Here are a handful of my favorite Olympic moments from the recently completed 2018 Pyeongchang South Korea Winter Olympics.
- Watching the cross-country team sprint from the stands at the Alpensia XC ski center. Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins WON the gold medal! Such a great night of racing by both of them, and nearly the whole rest of the US xc team was on hand cheering and watching in the stands. The potential was always there, but so many things have to be just right to have a race like that, and it was so amazing and inspiring to see Jessie and Kikkan (and the service staff with incredible skis) put everything together and pull it off. First gold medal ever for US cross-country skiers! Watching the emotions on everyone’s faces and joining the finish-line celebrations in person is something I’ll never forget. Check out the stories all over mainstream media if you need a dose of inspiration!
- Watching my brother Scott race, some of it on TV but also for the 30k skiathlon and the men’s relay I watched the whole thing in person. The 50k I cheered for him at the end as I started my afternoon training session. He had an excellent set of races at the Olympics, I was really impressed — hey next time, can you tell me how to nail it like that too?? In the normal World Cup racing scene, Scott’s best result is 27th place (with the exception of the light-field Pyeongchang World Cup skiathlon in Feb 2017 where he was 9th). At the Olympics, he raced to the BEST EVER US men’s 50k performance with an 11th place, which happens to also be the 3rd best ever men’s result for US skiers at the Olympics. Ever. Since whenever it started, decades back! Add to that 11th, an 18th place in the skiathlon and a 21st place in the 15k skate, and wow, Scott had great Olympics! #proudsister … even though he creamed me in the sibling rivalry for the Olympics. (We have a tendency to compare results placing and try to one-up each other… I may have won US Nationals but Scott definitely won the competition during the Olympics.)
- Visiting the coastal village and Olympic rings on the beach, and walking around beach art exhibits with friends. Scott and my childhood friends Kathryn and Forrest, from McCall ID where we were born, decided at the last minute to make a trip to Korea to watch races and visit. It was such a blast from the past to see them, highly entertaining and great! We walked around the coast with them one morning, and also spent a few evenings hanging out, which was a welcome change from Village life and talking to only other athletes.
- Walking in the opening and closing ceremonies. Such a festive atmosphere, and a cool opportunity to visit behind the scenes with other athletes, admire ceremony outfits from all the countries, dress up in our own costumes, and generally people-watch. The lights, cameras and crowds are pretty overwhelming but in the best possible way; I walked through the stadium feeling awed, inspired, and part of something big and positive.
- Random pin trading and the ensuing interactions with athletes and staff from other countries. Scott and I joined forces to try to collect a handful of unique pins – each country’s athletes arrive at the Olympics with little metal pins that typically have their flag or name and some Olympic symbol. It’s good entertainment to trade pins and use that as an occasion to talk to other people. Scott and I aren’t the most outgoing of people, in fact we both have a hard time talking to strangers, but we prodded each other and managed to approach people! Good little social challenge, and it results in a kind of fun pin box.
- Skiing nearly every day. Training for skiing is what I do, just about every day all year round, but I still love it. It can be a little repetitive, but the trails in Pyeongchang were nice for many easy distance skis and interval sessions. I enjoyed the good company of teammates, techs, an occasional bit of skiing with Scott and there were always interesting people to see around. The Tongan skier was hammering one day, we couldn’t catch up to him during our distance ski pace. The day after the women’s 10k skate, I was skiing around and Ragnhild Haga passed me and said hi, and I congratulated her on her gold medal from the 10k. So many inspiring athletes all around in the village and on the trails, but they’re also just people. Martin Fourcade, the amazing French biathlete, was often spotted riding the bus to and from training just like the rest of us.
- Plus definitely many more! but ask me later…
You might notice that my personal races at the Olympics are not on this list of best moments. The ski racing of course was how I earned my place at the Olympics, why I was there. I absolutely focused on my races, did my best to prepare for them, and gave it everything on race day. But the reality is that they weren’t the greatest races – neither the 15k skiathlon nor the 30k classic felt like it lived up to my expectations or allowed me to showcase all of my fitness. There are so many factors that come into play to nail the perfect race preparation and execution, and I’m still piecing together what I could have done better. Something about the combination of fast pace mass-starts and classic skiing just didn’t work very well, and I seemed to have used all my energy up early in both races and proceeded to struggle the rest of the way. I know that 34th and 26th places are not bad at all, but they’re also not great, so I’m ambivalent about the outcome. I feel fortunate that I was able to put on a bib and test myself against the world, which not all of the US XC athletes were able to do, as several never even raced. If you walk up to me and tell me “Good job Caitlin, those were good races, you must be happy!” I’ll answer with some variation of “Well, yes, they were solid, thanks. But I had higher expectations and I know I can ski better than that, but I gave it everything that day. More to come.” So it goes. If ski racing was entirely predictable it wouldn’t be nearly as challenging or fun.
Thank you to everyone involved in this journey for your support along the way and at the Olympics.
Thank you Eli Brown for being my personal wax tech at the Games and for great work and attention to my ski fleet and needs! And to the rest of the US ski service and coaching staff, for extensive testing and fast skis on all the many race days, which helped Jessie, Kikkan, Scott and everyone else to their excellent results.
Thank you Pepa Miloucheva, for being at the Olympics and on-hand for coaching during the first two weeks, and for all the many other encouragements and training session support over these past 6 years at Craftsbury!
Thank you to the Craftsbury Green Racing Project and it’s sponsors, especially the Craftsbury Outdoor Center and Concept2 – I probably wouldn’t have kept ski racing these past 6 years, and had so much fun and adventure along the way, without your support!
Thank you to my personal equipment sponsors – Fischer (skis and boots), Swix (poles), Julbo (sunglasses), Toko (gloves)!
Thank you all of Team USA, USOC and US Ski team staff and all of the other athletes, for making my time in the Athlete Village and at the Olympics positive and memorable, and to make me feel like part of this amazing community of Olympians.
Thank you family, friends, teammates, former coaches and teammates… it’s been a long journey with an unknown destination, but I am extremely proud to have represented the USA at the 2018 Olympics!
The adventure continues — coming up this weekend, I’m excited to be racing again at the Lahti World Cup skate sprint and 10k classic!