By Adelaide Ponte Usdin and Wendy Ponte
We slept until 3:00 P.M. today! This isn’t really surprising when you consider the type of day we had yesterday and the fact that we didn’t really close our eyes until around 4:00 A.M. Both of us are feeling all of this in our bodies in the worst way: exhausted, stomach aches, joint pains…
We went to the Reception building of the hotel complex to ask a couple of questions. We saw one of the Russian women who are working with a British travel agent who is arranging many of these rooms, and who had worked hard last night to find our reservation (she does not work directly for the hotel and is super nice).
We asked her about food in this complex. “I had dinner in the restaurant one night,” she said. “And I would rather starve than eat there again.”
“By the way,” she said as she headed off to her duties, “Don’t drink the tap water, unless you want to die.”
We slowly made our way over to the Park to watch Men’s long track Speed Skating, 500 Meters. There are no figure skating events today. This was a thrill for us for several reasons. First of all, it’s a sport we enjoy watching, but don’t know much about. Second, we needed to watch something that didn’t require as much brain work as the sport we know. And third, Adelaide’s coaches use speed skating postures in training quite frequently, to develop muscle tone and duration.
The Adler arena was beautiful and packed with enthusiastic fans from many nations. They arranged the seats perfectly so you could really see the ice and the speedskaters no matter where you sat (unlike the Ice Palace, which has some odd issues with railings that obstruct the view). We lucked out completely by sitting right in front of the parents of Canadian speedskater, Gilmore Junio. Gino and Julie Junio, who live in Calgary, were thrilled to be here, attending their son’s first Olympic Games.
“There is no Speedskating in the Phillipines, where we come from, so it is amazing that our son is here,” said Gino Junio. “My cousin watched the Opening Ceremony on TV, and tried hard to see him. She couldn’t find him, but she got goosebumps anyway.”
Gino Junio gave us a quick lesson in what we needed to know about this particular event, and a bit about long track in general. This race is broken into two parts. Each skater does two races and the final scores are combined to find the winners. Wins come in 1/100th of a second!
We were struck by one skater, Daniel Greig of Australia, who fell on his side within a second of his start. There was no point in doing the second race because there is no way to make up the lost points–but he did it anyway and scored very, very well. That’s the kind of sportsmanship we like to see! Adelaide already knows that it is important to pick yourself up after a fall, but it was still great for her to see that even some of the best athletes in the world have their bad days and all you can do is pick your self back up and try again.
Michael Mulder of the Netherlands, which had a huge presence in the crowd, was the final winner of the event.
After this, we got together with Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov, who were 2006 Olympic Ice Dancers and also happen to be Adelaide’s coaches at home! We both needed to see friendly faces of people we knew, for a little grounding, after all we’ve been through.
Melissa and Denis have been busy having interviews and attending events for the U.S. Just prior to coming to Sochi they had announced the new home for their organization, Eduskating, at the brand new SoNo Ice House in Norwalk, Connecticut, and they’ve been busy talking about that. Also they’ve been talking to the Russian Federation about the possibility of bringing their hockey training program, “Kick Ice,” to this country.
We had a chance to commiserate with them about the hotel situation here. They did end up staying on the cruise ship we were going to be in, but only after several hours of negotiation. A colleague of theirs, who was traveling with them, was told that he would have to share a room with them, even though they had reserved two separate ones. Although the ships are quite close to the Olympic Park, the connecting walkway was closed off for security reasons and now it takes a full hour to get there, one train stop and a lot of walking.
We ate a small meal in the restaurant tent in the Park with them. One of our favorite meals in the Park are the Crepe carts, where you can get them filled with meat, ham and cheese, chocolate and….caviar! Adelaide also likes the Russian salad, also called Olivier, which is diced potatoes, peas and other veggies with a dressing. Wendy likes the baked potatoes covered with various sauces, especially after finding out that the baked potato was Pushkin’s favorite thing to eat!
We went to bed considerably earlier than we have since we got here and have high hopes for a brighter time in the next few days here. Thoughts of going home early are not entirely dissipated, but it now seems possible to settle in!