To me Sochi was a mythical place for the last 7 years since it was announced that it would hold the winter games. Skiing nearly full time for 20 years means that I have been to many ski resorts over the years all through Europe, Scandanavia, America and Asia but I had never been to Russia before. Sure I knew it was a cold place and they had to have lots of snow but I always thought of it as this undeveloped place where there were things like single seat chairlifts, or a place that a ski movie would send someone to check out. Well when you get to the skiing at Rosa Khutor it is none of these things.
It is all brand new, of course that is what happens when you have a 51 billion dollar budget. The mountains are huge. The terrain when you head up the top gondola is amazing. It is just the sort of place that you dream of skiing when it has great snow. Of course that is where it all fell down at the Paralympic games. Temperatures up to 15 degrees at the base of the mountain made skiing seem very Australian and I had hoped that it could be a good omen for the Aussie team.
To date with just one race left that has not been the case. We have had two 4th places, 2 athletes fall when in medal positions over 2/3’s of the way down the course. We had an athlete disqualified for a helmet infringement while in almost certain medal winning position and we have had one bronze medal (Toby Kane, Super Combined). So many opportunities and so few results. As an assistant coach of the team I am happy that I have seen so much good skiing as that is what I am here to work on but a little frustrated that we haven’t been able to convert that into hardware.
As a coach with the team the Sochi games have meant lots of hard work. We are small team with only a few coaches, but we are also a big team in that we have athletes competing and athletes training every day of the games. Our one possible day off was a weather day which of course got used. It is a long 10 days of competition and I will be grateful to get on the plane and rest.
Is this place a big white elephant? When you see photos of some of the venues used in the 1984 games in Sarajevo it makes you feel a bit sad that they are overgrown and in disrepair. I believe that some of the venues here will see little future competition and use. The 250million dollar ski jumping venue is quite low down in the valley and without the locals using it regularly it too will slowly erode away. The ski resort I have a little more hope for. I am sure there will be significant challenges in trying to maintain this place with it’s 5 star hotels and Olympic villages. There are rumours about the lifts needing reinstallation in the next 5 years due to too much movement in the rocks and soil, you can see some shortcuts around that demonstrate how fast they built it all. But the opportunity to see more Russian people holidaying and skiing in the winter is surely a big lure to keep it all going. I for one hope that they are able to bring in enough people to keep it all going and that the games here will leave a positive legacy.
In the end only time will tell. I for one would love the opportunity to come here with good conditions and explore the mountain and all it’s great little chutes and steeps and great skiing.
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