2010 Olympic Cross-Country Ski Course Crew #4 – Stage 3
By: Peter Czerny (2010/02/26)
We are into Day 14 of the Olympic Games, well on our way to the closing ceremonies. The Whistler Olympic Park has seen an epic amount of action with middle distance, pursuit, sprints and relays, a program that will be crowned off by the long-distance events this weekend. Before I go on, a quick aside: I encountered a rather large, jolly elderly gentleman with a big white beard on the bus a couple of mornings ago. It may be my lack of sleep, but could it be that Santa Claus takes his holidays as a biathlon fan from Cologne, Germany with a cartoon-sized felt hat covered in lapel pins, a ski pole for a cane and the coolest four-tone horn-noisemaker you’ve ever seen? Anything is possible here. On to the action from the top ten course crew list:
5. Witnessing the spectacle of the skiers flying by, pushing their own limits and inspiring us to do the same
The course is set, now formally closed to all but competitors by the passing of the forerunners. The fans are there, the broadcast time is upon us and somewhere just out of sight in the stadium the athletes are arrayed at the start, everyone in this scene counting down to the crack of the starter’s pistol. I am at Canada corner, at the skier’s steep, curved entrance and exit from the stadium, rake at hand to deal with the build up of loose snow, and cow-bell at the ready for maximum cheering. Fans and coaches’ shouts alert us to the approaching pack, and suddenly they are here, treading the fine line between marshalling mental and physical energy for today’s kilometers (and tomorrow’s) and laying it all down for the performance of a lifetime. The sound of the pack rushing by is something like a mix between fire as it grabs ahold of twigs and smaller branches, and water rushing down a rocky stream-bed. The strength and smoothness of their movements disguises the challenge of the slopes they are climbing, and the Spring-like snow conditions they are dealing with. Climbing the same trails each morning and evening makes me realize the effort involved and training required to stand a chance at keeping up with any of these racers. They disappear to challenge each other out in the woods, announcers and the big screen keeping spectators in touch with the action. Just as suddenly, they are back again, the pack fractured and stretched out as those with better legs and skis today move to the front, onlookers ecstatic for favourites in medal contention and willing on all to keep pushing despite any display of flagging energy or the shock of a rare crash. The passion of the moment certainly does inspire me to keep pushing on my own goals, not the least of which are fitness and skiing, and I suspect that the same holds largely true for all the athletes, crews and spectators at many levels. In that moment of race time, the question ‘is all this worth the effort?’ is answered with an emphatic ‘yes!’.
6. Seeing local ski scene heroes and national legends
It takes some studying of team colours and start lists to being to figure out who may be who behind the kaleidoscope of training and racing suits. There is no doubt on race day about stars such as Marit Bjoergen, Lukas Bauer, Petter Northug or Charlotte Kalla as they are recognized by their legions of fans. It is so fantastic to see our own Canadian leaders in the mix, with Sara Renner, Alex Harvey, Perrianne Jones, Devon Kershaw and the whole team continuing to show us what they are made of to ski and succeed at this highest level. Post-competition training time sometimes provides a chance to offer a word of congratulations or encouragement, and brings out such legends as Pierre Harvey or Beckie Scott who never seem to be far from this scene. It is an honour to see them on the trails and perhaps to meet them as well as others who may not be so high in the racing community’s consciousness, such as the athletes from Brazil and Nepal. While they may not be in a medal position, their presence in this elite gathering indicates the achievement which we are all capable of and commands my utmost respect.
The final stages are upon us – cheers for now from West ‘wet’ Coast.
Men's 4x10km relay.
Women's Team Sprint