By Bill Hendrickson
Sunday was practice day for dads wanting to see daughters participate in official ski jump training. The main event is Tuesday, and we wanted to be sure to understand the potential pitfalls that could delay the trip on the day of the big event.
Our route took us from the a hotel in Adler to the base of RusSki Gorki Jump Center in the Mountain Cluster. First though, we had to pick up training day tickets.
Saturday was actually practice for the real Practice Day. Training tickets that were supposed to be made available by the Russian Olympic Committee for Saturday were not delivered to in time. Hence, on Saturday, we figured the best way to shake the Open Ceremonies hangover was to get some fresh mountain air, and just maybe we could charm one of the Russian female guards into letting us watch the women ski jumpers.
We were thwarted at the base of the RusSki Gorki gondola when we couldn't show a training day ticket to accompany our Spectator Passes. So, we spent the balance of Saturday scoping out the Mountain Cluster base facilities. At least we were ready for Practice Day.
Back to Sunday, and the start of the Amazing Race from Sea to Ski. Team Hendrickson (Bill and brother Kevin) and Team Jerome (Peter Jerome, Deedee Corradini and husband John Hiebner) were released via staggered starts.
Team Jerome opted for a higher level of difficulty, with the expectation of gate compensation points, by taking in a hockey game in the Shayba arena prior to catching the train. TH fueled up with an amazing buffet knowing it may be the last decent meal of the day. Out the door Team Hendrickson ran at 11:05 at a light jog attempting to traverse two miles in under 20 minutes to catch the 11:38 train at Olympic Park.
One-hundred yards later, brother Kevin realized the buffet did not lend itself to jogging, so we slowed to long strides. One-hundred more yards and I realized that my Spectator Pass was not around my neck. We probably couldn't get on the train without that pass and we definitely couldn't get in the jump venue, so back we went to get the pass. Kevin snagged the pass while I arranged for a taxi. Good move, since I'm still here to tell about it.
For 700 rubles, we had the honor of riding in a souped-up Hyundai driven by a Russian cab driver who did not understand "train station spasibo!" He called the front desk, handed me the phone, I told the concierge "train station spasibo," and then she told the cabbie. With phone off, he accelerated right past the train station entrance.
He waved his hands in a circular motion and we trusted that he knew a faster way. Eight turns later he dropped us off next to the security entrance. Kevin and I sweated the security wait for 10 minutes before running up to the platform and walking on the train with eight minutes to spare.
"Next stop Olympic Village and on to Esto-Sadok." Off we went happy to make the 11:38 train in order to get to training by 12:30. Training had previously been scheduled for 15:00, hence the sleep til 9:00 program. However, the fresh set of information emails said the training was moved up to 12:30. Once on the train, I made a quick call to Peter Jerome to check his status. He said the 12:30 change was a mistake, which still left Team Jerome time for a hockey game, and putting Team Hendrickson at the jump venue early without the bonus points sure to be collected by Team Jerome. Oh well.
Let us not forget that the training tickets were at a hotel in town, a strong 15 minute walk beyond the train terminus, which is one stop beyond RusSki Gorki. On we went via train through Esto-Sadok to Krasnaya Polyana. We shouldered our packs and walked out the east end of the train station surrounded by towering snow covered peaks. Thanks to the Saturday practice for Practice Day, we knew to walk up to the lodge, under the dripping eaves, across the bridge and then out of the control area. The paved trail continues along the glacial colored river to the upper end of the mountain village containing the hotel, which is 100 yards past another hotel with a very similar name. Tricky, eh?
Into the lobby to the front desk and we found an envelope containing two tickets to ladies ski jumping training! After a short break, we headed back down along the river and caught the next train to RusSki Gorki (15 min). Off at RusSki, down the stairs, out the door, along the sidewalk, then up the next stairs to the gondola where we swiped our Spectator Passes and two tickets and sat down in a brand new red gondola car.
A short ride up the gondy, and there we were, finally at the RusSki Gorki jumping complex. Since it was training day, there were no other spectators except for some press folks. We checked the board, 1 of 30 on the bar. Just in time! We watched three rounds of training including Jessica Jerome, Lindsey Van and Sarah Hendrickson. Afterward, we were able to catch all three on the way out.
Ahh, the rewards of the Amazing Race!
Bill Hendrickson is Sarah's dad. He lives in Park City, Utah and made the trip to Sochi to watch Sarah compete. Bill will be writing periodic blogs from Sochi.