besides having the honor of winning a Gold medal on his home turf, Montgomery is also the proud winner of Canada’s first Gold medal in Whistler (the others so far have been in Vancouver)! As a proud (wish I was) Canadian, I was very excited to cheer him on, and couldn’t help but squeal with excitement when he won!
And that’s all the events so far! Other than that, there’s been a lot of training — and Bobsleigh competition starts Saturday! There were 8 crashes in the Men’s Double’s bobsleigh’s first Official Training run, so hopefully the men have gotten a bit more used to the track by now, and can pull out some good runs tomorrow!
Oh, and if you weren’t counting — that’s 5 (out of 9) medals at The Whistler Sliding Centre that have been won by Germany so far. Sheesh!
Oh, and what have I been doing at all of these events? Well, reporting, of course! The Olympic News Service (ONS) is the wires service for the Games. So, basically, we, the reporters, get quotes from all the athletes after their runs and at press conferences, and then post them to a server online for all the other journalists to see. So, if, for example, there’s one journalist from a newspaper at the 2010 Olympics, he obviously can’t be at all the events in Whistler and Vancouver at the same time. So, if he needs to write an article about events at the Sliding Centre, he can just grab the quotes we’ve gotten from athletes, and use them for his story! Pretty nifty, eh? It’s really cool to know that I’m actually helping a ton of journalists out there!
As I said at the beginning of this post, I can’t tell you a lot about what I’m doing. But, as you could guess, I have interviewed a ton of the sliding athletes, and I’ve had a ton of fun doing it! All the media is stationed in what’s called the Mixed Zone, which is where the athletes and media “mix” after each event. Once an athlete is done with his or her run, he or she walks through the Mixed Zone and can be interviewed by broadcasters, radio personalities, print journalists — anyone with accreditation. My first day in the Mixed Zone, I was a bit intimidated by all the athletes (starstruck is a more appropriate word for it…!), but now I’ve eased into it, and I’m realizing that all the athletes really are just people. I’ve talked to athletes who have dreams for the future completely unrelated to sliding (they want to be a journalist, a scientist, etc.). Most of them don’t have huge egos (which is really nice to know!) — they’re just as scared to talk to the media as I am to talk to them! I also started out thinking the athletes wouldn’t really want to talk to me. But I soon learned that most of them want to talk, because that gets them attention — and who wouldn’t want to be in a bunch of newspapers and/or broadcasts during their time at the Olympics?! (I know if I was competing, I would talk to anyone and everyone who would listen to me!)
So… yeah! That’s what I’ve been doing. Every day at The Whistler Sliding Centre — though my duties are always the same — is different. There’s always new excitement, new drama, new events to keep us all on our toes. This is one of the most fun and hardest things I have ever done. For me, watching the events and interviewing the athletes is such an adrenaline rush — I could never fall asleep in the middle of it. But at the end of the day, when I get home, my body realizes how tired it is. My feet are sore, my stomach is empty, and my eyelids are drooping… but I’ll be ready and rarin’ to go by the morning!