Saturday morning dawned wet and rainy, and Fras and I went for a soggy trail run in Lynn Valley. After just over an hour of puddle hopping we headed back into Vancouver and reconvened with the ladies at Mer and Ben's place, stopping to pick up some delicious treats at a Jewish Bakery along the way. We spent the afternoon watching some Olympic coverage on TV, and then Mer, Ben, Roanne and myself headed downtown to attend the bronze medal hockey game with the Fins versus the Slovaks.
We took a cab downtown and arrived with plenty of time, finding our way to our seats by just after 6pm, with the game starting at 7pm. We watched the players take the ice for their warm up, and then promptly at 7pm the whistle blew, the puck dropped, and it was game on!
It was a great game, with the teams being really evenly matched. I had expected the Slovaks to dominate since they had played so well against the Canadians on Friday night, but the Fins took an early 1-0 lead in the first period before falling behind 3-1. Beno and I used the second intermission to go track down some of the mini donuts that we had passed on the way in, and after two laps of the stadium we finally returned to our seats with our delicious treats in hand.
Even though you are supposed to root for the team that was knocked out by your real favorite, I was hoping that the Fins would win since I liked their uniforms better and they looked friendlier. My wish came true in the third period, as the Fins scored a succession of goals to move ahead 4-3, and then finally win 5-3 after scoring an additional goal when the Slovaks pulled their goalie. Here is a shot of the Finnish team celebrating their bronze medal victory.
After the game we headed out and hailed a cab for a ride back to Kitsilano. We lucked out with a super funny cabbie who was wearing a Team Canada hockey jersey and swearing a blue streak as he offered his firm opinion on anything related to the Olympics, most of it focused on who had f*#$ed things up for Canada by not winning a gold medal in their sport (the women's curling team being one example). After an entertaining cab ride we were dropped off at Mer and Ben's local watering hole, a little bar called "Corduroy" where we enjoyed the most delicious pizza I have ever had and some equally delicious root vegetable fries. We then headed back to Mer and Ben's place and made it into bed by around 12:30pm.
The plan for the next day was for Fras and myself to head up to Whistler to witness the Men's 50km nordic ski race. I woke to my alarm at 4:55am, picked up Fras at 5:15am, and we made it to the bus depot in Burnaby by the departure time of 5:50am. Most people slept on the bus, but Fras and I had a whole range of topics to discuss so we enjoyed good conversation and laughs that hopefully wasn't too disturbing for the late risers sleeping around us. The day became brighter as we neared Callahagn Valley where the nordic races were being held, and we were dropped off around 8am. After walking the 1.5km to the venue, we changed into our rubber boots and Team Canada Super Fan outfits and headed out into the slush.
We walked around the course waiting for the race to start, and it was interesting to see all of the preparations going on, mostly by the wax technicians. Waxing is of utmost importance in nordic skiing, so the morning of the race the wax technicians try out a number of waxes and test their glide by sliding down a hill in the track and marking how far they travel. Another interesting thing was that there was a fleet of "track packers" who had the job of pre-skiing the course to pack in the tracksets and make the snow faster. Finally the skiers assembled and at 9:30am the gun went off!
Those guys can double pole like rockets! A pack of 55 skiers started the race, and initially things stayed together but skiers began slowly dropping out of the pack as the race progressed. The viewing area was pretty good, with plenty of options to scramble up and down hills and see the skiers multiple times per lap.
A few times a skier broke away from the main pack and established a small gap, but each time they were pulled back by the diminishing pack as the pace continued to "hot up". The Canadians were skiing really well, with 2 of them in the lead group. Heading into the last lap a Russian drilled it up the hill after the stadium, here is a shot of him stringing out the pack:
Exciting! Finally they came around for the finish, with a German turning the heat up on the last climb before they turned into the stadium for the finish. The German continued to lead until the last 100m, when he was passed by a young Norwegian named Peter Northug who apparently has won a lot of medals at these games. This was fun to watch as the crowd was going wild and it was a great finish. For a taste of what you missed, check out the video that I took and posted on youtube:
After witnessing the exciting finish we bee-lined it back to the buses, as we had importance business to take care of back in Vancouver: watching the final period of the Canada-USA gold medal hockey game! Luckily we caught the first bus and had good luck with traffic, and we rolled into the pub where Mer, Ben, Carla, Kyle, and other had staked out a table with a view of the action. I'm sure you all know how the game turned out so I won't go into that, but it was so awesome to watch it while downing a frosty pint in the midst of plenty of rowdy Canadian hockey fans.
We were all very pleased with the outcome, and afterwards we emptied out onto the street with lots of other Canadian fans amidst honking cars, and cheering people. It was pretty fun to see everyone with a huge smile on their face, I think the happiness quotient in Canada was off the charts that afternoon. The others headed downtown while Roanne and I relaxed at Mer and Ben's before getting some Swiss Chalet for dinner and making our way back to Seattle.
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