Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Picture Post

Finally time to get a few more pictures up. I would love to put some up from yesterday but i don't want to rub in that I got to play 18 holes of golf in 25c (77f) degree weather. So I will just put winter skiing pics.

Kikkan locked up 3rd place overall in the World sprint standings yesterday after finishing 10th in the Stockholm sprints. She was just 7 pts behind Arianna Follis for second place. She is now in Falun, Sweden getting ready for the final three races of the World Cup season. Hoping to hold onto 10th place in the overall standings. Check out the action live at I believe they race at 1pm in Sweden and since they haven't switched to daylight savings yet there is only a 5 hr time change to Eastern Standard Time.

The feed station at the 3km mark on the 5km loop in the men's 50km. It was a zoo. Barely wide enough for two skiers with all the coaches and fans pressing in.
Guro our superstar attaché helping with the feeds as we have 4 guys in the race that day and of course they were skiing in pairs of two. Great shot of the crowds lining the course.
The view from our room in the Vaerumaki Sports Institute. Looks a lot of like Ontario.
Callum heading out for a ski. Just 100m from our hotel. Pretty sweet.
The wax man in a spacious room in Lahti, Finland. Just hoping the guys have good skis. Much more stressful when you are in charge.
Callum racing to the start of the men's 20km pursuit with both pairs of skis. Great shot of the three ski jumps in the back ground.
Start of the men's 20km pursuit climbing out of the stadium on one of the hardest 2.5 km loops I have ever skied.
The Finn's like their ski jumping. Massive crowds on Saturday night.
The jumps are sunset. Competition would be completed under the lights.
Kikkan in the red sprint leader bib on the right. Looking great out of the stadium. Unfortunately the skis were slow on the way back in.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Season over

The completion of the men's classic sprint last Sunday marked the end of the season for the Aussie presence on the World Cup. Callum and Ewan both went out and gave their best effort Sunday morning, and both agreed that they were ready for a rest. For Callum, it was quite a season. After arriving in Europe in November, he became the first ever Australian to complete the Tour de Ski in late December and early January, collected over 20 World Cup start bibs, competed in the 2011 World University Games in Turkey, and the World Nordic Championships in Oslo. That is a massive season of racing. We parted ways on Sunday after the sprint as they headed back to Vaerumaki, and I stayed in Lahti with Kikkan for the evening.

I now sit in a leather recliner at Brett and Jill Fitzpatrick's place in Branson, Missouri eagerly awaiting the warm weather that is due to arrive in the area tomorrow and Thursday....time to get the golf clubs swinging! It's always a bit of a shock return to the US after an extended visit in Scandinavia. Especially traveling in the south....back to the land of billboards selling Religion and Erotica. The cars are bigger, and patience shorter, and the people larger. After traveling for roughly 24 hrs and about one hour into my drive from St. Louis to Branson I called it a night at 12:30am and spent the night at a Comfort Inn. Unlike the fresh bread, cheese, deli meat and fresh fruit that I have become accustomed to in Europe the continental breakfast included nothing fresh or natural. Doesn't take much to connect the some of the dots regarding obesity.

It was quite a trip back. In the end it went quite smoothly, but during the process it felt much different. When boarding my flight in Helsinki they announced that only one bag was allowed to be carried on. Having checked in my other two larger bags over an hour prior I assume they would just tag my back pack and I would get it back after the flight in Munich before beginning my 9.5 hr flight. I carried on my computer bag.

As I watched my back pack be carried away I learned that it was going to be sent all the way through to St. problem one less bag to carry. Except once on the plane I realized that my wallet was in my jacket that I had stuff in my back pack so to not have to carry it separate. The reason I brought an extra bag as carry-on, was because I didn't expect my bags to make it to St. Louis with such a short layover (30 min) in Munich. I packed a tooth brush and a change of clothes just in case. This is where the stress comes in. If my bags don't make it to St. Louis, that would now include my wallet not making it, which was going to make buying dinner, picking up my rental car, and paying for a hotel very difficult.

Much to my relief in Chicago - where you have to reclaim your bags upon landing in the US and go through customs - all three of my bags arrived....yeah! Life is good. Picked up my rental car without issue and began my drive south. After about one hour I decided to call it a night, as I wouldn't make it to Branson before 3:30am. No need to push it with a long drive.

Kikkan is now in Stockholm getting ready for tomorrow's sprint around the Royal Palace. After getting to watch her race for the past 4 weeks, I will now be eagerly watching online tomorrow to how it goes. Tomorrow is the final sprint for the year and only half the usual points are available as this final week of racing is considered a mini-tour offering up less points. After a difficult race last weekend in the sprint where unfortunately despite feeling great she couldn't overcome slow skis and lost her number one World ranking. Now sitting in 3rd with Marit Bjorgen not too far back in third tomorrow will be a big day. Jet lag is starting to hit pretty hard so I will post pics later or tomorrow that I have been planning to for days now.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Catching up

Unfortunately on this leg of my World Cup trip my computer and the Internet do not get along. This update comes via my iPod touch. It is Friday and day 4 in my education as team captain for the Australians. I remembered to confirm our team entries today for tomorrows 20km pursuit and Sundays classic sprint. The entries must be received two hours before the team captains meeting which occurs at 5 pm tonight. Aside from forgetting fill in the athletes nationality it was a smooth process. We have had three days in a row of different snow conditions. Which hasn't helped in my goal of narrowing possible skis from tomorrow. With it being a pursuit Callum and Ewan will both need a classic and skate pair ready with warm up skis. Ten centimeters of new wet snow fell over night and through the morning which made zeros (hairies) the best option for classic which made things easy for testing. But lows of -6c overnight will most likely take the zeros out and bring back in moister skis which keeps at least two pairs of skate and two pairs of classic in the mix for both guys. Yikes tomorrow will be a busy morning. Fortunately Finn spoke with the US team about giving me hand in his absence and they have been.

Over the past couple of days we have been doing some easy skiing around the golf course nearby. I found a great set of walking/running trails behind our accommodations. The trails are about 1.5th wide and solidly packed down. They ring around the many lakes close by and along the ridges between them. I feel like I am out in Cottage Country. Callum, Ewan an I joined the Canadian team for some bowling last night and tonight I will meet up with Kikkan for dinner. I think that is all to update right now. Unfortunately with the iPod I can't upload any of the pictures I have from the Oslo 50km or so far this week. Hope there aren't too many typos!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lahti, Finland

As fast as the Championships began, they are now over and I am in Lahti, Finland. Well, actually Callum and I (Ewan joins us Wednesday) are at the Vaerumaki Sports Institute/resort about 20 km from Lahti. There are a number of teams here, including the Canadian team, which helps me ask questions about what I need to do as Team Captain for this weekend's races.

Sunday's 50km race to end the Championships lived up to the hype. Many of the World's best skiers stayed together in a pack until the final 5 km or so and then things began to spread out. I was out at the 3km mark (on a 8.3 km loop) on the course at a feed station and was able to get updates from our attaché as she had a live radio feed through the phone somehow. I have pictures to go up eventually but I haven't unpacked everything yet. When Petter Northug won the race you could hear the roar from the stadium all the way out where we were, and subsequently the tens of thousands that were around the course cheered as well. It was quite a scene.

After the race we packed up quickly and headed back to hotel where everyone tried to summons the energy to go back out for the athlete party at the Hard Rock Cafe. It was organized by Astrid Jacobsen the 2007 World Sprint champion. Many of the best skiers were there. I was able to speak with Czech great Lucas Bauer for about 5 mins, as well as a dance with Marit Bjoergen. Kikkan was quite tired after the championships and wisely opted to stay home for the night and rest up for the final two weekends of racing. She comes into Sunday's classic sprint race as the World's #1 ranked sprinter. Northug arrived late in the evening and appeared to have been celebrating since the 50km ended.....

Callum and I traveled to Finland yesterday and stayed at the resort today and skied in the area. The trails are 50m from our accommodations. Callum's brother Ewan arrives tomorrow. Callum and I will head into Lahti tomorrow for a ski and I will set up the wax cabin and do whatever it is I have to do now as team captain.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Clear Skies!

Beautiful day today. Will let pictures tell the story, and a few from last nights awards ceremony where they estimated 100,000 people gathered to see Norway at gold medalists from the relay. They estimated that many today were in the stadium and lining the course for the women's 30km....and there will be more tomorrow for the men's 50km and clear skies as well.

That bright light in the back ground is close to the least about 300m away. My camera doesn't do it justice.
Looking the opposite direction. The wooden sheds are street vendors selling on the other side of them. There was Norway hotdogs, donuts, waffles, souvenirs, and Norwegian hats and scarves etc....and yes that is a large ice sculpture of a man and woman sharing a moment.
A very enthusiastic camp two hours before the women's race start. Ben and Callum.
Another shot of the tents that were everywhere. We came through about 45 min later and the edge of the trails were 5-8 people deep and roaring.
Mark skiing through the fans lining the track.
Left to right. Myself, Callum, Mark and Ben. Oslo is in the view behind us.
Callum and Ben just outside the stadium. Behind them is the large hill ski jump.
Our wax room top floor viewing platform. L to R Cam, and Duane.
Marcus and I.
Theresa Johaug the women's champion from Norway getting a flag for the final 500m. Pretty cool. She demolished the field.
The ski jump filling up for the final event of the championships. They expect over 70,000 to be on hand.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Picture day

Women's relay day. The stadium was shrouded in fog for most of today's racing but for moments blue sky and sunshine shown through. When it did it create a mystical setting as Norway's women's team destroyed the field. A few pics from the last two days and a video of Bjoergens finish.

Some of the cool architecture I took in while walking around while my clothes were washing.
A very old section of town where these 5-story apartments stretch on out of site. Feels like Prague or Paris.
The stadium disappearing into the fog.
Standing in the start area. Looking towards on of the main grandstands. The blue sky is just above us!
Ah ha. Sunshine! The ski jump rising above. That view lasted for about 5 minutes.
After having her skis ice up in the opening kilometer of the race and being dropped by the main pack. Kikkan skied her way back into the top 10. Coming into the exchange zone with Japan right behind.
Leaving the stadium. The stands were packed.

Bjoergen bringing it home for Norway's relay team. My footage is terrible but you can hear the noise. She skied down the homestretch with the Norwegian flag in hand.

What a day!

Yesterday was quite a day all-a-round. Kikkan's energy has returned and put in a solid effort with Sadie Bjornsen in the women's classic sprint. They made it into the finals and skied strong despite what looked to be slow skis. The biggest moment of the day came with Alex Harvey out doubled Ola Vigen Hattestad of Norway to win Canada's first ever World Championship gold medal in the men's team sprint. The Norwegian fans have been incredible with Canada's victory. Many quotes in the morning papers were regarding that if Norway had to lose they were glad it was to Canada, and that it was good to see a non-Scandinavian country win (including their own nation). They are passionate, and Nationalistic ski fans, like Canadian Hockey fans but also incredibly gracious in defeat. This country impresses me more and more every day.

The Aussies had a great day. Ben and Callum finished up in 19th out of 26 teams and had rocket skis. Ben had the fastest split on the second leg of his relay heat, when he skied back into contact with the lead group. We even made Swiss Television because of how good his skis were. Marcus our Swiss tech was seen on TV helping Finn in the exchange zone work on the skis between legs and the Swiss commentator noted that.."What was the Swiss Ski team doing letting go of Marcus to work for the Aussie's, as the Aussie's had way better skis than the Swiss.".....shortly after that the commentator received a text message from the Swiss Ski Federation and it wasn't polite.

After the racing, I got to indulge in my new favourite fascination....riding Oslo public transport. I jumped on the bus, took it two stops walked two blocks and finally did laundry, which took all of 50 mins to wash and dry. Then took the bus back to the hotel, all in under 90 minutes.

Kikkan skis well, Canada wins, Aussie's are solid, and clean laundry = A great day. Now time to prepare for the men's relay tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Back to work....kind of.

After yesterday's unofficial day off we are were back at it today for the men's 15km classic. We had 4 athletes competing on a very challenging course, which many of the top ski teams blew the wax on. We hit the grip but may have suffered on the glide end a bit. The Finn's nailed it for the second day in a row. They had 4 in the top ten yesterday in the women's field and 3 in the top 10 today in the men's. Norway was strong again. Sweden, Canada, USA, Czech and Switzerland all missed it to varying degree today.

Tomorrow we have the men's team sprint. Ben and Callum will be taking to the start line for us. It will be a busy morning as we try to nail down the proper grip wax and have fast skis as well. Here's to Canada for a podium spot tomorrow!

The organizing committee decided to put a white (snow coloured) screen over the front of the small ski nations wax they blend in, and did a fantastic job of obscuring our view of the stadium. After putting a small slit in the screen so we could look out we decided that we could just stand on our cabins and have VIP view of the races. That is the new Holmenkollen ski jump behind us. Impressive.
Once we stood for a while, chairs seemed a better idea...eventually a bench made it's way up as well.
Emerging on the bus from the tunnel under the ski jump. Ski jumpers silhouetted by the setting sun during an official training session.
Another shot of the jump.