I now have a new favorite Sochi pin. Covering the Olympics means riding buses. The number of hours a journalist spends on press buses varies from Games to Games, but can exceed two hours a day. It's almost unheard of to be within walking distance of seven venues, as I am while staying at the spectrum-colored 13.8-Billion-Year Hotel (see Day 4 post) in Sochi.
But yesterday morning I needed to hop on a bus. I waited in line outside the Main Press Center with mostly NBC people and volunteers and caught the 8:15 to the Gorki Media Center, 45 minutes away and 1,800 feet higher in elevation. From there I transferred to the TM-15 bus to Rosa Khutor Extreme Park (another 20 minutes of climbing another 2,200 feet on extreme switchbacks) for the first-ever men's Olympic slopestyle skiing competition. It was an event I knew could be a significant story for SI because the U.S. is so good at it. A medals sweep was possible.
I stood in a packed-snow corral at the base of the 2,083-foot-long slopestyle run with other media members, athletes from other sports, well-connected fans and two people dressed in Olympic mascot costumes. The atmosphere at Olympic freestyle events is fun and casual, with pop/rock music playing and an English-speaking announcer describing and explaining the tricks as the skiers fly off staircase rails, jumps and other features. In mood, it's a bit like being at a beach volleyball tournament—and the warm sunshine at Rosa Khutor enhanced that sense. With fans sometimes swaying and dancing to the music, the slopestyle venue was also like an Olympic nightclub transplanted into a spectacular daytime Alpine wonderland.
As you know if you've been following the coverage, the U.S. came through and did sweep the medals—only the third time American athletes have ever done so at a Winter Olympics. Joss Christensen (paying tribute to his late dad), Gus Kenworthy (who has rescued a family of stray puppies here) and Nick Goepper (shout out to you Vorises in Indiana) are all good guys and were most accommodating to us media folks afterwards. I picked a good day to go to the mountains.
The push-off shoe has a gripping sole; the sole of the other, sliding shoe is covered with either Teflon or a banana peel—I couldn't tell.