Monday, February 24, 2014

Sochi 2014: In Pictures and Words

A photo with a little perspective: the flame is bigger than one man by himself.

It's a new day. But not like any new day. Now the Olympic Park in Sochi is probably much quieter, empty almost before the Para Olympians arrive in two weeks' time. The courses in the mountains no longer find themselves lined by cheering spectators.  Stadiums are no longer packed with fans. Days circled on the calendars from many of the best athletes on earth - certain days people have thought about and dreamt upon for probably the 1461 days since Vancouver - have came into the moment, and have now receded into our past.  I am sure I feel certain emotions that are hard to put into words. But I am very proud and humbled to have my fourth and final opportunity to represent Team USA in the Olympic arena as an athlete.

Lara Ski Complex in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia: my latest Mississippi River ride

In the end, I think we are all a bit like Huckleberry Finn. It just so happens that cross country skiing has been my raft and my friend Jim: the instigator of opportunity and adventure. Over these years, I have put what I believe is the whole of myself into this endeavor, full of emotion, sweat, and optimism. I've danced - literally - jigs of joy. I've also had a couple rough rides, as a cyclist friend of mine might say.

A man in the arena: T.J. Oshie on the 8th and deciding overtime penalty shootout try against Team Russia. 

It's kind of funny to look back from time-to-time with the perspective of time. One of very first Olympians I met was a biathlete who competed for the USA in Innsbruck in 1976. He gave me a book he penned. I don't remember much about the book, but I absolutely remember the Teddy Roosevelt quote that ran on the book's back cover. I loved that quote. I loved it so much I wrote it on the backside of my Trapper Keeper that next fall in school. The working title of the words by Mr. Roosevelt are In The Arena, same as the name of the orginazation that I write this blog for. I'm pretty sure this is more than mere coincidence.

Noelle, now that's what I call a jig of joy
In Sochi, I got to see my old track and field teammate at the University of Utah Noelle Pikus-Pace celebrate her silver medal for skeleton in Sochi's medals plaza.

Any color of medal is worth celebrating.

In Sochi, Bettina's best friend Selina Gasparin (right) also won silver that same night. Bettina got to be Selina's guest that night, all the way until Selina walked out on the stage to receive her medal. Bettina said its a memory she'll never forget. Two days later, Bettina would finish seventh. It didn't hurt her, I believe, to take in this night before stepping into the arena herself.

Every second counts: the first 15-hundredths of the women's 500M short track final.

Come and see, and I saw: Meeting people like Siim Sellis and Peeter Kummel of Estonia, spending some hours on the ski trails and rollerskis, chasing efficiency and efficacy are parts of the process of chasing the Olympic dream through four Olympiads is what I will remember most. The trial of miles, the miles of trials, and the friends that are with you along the way.

I guess today, the first day back from Sochi, might be a day of sadness. My third grade teacher wrote me on Martin Luther King Junior's birthday. She said I told the class that same day 25 years earlier that I had a dream, one that involved skiing and the Olympics and following in the footsteps of a man named Bill Koch. But instead of leaning back and looking through the rearview mirror, I'm going to take the words of my two favorite musicians, John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison to heart. Today is not a day to look back to the days of yesteryear. The day has come and gone. 

Final photo from my time in Sochi, following the Closing Ceremonies to the 2014 Games. 

To the best of times. And those that will be. -Torin