The time main as much as the Olympics is nuts. There’s a lot anticipation, focus, and preparation that it’s simple to overlook you’re about to compete on the world’s greatest stage.
At least that’s what occurs to me. Typically, it actually doesn’t hit me till they’re placing out the Olympic flame on the closing ceremony. Seventeen days of fierce competitors (to not point out the years main as much as it) appear to have passed by in a flash, and it’s a sobering realization that it will likely be one other 4 years earlier than this all occurs once more.
My expertise in Pyeongchang was particularly profound since this was my final games. Even understanding that, it nonetheless glided by manner too quick. I left South Korea simply over every week in the past, and I’m slowly beginning the reentry course of into post-Olympic life (for good this time). Given that, I believed I’d memorialize the expertise and share somewhat glimpse into what it’s actually prefer to reside, breathe, and compete as an Olympic athlete.
We arrived in South Korea and had been instantly suited up with all our Team USA uniform, apparel, and kit. So. Much. Stuff. Two duffel luggage’ value, not counting competitors wares we had already introduced with us. And it didn’t cease after day 1. Everywhere we went, individuals would give us issues—a brand new telephone, a comforter, souvenirs, pins, present luggage, and so on. By the time the closing ceremony rolled round, I used to be at a loss for a way I might transport all the pieces again, particularly since I’ll be touring and racing for one more month earlier than lastly settling in at house. Thank goodness for a mother and coach who had been keen to pay the additional bag payment and take my new belongings with them!
One of my favourite elements of the Olympic expertise is the athletes’ village. I like seeing athletes from all sports activities and all nations come collectively and rub elbows. From the large bobsledders to the featherweight ski jumpers, you see completely different preparations, completely different physique varieties, and completely different mentalities for every sport. Olympic Village is like its personal mini-city, full with a mayor, put up workplace, hair salon, laundromats, and medical clinic. I had by no means ventured to the hair salon in my earlier Olympics, so I made a decision to offer it a do that time. While the language barrier added an attention-grabbing twist, I used to be very happy with my up to date ’do!
We stayed in Mountain Village, one of many 2 boarding areas throughout the athletes’ village. In it had been eight residence towers with 15 flooring every. Many of the buildings had been adorned with the flags and banners of the residents’ nations, which made all the pieces really feel each festive and somewhat aggressive. Team USA took up a complete tower, however there was just one elevator in all the constructing. While that meant that we had been in a position to chat with athletes we would not get to know in any other case, it additionally made timing journey wherever fairly tough. Sometimes it will take so lengthy to catch the elevator that I’d have run down the 14 flights of stairs as an alternative to ensure I might catch the shuttle. Totally superb in concept, besides the stairways weren’t heated, so a skinny sheet of ice shaped on every of the landings. A little dangerous!
Our lodging within the towers had been attention-grabbing, to say the least. Temporary partitions and flooring had been put in to protect the brand new situation of the residences the place we lived, and the kitchen was coated in corrugated plastic, with no entry to any of the home equipment. Basically, they didn’t need us touching something. Plus, all of the furnishings was rented. It felt like we had been squatters.
Then there have been the beds: They had been surprisingly agency. Fortunately, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) supplied some padded mattress covers for us and I introduced my very own pillow from house. Some of my teammates put additional comforters beneath their sheets. It took me just a few days to regulate to the agency mattresses. With sleep being so necessary for restoration, you’d suppose beds could be a prime precedence for these residences. I discover it type of humorous that of all of the beds I’ve slept on this yr all around the world, this Olympic Village mattress was probably the most primary and least comfy.
Another good solution to meet different athletes was ready on your laundry to complete at any of the 3 residence facilities. Finding an open machine was the primary take a look at, after which choosing the proper cycle was a big gamble, as a result of all of the directions had been written in Korean. Just a few occasions, I needed to transfer another person’s laundry right into a basket to get mine began, so who is aware of what number of gold medalists’ underwear I’ll have by accident touched.
One a part of the village that I at all times get a kick out of is the health middle. This yr, it was positioned within the basement of one of many towers, unfold by a number of rooms crammed with gear. One room was devoted to cardio (treadmills, spin bikes, recumbent bikes, and rowers) and one other was stuffed with lifting gear (squat racks, platforms, and so many contraptions that I might by no means even think about lifting). What I failed to appreciate till midway by was all the room devoted to mobility! Shoot.
At any hour, each treadmill and spin bike was in use, superjacked bobsledders had been throwing large weights round prefer it was the lifting championships, and folks had been stretching and rolling and turning their physique in each which manner. I suppose such frenetic vitality is certain to happen when a bunch of extremely motivated athletes are all requested to train in a single place earlier than the most important competitors of their lives.
Athletes, myself included, love the outsized Olympic rings. They’re iconic, so you’ll be able to’t assist however take an image with them. Soohorang, the Pyeongchang mascot, was additionally round for photos, and he obtained a lot of consideration from individuals wanting photographs.
Another factor you do lots on the Olympics is journey on shuttles. Shuttles to the race venue, shuttles to the media middle, shuttles to meals. It’s an ideal system, but it surely takes up a shocking quantity of the day. Pyeongchang may be very compact relative to different Olympic venues, and the shuttle entry made it particularly simple to get round to see different venues and competitions. While ready in line for rides, I additionally did some necessary buying and selling of nation pins, which make for superior souvenirs to carry again house.
One specific problem of the Pyeongchang Games was the time distinction to Europe and North America. Our Nordic workforce had been in Austria beforehand, which is eight hours behind Korea. Our preliminary plan was to deliberately keep away from adjusting to the brand new time zone by staying up late and sleeping nicely previous our regular wake-up name. Most of our competitions had been within the late afternoon or early night, so we wanted to be on a later schedule anyway. It took me some time to not really feel responsible staying up previous midnight each night time, however I discovered somewhat little bit of rebellious pleasure in sleeping previous 10 a.m., particularly once I might make a case for it serving to my efficiency.
One morning early within the video games, nonetheless, I awoke to an alarm going off on my telephone. It was an unfamiliar ringtone, and it stirred me out of a fairly deep sleep. When I checked out my telephone, the very first thing I noticed was “EMERGENCY ALERT,” and the remainder of the message was in Korean. I instantly jumped away from bed and bumped into the hallway of our condo. All the opposite women got here stumbling out of their rooms similtaneously we tried to determine what it meant. We finally found out methods to use the Google Translate app to decode the message, and fortunately it had nothing to do with the nuclear menace that we had all assumed it was. It turned out to be a warning about excessive winds and harmful hearth circumstances in one other South Korean area not even near us.
Eating is one thing you do a number of through the Olympics. Top-tier athletes are used to consuming lots to gasoline coaching and racing, however throw in all the extra vitality spent on media shows and nerves and you’ve got an urge for food that’s uncontrolled. Staying wholesome is at all times the most important precedence, so USOC had some particular methods for the athletes. The first advice was to make breakfast in our rooms to keep away from the germ-filled eating corridor and management the meals we had been consuming. That severely restricted what we had been in a position to prepare dinner, although, since there was no full kitchen or full pantry. Ultimately, I wasn’t in a position to prep meals with enough carbs and electrolytes, which I believe contributed to my struggles with cramping within the first race. After just a few days, I made a decision to only go to the eating corridor for breakfast. To assist us management our meals, the USOC had additionally arrange an off-site restaurant only for competing U.S. athletes, referred to as the Haven—and it was simply that. It turned an ideal place to make sure we had been fueling correctly in a clear setting whereas additionally avoiding the hustle and hype. They ran a superb shuttle service, and it was simply ten minutes from the athletes’ village. So, regardless that it made for an additional journey, it turned a mainstay in my diet plan.
Bottles, Bottles, Bottles!
Just to be secure through the Olympics and keep away from any contamination, my teammates and I drank an insane quantity of bottled water. Coca-Cola sponsored the workforce, so we had been in a position to get free drinks at any merchandising machine across the village. Several occasions a day, we’d hit up the machine within the lobby of our tower and cargo up an entire tote bag with bottles of water. We meant to take the bottles to the recycling bin day by day, however we saved placing it off whereas we saved the bottles in a closet. By the top, it was somewhat out of hand.
Every video games there may be an election for the IOC Athletes’ Commission, the physique that represents the athletes throughout the Olympic motion. Voting takes place throughout competitors, and all athletes are inspired to take part in electing 2 new members. The voting sales space was proper on the entrance of the principle eating corridor, which made it practically not possible to go for a meal with out getting requested to solid your poll. Every athlete who did vote within the election obtained a black knit hat or mittens emblazoned with the Olympic rings. In the top, 84 % of all of the taking part athletes solid their votes—the highest-ever turnout for the Winter or Summer Olympic Games (and even greater than we get for presidential elections!). It was highly effective to see so many athletes strolling round of their black Olympic hats as an indication that we’re all united by the Olympic motion, reasonably than divided by our particular person international locations. It’s additionally very telling that so many athletes voted, exhibiting that we’re extra engaged in our rights and our future than ever earlier than.
Opening and shutting ceremonies have at all times been a spotlight of my Olympic experiences, and Pyeongchang didn’t disappoint. Even although I used to be racing the day after the opening ceremony, I simply couldn’t miss the prospect to get all dressed up in our workforce outfit and march into the stadium with my workforce. It’s such an incredible feeling. Team USA appeared nice in our blue denims, mountain boots, and suede cowboy gloves. The battery-powered heater in the jacket—the primary time we’ve had such high-tech assist—made hanging out within the chilly completely doable.
For the primary time ever in my 5 Olympic journeys, I had the privilege of standing on the medal podium on behalf of Team USA. We wore our particular Team USA podium outfit, which I had not dared take out of the bag till my ultimate competitors was executed, and we obtained hair and make-up service within the staging space earlier than our activate the stage. The ceremony chief prepped us on ceremony protocol earlier than it began. We had been to attend till our nation had been referred to as out in 3 languages (French, English, and Korean) earlier than stepping onto the rostrum. When we obtained on the market, nonetheless, I obtained somewhat excited and began to step up after I heard our identify in English—whoops! We did somewhat dance on the rostrum, after which had the medals draped round our necks. I virtually stumbled ahead as a result of I didn’t anticipate the medal to be so heavy! I saved my cool till they raised our flag, and I noticed my household and teammates within the crowd watching—then I couldn’t assist however get choked up. It was extra unbelievable than I might have ever imagined.
The days following the gold medal ceremony had been a complete whirlwind. After a pair full days of media interviews and discovering out that I had been elected to the IOC Athletes’ Commission, it was out of the blue the closing ceremony. This time, all of the groups walked in collectively, and it was enjoyable to pose for photos and high-five my pals from different international locations and a number of the new pals I had made through the video games. Another first: I obtained to play a small function within the closing ceremony, serving to thank the volunteers on behalf of the athletes. The remainder of the night was an ideal likelihood to recap the earlier 17 days and sit up for the long run. I adore it when the IOC president says, “I now call on the youth of the world to assemble four years from now.” Though I’m winding down my profession, I’m so excited and optimistic for the way forward for the Olympic Games and their energy to do good on this planet.
With the extinguishing of the Olympic flame, my Olympic journey as an athlete has formally come to a detailed. I can’t consider 16 years have passed by since my first video games in Salt Lake City. It’s been such an unbelievable journey. While it’s bittersweet to be shifting on, I’ve so many wonderful recollections and lifelong pals. Like the founding father of the trendy Olympics so eloquently mentioned, “I have taken part, and for that I am better for it.”