Disclaimer: I wrote this on the train to the Incheon Airport, I’m just slow to do anything about it. I did warn y’all that I would probably forget to blog. Do I know myself or……? 😛
I – Prologue
Oh man, how do I even begin to sum up the last three weeks of my life?
A dream come true.
That’s like, super cheesy but honestly there’s something about the Olympics that makes you so much… prouder to be from your own country. I’m not sure “prouder” is the correct word, but even as a fan or member of the media I just found there is this innate sense of nationalism that we all have inside of us, waiting for the right moment to just own being proud of your county. I can’t even begin to imagine that feeling from an athlete’s perspective.
Generally, I’m quite a reserved person. I am shy and easily embarrassed. I don’t often get excited over sports other than skating and I never wear clothes that say anything on them. I prefer to spend my time behind my camera and documenting the world than being in front of a it. But honestly, there’s something about singing O’ Canada at Canada Olympic House with 200 other Canadians and athletes that just makes you forget all your inhibitions and proudly and boldly say “Hell yeah. I’m Canadian. Go Canada Go”.
II – The Olympics
I arrived in Korea on February 7th, nervous, excited, scared and maybe a little apprehensive of what was to come over the next three weeks. This trip was a lot of firsts for me. First long haul flight to Asia, first time at a competition where I wasn’t staying with my mom, first time flying alone, first time relying on shuttle buses (I will admit I am a bit spoiled). I didn’t know anything about the rink or really how the Olympics works for photographers. Everyone kept telling me “it’s like a normal competition…but bigger”…. Update. That’s not actually super helpful hahaha.
For some reason I had built it up in my head that I was going to be totally alone fending for myself and that other photographers were going to be cold and unhelpful and it was going to be a dog eat dog world. What I didn’t realize is that I would find a friend in Greg Kolz – someone I have known for a few years now, since we both photograph for Skate Canada on occasion. Somehow, we had the same flight booked to Korea and so we ended up travelling together for most of the first week of the Games, familiarizing ourselves with the lay of the land and adventuring to all the cool places. We rocked the Opening Ceremony the day after we arrived and even made it out onto the floor of the PyeongChang Olympic Plaza before we left (to sneak in a quick photo with the cauldron in the back of course). We also found our way to the top of the bobsled track to watch the ladies skeleton training runs, which happened, for me, to be one of the only other sports I got to take in live and in person.
Many of the days are a blur if I’m being honest. As much as I would love to say I got to visit all the sports and see so many cool things live, the truth is that I was working really freaking hard the majority of the time I was there. A typical day when there was a skating event went something like this:
5:00 am – Good Morning!
5:30 am – Find clothes/shower
6:30 am – breakfast in the dining hall
6:45 am – pack camera/computer gear
7:00 am – Shuttle bus to the rink
7:30 am – Arrive at Gangneung Ice Arena
8:00 am – Work on photos from the day before that I didn’t get to finish (I’m slow)
9:00 am – Head to arena to stake out photo position
10:00 am – Photograph skating!!!! (Best part of the day)
2:00 pm – Head back to VMC (Venue Media Centre) to work
8:00 pm – realize it was 8pm and I was starving
8:30 pm – shuttle bus to GMV (Gangneung Media Village)
9:00 pm – dinner at the dining hall/buy microwave rice from the convenience store
9:30 pm – edit more photos
12:00 am – realize it was midnight and think about going to bed
1:00 am – fall asleep editing pics
On the few off days I tried to take in practices and visit Canada Olympic House to see my mom and sister. Looking back, I could have taken the days off to see other sports but quite honestly, I was trying to soak in every moment of skating I could because I know that the Olympics is not something that you get to go to very often and also, I just really love watching practice.
Speaking of practices, the rinks were beautiful. In photos, the practice rink looked dark and a bit dingy but it was actually really nice. It’s no secret that I’m a lover of all things purple, so the main rink was obviously a dream. I heard from lots of people that I would be sick of the purple by the end of the Games but honestly, I wish every rink was so pretty. I have NO SHAME in saying that. Yesterday when we were packing up after Gala finished, I got a little emotional leaving the rink and the venue for the last time. Something about the Olympic rings on the boards and the beautiful clean ice just made me want to sit and soak it in just a little bit longer. Who knows what will happen in 4 years. This could be the only time I ever see Olympic ice in person. Obviously I hope not, but I think this one is always going to be special. (See Part III)
III – The Skating
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the skating. Oh, the skating. It was truly the best Olympics. The skating was what you wish for when you think of the Olympic Games. So many personal best, beautiful programs. Admittedly I am a crier but oh man, how many times did I cry over the last three weeks with joy that skaters were achieving their dreams. Dabin Choi and Hanul Kim of Korea skating clean long programs in front of a home audience. Beautiful. Aljona and Bruno with their most stunning long program. Amazing. Our beautiful Canadians. Gold in Team, Gold in Ice Dance, Bronze in Pairs, Bronze in Ladies. Tessa & Scott, Meagan & Eric and Patrick likely wrapping up their competitive careers with beautiful performances and a team GOLD. Unforgettable. Mirai landing that triple axel and Adam Rippon skating three clean programs. Valentina and Ondrej with 3 outstanding performances. My list could go on and on. It was event after event that was simply amazing to watch. But also bittersweet. So many skaters are capping their careers here. The landscape will be very different even next month at Worlds. I am excited to see where the future of the sport goes, but it will always be hard to say goodbye to the skaters I have grown up with. If any of them read this, thank you. With my whole heart, thank you.
IV – Epilogue
I know there is so much that I am missing from this post but honestly we’re 3 pages in and I think I’ve bored you enough. I don’t really know how to finish this up, but I think I will end with a thank you. To everyone who pushed me into going and supported me and cheered me on. Thank you. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along. I hope we can do it again in 4 years. If not, this was a really special experience and I will hold it close to my heart forever.