By Adelaide Ponte Usdin and Wendy Ponte
We headed directly to the Olympic Park after waking up today via the train.
The train follows the coast very closely, sometimes just twenty-five feet from the edge of the Black Sea. Along the way we saw families with fires on the beach, cooking meals, and keeping warm. There are no regulations about this, as there would be in the U.S. We even saw one intrepid man swimming.
Just as we were congratulating ourselves on getting the hang of Sochi, we began to notice scenery we had not seen before. A young man from Russia told us that we were on the wrong train, and were heading up the mountain! We wanted to visit the mountain venues, but not today! We had an event to get to!
It was a long ride before the first stop, and our chance to head back down the right direction. Our helper turned out to be very fluent in English, since he had gone to college in Arkansas. He is now employed in the hotel aspect of the Russian Olympic Committee and told us how often tourists such as ourselves told him things about the hotels he did not know, but is pretty sure he should know!
It’s interesting to speak to someone who lives here and pick up interesting bits of information. He told us, for example, that the profession of Police Officer is very different here than it is in the U.S. Whereas we generally hold Police Officers in great respect and see it as a viable career option, in Russia it is “the worst job you can have,” in his words. Here in Sochi, where they have shipped in thousands of them, they are given bunk-bed accommodations–2 to a bed.
An unfortunate by-product of our mistake on the train was that we missed the short-dance Team event altogether. When we arrived, the ladies short was about to start. Russia was in first place, with Canada second, and the United States third.
The first skater was Kaetlin Osmond, and while she skated to Big Spender, we had our first chance to experience the Team event in person.
Each of the10 countries has their own two-tier box for team members to sit and watch. In the United States box Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Evan Bates and Madison Chock and Yuko Sato sat while Ashley Wagner skated. In Canada’s box, Tessa Virtue. Scott Moir, and Patrick Chan sat. Throughout the competition was a constantly changing wave of team members, but there were always a full house of skaters and coaches watching and cheering their team members on.
In the second group of ladies, we enjoyed watching Carolina Kostner do an elegant program. One of the fun things about being at the Olympics are the interesting bits of information the announcer will share about each skater during the warm-up. In this case, we were told that today was Carolina’s birthday! She looked a bit embarrassed at that. We also learned that Mao Asada, also in this group, has her own line of kimono’s in Japan.
One funny moment happened when someone threw a bouquet of flowers for Mae-Berenice Meite of France and it landed, by accident on a camera person. He then handed the flowers to one of the little sweeper girls, who then threw it out on to the ice, just so that she could skate out to pick it up!
We were pleased and relieved when Ashley Wagner skated a clean program. There is an enthusiastic crowd here cheering for the United States, but they can’t come close to the uproar made by the Russian fans each time one of their skaters enters the ice. When Yulia Lipnitskaia began her short skate, the crowd went crazy. And it must have helped, because she skated her season’s best on the short program.
That concluded the first phase of the Team Event. The top five countries that made it into the Finals were: The United States of America, Canada, Italy, Japan, and Russia. After a short break, the finals began with the Pairs Long Program.
At this point, we enjoyed watching Yuko Sato and Jason Dungjen run from box to box, changing jackets for the different skaters they coach! It was fun to see them with their Japanese team, seated in the box, with Yuko’s parents (who coach Mao Asada), seated directly behind them.
We love, love, love the Team Event! You could feel the spirit of camaraderie in the rink. It is a joy to see the skaters support each other and the look of wonder they all have when they find themselves sitting in the kiss and cry surrounded by support. This sport can be a lonely one, as Adelaide knows, and to find a way for a group of skaters to work together for a common goal is fantastic, in our opinion! It is also a way for viewers to see skaters react to each other, to clap at certain moments and react emotionally at others. We hope this event is here to stay!