When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was open a card Brittany gave me on my way to the airport. “Do not open it until February 22,” she said. Oh, I wish I hadn’t listened to her! Because inside was a card with a cardboard unicorn – who talks, by the way! – for toting around Russia.
(He’s rainbow striped on the other side. Perfect!
After finishing up some work at the hotel, the unicorn and I went to Rosa Khutor for one final time, where I finally had the famous mushroom risotto everyone’s been bragging about, bought a few souvenirs and then headed to the Gorki media center to report my final piece of the Games, on freeskiing and slopestyle’s Olympic debut. That will run tomorrow, after I write it.
Then I packed up my computer and my unicorn and headed to the sliding venue to watch the first half of the four-man bobsled event. I had been only to the “Extreme Park”, alpine venue and hockey rink, so I wanted to check out another venue and see something other than what I’ve been covering.
I’ve seen bobsled races on TV. I’ve even had the privilege of driving a bobsled, back in 2006 during the Bodyn Bobsled Challenge in Lake Placid, NY. But I’d never before stood at the start of the four-man event and watched the race in person. It’s damn exciting.
The start area feels like a mix between an international track meet and a NASCAR race. Guys stay warm by running sprints anywhere they can find the space, and coaches in matching track suits tend to the sleds, polishing them and making sure their blades don’t touch the ground, or the ice, until the last possible moment.
Then there’s the yelling … primal, guttural, tribal yelling … as the sleds are pushed down the track. By the athletes and by the coaches and fans. Each team performs a ritual of fist bumping and thigh slapping and helmet pounding before taking their places — again, how and where they position themselves on the sled at the start is different for every team — and screaming down the track. The crowd yells along with them, clangs cowbells and stomps their feet.
In bobsled, there can not be too much cowbell.
The U.S. 1 team was in fourth place after two runs. Each team will take two more runs tomorrow morning, the last day of the Games. Then the gold-medal hockey game, a final medal ceremony and the Closing Ceremony tomorrow night. Monday afternoon, I fly home.
Where did the time go?