Saturday, February 20, 2010

Notes from Whistler

I've been here at the Olympics for a week, and have been struggling to find time - and also struggling to find a good internet connection - for updates.

The service routine with the Slovenian crew has been a lot of work, but smooth. As usual, most of my work has been with Stefan getting the glide testing done and waxing skis. But that doesn't mean I haven't gotten a fair bit of klister on my hands. Waxing has been pretty straight-forward and the team has had good skis for each of the races. Working with Gianluca, Stefan, and Miha is great. Four nationalities, four languages, four personalities, but one goal.

The team of athletes this year consists of very experienced athletes like Petra Majdic on one extreme, to the youngest skier, Anje, who doesn't even have a driver's licence yet. A total of five skiers (Petra, Katja, Vesna, Barbara, Anje), plus two coaches, and 4 serviceman, plus a physio-therapist.

Speaking of Petra, many probably have seen the footage of her crash during warm-ups and the subsequent efforts culminating in the bronze medal. Petra's in the hospital now, and won't be able to travel for more than a week, and she's in a lot of pain with broken ribs. Her season is over, not to mention the Olympics.

Quick Turn Service?

On Wednesday, immediately after the sprint races, I loaded up the Subaru and drove back to the shop with over 40 pairs of skis for a quick-turnaround grind. I was accompanied by Stefano Vuerich, and we drove for 9 hours each way to get the skis in-and-out as quickly as possible. With a big pile of skis jammed into the car, we got stopped at the border in both directions. The border agents for US and Canada were friendly and thorough, and I guess it just seemed a little odd that two guys were driving from Whistler to Winthrop and turning around to go right back, less than a day later. No harm though, except for the time delays. I arrived back in Whistler a few minutes before midnight last night, and was up early to get the skis to the cross-country venue this morning.

That pile of skis were for athletes from Slovenia, Italy, Russia, Spain, US Nordic Combined, and also for Madshus Ski Company (they have a lot of brand new skis on hand for their sponsored racers to use). Cross-country, Biathlon, and Nordic Combined all need fast skis.

I was amazed and proud - in equal parts - to see athletes racing on those same skis today in the Pursuit! With conditions stable, more of those skis will be in play on Saturday. I'm quite sure that no secrets are given away when I tell you that the batch of skis have the same grinds that a walk-in customer can pick right off the "standard grind menu".

Personal Triumph

Today's race, the Women's 15 km Pursuit, was a big day for one of the younger skiers from Slovenia. Barbara Jesersek started today in bib #61 and finished 17th! It was a fantastic result for her - best ever. She skied a solid race, staying around 26th place through the classic portion, and then moving up during the skate, and hammering through the last couple of kilometers to move up to 17th. For Barbara it was a personal triumph. (pic from today of Barbara on the first big climb on the skate loop).

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