Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Little Things

One of the awesome things about the Olympics is that it draws a lot more US attention to cross country skiing than we usually get. Friends, family, and everyone who religiously watches NBC during these three weeks likely gets at least a glimpse of our sport and hopefully even think it's a little cool! I've mentioned this before, but one of the things that I think is the most impressive about our team, is their ability to celebrate the little things. We've had our fair share of ups and downs this week, but the headlines that tend to get sent home are often the big pictures and sometimes we lose track of the little things that count the most. "Kikkan Doesn't get Gold", "American Women Race in Bikinis", and "Interesting Relay Day" are headlines that are sometimes true and sometimes missing the point by far.
Pre race prep for the sprint with Kik, Ida, and Jess (Zach photo)
The day of the Olympic sprint was definitely bittersweet for me. I felt amazing during my race prep the day before the sprint and was filled with excitement up until the morning of the sprint. When I woke up, I was finally starting to feel nervous, but that's to be expected. I had the best race of my life. I qualified 9th, made it through quarters and semis, and before I knew it, I found myself in the final at the Olympics. I couldn't believe it - I felt great and was ready to go for it. Unfortunately, I got in a little tangle and fell, ending up last in the final, but 6th in the Olympics! I felt like I heard from every person I've ever met after my race and I can't thank everyone enough for all the support and nice messages. The bittersweet part of the day was that Kik, our leader and a gold medal favorite, got knocked out in the quarter finals. There have been a ton of articles about this and I think a lot of them have done a great job highlighting the fact that gold medal or not, Kikkan is one of the most inspiring athletes and best teammates our sport has ever had. She's paved the way for the rest of us and whether she has a medal or not doesn't change any of that.
Some pictures of the TV from home that my friend Emily took!

pre race prep with Kik

Getting a hug from Noah after my race

And some smiles from Liz :)

So back to the little things. After the qualification in a sprint, we all put our feet up and rest for about an hour before the heats start. It's an easy time to get nervous because you're just waiting to go ski. It's especially easy to get nervous when you're doing it at the Olympics. When we sat down to rest, Ida looked over at me and said, "Hey Soph, we're now officially Olympians." Neither of us had done the pursuit race a couple days before or been to the previous Olympics, so after completing the prelim, we had both officially completed our first Olympic race! It was crazy how much this put things into perspective for me. I went from being extremely nervous to just being straight up psyched in a matter of seconds. It didn't matter what happened next because we were Olympians and how cool is that?!?

A Jessie hug after our quarterfinal

I didn't get to see Kikkan after her quarter final. I did my semi final and I was spinning before my final and about to head to the start area when I turned around and there she was with a huge hug, smile, and "good luck" for me. This was one of the moments that I'll remember most from the day and even though it wasn't the headline of any article, it described Kikkan and our team to a T. And it wasn't only Kikkan. There was Andy's calm mellow manner and pats on the back before each heat, Jessie offering to just sit there and talk for the sake of hearing someone talk while I was nervously spinning, Ida running around to find me Gatorade, Simi's hugs, my teammates who weren't racing that day going out on the course to cheer, seeing Zach's eyes get a little watery after my race, having Grover be the closest thing to my dad that I could ask for in the start/finish, and hearing Matt's cheering (which is hands down the best of any team and any country) throughout the entire course.

Grover sporting the one piece race suit

Easy ski with Zach ... a lot to smile about!
I need to head out on course to cheer our boys on in the 4x10km relay right now, so I will say some more about our "bikini ski" and the women's relay later. To set things straight though, Sadie and I did NOT ski in bikinis - we raced in tank tops during the 10k because it was so hot out. It was pretty funny and unexpected to see how much hype there was about our outfits.

Do you think those are USA boots on this Thomas Zipfel cartoon? 
And to set one more thing straight, we knew and still know that on a good day our relay team could medal, but they were in no way a disappointment yesterday. They each went out and skied their hearts out and functioned as a team. When Sadie and I were walking back from dinner last night, Aino-Kaisa Saarinen (who skied on the silver medal team for Finland) pulled us aside to say something. She attended the glacier camp with the US women's team two summers ago and she wanted to say thank you. She said the US women's team taught her that it was okay to have fun and to operate as a team and not always be so serious. She said she brought her relay team inside to play karaoke and other fun games the night before the relay and she started crying as she thanked us and told us that she hoped we took something away from her being at our camp because she had so much to thank us for. So that was pretty cool :)
Cheering Jessie on during the relay (Holly photo)

Jessie cheering during the 10k 
girls cheer team for the relay

Team USA! (Holly photo)

Relay socks (Holly photo)

USA cheering squad for Sadie (Holly photo)
Some more scenic Sochi photos


  1. I have to commend you for being very gracious. I know nothing about x-country skiing, but found myself watching the live broadcast of the sprint event. I was disappointed that Kikkan Randall didn't qualify, but pleasantly surprised to see you make it through the quarters and then the semis. My disappointment returned as to the coverage. There was little or no analysis of your fall, which looked to this uneducated observer to be the fault of the gal coming up on your right. I was also disappointed that they didn't bother to interview you, after achieving something unprecedented in USA x-country skiing. This feeling only got worse when the headlines on ESPN,, etc. said, "Kikkan Randall falls in quarter finals", with a throwaway line devoted to you.

    With that off my chest, congratulations on a monumental achievement.

  2. What a great piece!

    I'm forwarding it to my daughters, nieces, sisters, the girl up the block who takes care of our cat when we go away and everyone else I can think of. You and your teammates, besides having a ton of fun are teaching so many about what sport is truly about, and what it should be about.

    Someone described you as 'the smiliest Olympian' and that is probably true. But I bet you're even more proud of being a member of the smiliest Olympic team.

    Have a great relay and keep smiling!

  3. And to think it all started with West River Nordic! So proud of you and the rest of the team.

  4. At least our media didn't say you were racing in bikinis. They referred to the conditions, explaining it was hotter than cross-country skiers are used to at the world cups and highlighting how all the athletes wear less clothing than normally. Then American women skiers were highlighted as examples who are skiing in sleeveless skirts (but I haven't seen a single article talking about bikinis in Finnish, Swedish or Norwegian media).

    Good luck with your future training and competitions.