Sochi Olympic Diary
Monday February 24th 2014
I am writing this at 2am in my hotel room in Zurich after the most disorganised and drawn-out journey ever!

I had a very late night (or early morning, depending on how you look at it) on Sunday so it was a struggle to get everything together to check in at a building in the Olympic Village by 10am, for our 8.20pm flight.  We were picked up at 4pm and arrived at the airport to find that they had erected a marquee to act as an overflow departure lounge for the teams.  There were hardly any seats yet the marquee was accommodating 4 chartered Airbus A330s-worth of people.

Some of the suitcases waiting to leave Sochi airport

We boarded at 8pm and, at 9pm, just when I was beginning to wonder when they would be putting the "doors to automatic and cross-check", one of the cabin crew announced that he "hoped" they would be able to find all of the bags for our flight and that he "hoped" this would only take an hour!  In the end, we took off at 10.30pm.

On arrival in Zurich we had a 30 minute walk to a car park where all the bags from all 4 aircraft were piled up.  It was pandemonium!  The Italians took it upon themselves to load everyone's skis into their vans, irrespective of which Nation they belonged to!  They had to do some unloading when this was pointed out to them.  Conor had his ski bag beside him one moment and the next moment it had gone.  Personally, I think it went into one of the Italians' vans and will turn up in a couple of days.  His bag of clothes etc didn't arrive at all and I expect it is still in Sochi.  This was his 21st birthday and I felt very sorry for him.

By the time we had all our stuff the courtesy bus to our hotel had stopped so Sean had to arrange a taxi for us.  It is now 2am and I have had hardly any sleep in the last 2 days.  I really cannot wait to be at home and to get into my own bed.
Sunday February 23rd 2014
My Mum and Dad have left for home and, after the Closing Ceremony, it has really sunk in that this amazing period of my life is almost over.

It was really strange and I have no idea how this happened but I was the very first athlete (of any Nation) to walk out into the stadium after the flag bearers had come in.  The actual first!  A few people text me about this as they were watching their TVs at home.

The beginning of the Closing Ceremony was really good but it dragged on a bit too long, in my opinion.  I liked the fact that someone with a sense of humour managed to persuade the Sochi Organising Committee to allow them to display a "malfunction" of the 5th Olympic ring - everyone thought this was very funny.

My favourite and, at the same time, saddest part of the ceremony was when the bear extinguished the flame and cried!

And the bear cried ...

The spectacular show.

And of course there were fireworks.  I have become used to a spectacular firework display every evening since February 7th, I don't know how I'll cope without them - I'll have to see if my Dad will let off a few rockets for me in the garden when I get home!

We stayed for a little while at the after-party whch was held in the stadium immediately after the public had left.  After we left the Fisht Stadium for the last time, we were all starving so we headed over to the Coastal Olympic Village (home of the free McDonalds) for supper.  I had a burger, fries, a drink and a McFlurry and I thought this was quite indulgent.  But Conor and Seamus had 3 burgers each together with 2 portions of chicken nuggets, a wrap, fries, milk shakes and McFlurries - Sean made them eat the lot before they could leave the table!  The amount of empty cartons on our table was unbelievable.  But they weren't alone, the place was packed with athletes who normally have to be fairly sensible at mealtimes, taking full advantage of McDonalds' hospitality!

Some of the aftermath from our dinner!

I could not believe that we were all given medals as well as certificates for having participated in the Olympics!  It is lovely and quite heavy.  I don't know if they always do this at Olympic Games or if this was just something special for Sochi.

In the morning I have to finish packing before we check in our luggage here at the Village.  I'll definitely miss this sort of thing when I'm not travelling as part of an Olympic team and I have to start handling my own bags again!

Dos vedanya Sochi!

Saturday February 22nd 2014
I am still pinching myself about what happened yesterday - what a fantastic day!!! It was one of the best days of my life and definitely the best day of my skiing life. 

I am looking forward to seeing the television coverage of the Olympics when I get home. However, I have been reading some of the articles written about me online and in the press and I have no idea where some of the comments they claim I have made, have come from!

My sister has returned to Austria to continue her training and Conor is racing this evening. I will have to start packing.soon and then it will be the Closing Ceremony and then it will all be over.  I will be back at school and back with my books on RS, Geography and History!

I am sad to think of this amazing experience coming to an end but excited by the prospect of Pyeong Chang in 2018!!

Friday February 21st 2014
Slalom Race Day!

I had a long time to wait to race today - the race began at 4.45pm and I was bib 73.  I had some rather conflicting instructions: the management said I should ski at a pace to finish the race but my coach told me to be brave and race like a lion.  It was confusing. I decided to settle on something in the middle!

The course was straightforward enough but, starting so far down the field I did have significant ruts etc to contend with.  It was one of these that nearly caused me to come out of the course and cost me a second.  However, I hung on and managed to complete the first run which I was very pleased with.  I had taken it at less than my normal pace and, whilst I was pleased to be in the finish, I was disappointed that I hadn't gone at full speed. 

Run 1 of the slalom

After the first run I went up into the stands to see my family and I was literally mobbed!  People wanted my autograph and/or to have their photograph taken with me, one woman even gave me her baby to hold!!!  A man from Hawaii gave me a traditional, hand painted necklace from the Pacific Island.  I can only imagine what it must be like to be a celebrity!

Having my photo taken with a local man ...

... and with a Hawaiian family

By the time the second run began, night had fallen and it was completely under floodlights; my first night slalom.  I did put my all into the start of the run but I came out after 6 gates - another nasty rut that I couldn't overcome this time. 

Outside of the stadium in the dark.

Of course, I was disappointed not to finish but it has been a fantastic race and a really exicting day!

Thursday February 20th 2014
This morning I trained slalom ready for tomorrow's race.  It is going to be a night slalom so I REALLY want to finish the first run so that I can get to race under the floodlights.

I am going to be bib 73 (out of 88) so I expect the course to be very difficult by the time I get to go down.

I watched a bit of the women's ice hockey final on TV before I went to bed.  It was USA -v- Canada.  My Mum and Dad and Victoria had tickets to see it so I was looking out for them on the TV but I didn't see them!  The USA were leading 2-0 for most of the game so it was a bit of a shock (especially to the USA team) when Canada scored first in extra time and won 3-2!

The Victorious Women's Ice Hockey team

Wednesday February 19th 2014
Today, my sister, Victoria, came to see me in the Olympic Village. It was the best day I have had (non-skiing) since I got here. It was lovely to share activities with someone else.

We painted a Babushka for our Mum, went to have some photos by the Olympic rings and played some arcade games. Then we just hung out in my room until it was time for Victoria to go back to Sochi.

Slalom training tomorrow! 
Tuesday February 18th 2014
GS Race day dawned with persistent drizzle.  By the time we inspected the course it had turned to proper rain and by the time the race began it was full on torrential rain.

The conditions were really bad.  For anyone with a bib bigger than number 10 the race was over before it began.  

With the words of my coach, Alain Untergassmair, ringing in my ears, I went out of the start gate at bib number 75.  I made it to the 15th gate before I shot out of the undulating and chopped-up course.  I did have the choice of taking it cautiously but I wanted to race it and I wanted to show what I can do - I don't regret my decision because there is no point being here if I'm not going to try to do my best.  As Alain said,  it is better to charge like a lion for 15 gates than crawl like a snail for 50!

In the GS race.

I am sure that some of my friends and family watching on TV at home completely missed me because I popped up for just a few seconds as I came out of the course!

The frustration of coming out of the GS.

I cannot deny that I am disappointed because I had hoped to do well today.  However, I need to focus now on the Slalom race on Friday.  I haven't competed in a night Slalom before so I am looking forward to it. 

the Irish Times today:-

Monday February 17th 2014
So tomorrow will be my first race day at the Olympic Games.  I will be racing GS and I have bib 75 (out of 90 competitors).  Being towards the back of the field will, inevitably, make it very difficult because the soft snow conditions mean that the course will have cut up badly by the time I get to go.

I am simply going to do my best.  My GS training has been really good and I will try to race it as if it is another training run.

I am the youngest Alpine competitor and I hope to be able to go to many more Olympics for Ireland in the years to come so I want to just enjoy the experience of competing in Sochi.

The start has been brought forward for tomorrow from 11am to 9.30am because of the warm weather.  So I shall be up at 6am for an 8.30am inspection.

My bib for tomorrow and my GS helmet.

Wish me luck!!

Sunday February 16th 2014

In the run up to my first race on Tuesday, I have been doing more press stuff.

The theme is often that of the fact that Victoria and I were competing for the single spot for Ireland but they are all interested in the fact that i am so young and the fact that I am still at school!

I Googled myself!  Not usually a good idea I am told but I was stunned at how many articles there are on line - I haven't even spoken to most of them!!
Saturday February 15th 2014
Volkl have worked on my GS skis and they are apparently OK now.  I'm still not really sure what wasn't right with them anyway.

I trained Slalom today after a rest day yesterday and it went well.

The avenue of Flags leading to the Alpine stadium. 

Anna Fenninger of Austria won the women's Super G today.  There were a lot of casualties towards the end of the course so she is lucky to have completed the race let alone to have won it.  My Dad will be pleased!
Anna Fenninger - 1st on the podium in Super G.

Friday February 14th 2014

Valentine's Day balloons in the Olympic Park

From Russia, with love!

Finally, I have a day off after 6 days training.  But I was woken early (arghh) by Alain in order to get my equipment checked.  It isn't compulsory but since it will be examined at the end of each race, it makes sense to have it checked now and avoid a nasty surprise on race day.  A good thing we did get them checked actually because there is a minor thing wrong with my GS skis and Alain is going to take them to the Volkl people to get them fixed.  

The rest of Valentine's Day, I spent with ... my Mum and Dad!

We watched the Men's Super Combined race.  My friend Adam Zamper who skis for Slovakia, had a fantastic slalom run (the fastest) that enabled him to move from 27th after the first Super G run to 5th in the final result. This was an amazing result in his first Olympics and was great to watch.

We then travelled down in the cable car to Rosa Khutor village for dinner - McDonalds (my request)!!!

Thursday February 13th 2014
This morning I spent doing GS training.  My team mate and fellow Alpine skier, Conor, has injured his shoulder so I have been training alone with my coach, Alain for the last few days.

We went to watch the USA -v- Slovakia Ice Hockey match this afternoon in the Olympic Park.  The atmosphere was really good and both teams had a lot of supporters,  The USA won 7-1.

The Bolshoy, Ice Hockey Stadium, Olympic Park

Some of the Ice Hockey action

The Olympic Park is very impressive and there were thousands of people.

I have a day off tomorrow - well, almost. I have to get my equipment checked first thing.  Then I'm going to watch the men's Super Combined race and I'm hoping to go to Rosa Khutor for dinner with my parents.

Wednesday February 12th 2014
More Slalom training today.  No opportunity to anything much else today but I did watch some of the women's downhill on one of the big screens.  The snow conditions were very challenging - 12 failed to finish which is pretty much unheard of in downhill!
Tuesday February 11th 2014
After training Slalom today, I spent the afternoon watching my team mate, Seamus O'Connor in his Half-Pipe competition.  Unfortunately, he crashed and didn't make it into the final.  He wasn't hurt though and he was pleased with getting as far as the semi-finals.

The Half Pipe course at Extreme Park, Sochi

I think the warm weather is affecting the freestyle events as well because the snow was much softer than it should be on the half pipe course which the riders were concerned about.  And the conditions continue to be difficult for my training; I hope the temperature drops in the next day or two to give the snow a chance to firm up a bit before my races.

I actually saw my parents today, for, literally, 3 minutes!!  It's the first time I've seen them since I and they got here.  They travelled up from Sochi and I managed to see them outside the lift station at Extreme Park.  They couldn't come further because they didn't have tickets for the Half Pipe event and I couldn't go out.  For them, it was a 5 hour 20 minute round trip  My Dad said it would be easier to see me if I was in prison!!

Monday February 10th 2014
The warm weather is now taking its toll on the snow conditions.  Training was very difficult today and so, whilst I was supposed to have a day off tomorrow when I was hoping to see my Mum and Dad, it looks like we will be training in order to recover lost ground from today. Where I am staying is about 2 hours' taxi, train, bus and cable car ride away from Sochi so I haven't seen may parents yet!  On a positive note, however, I do think my Slalom is coming on well.

I did manage to watch some of the women's Super Combined today and was really excited for Julia Mancuso who won the Super G part of the competition and won a bronze medal overall.

Nikki Hosp (silver), Maria Hoefl-Reisch (gold) and Julia Mancuso (bronze)

Sunday February 9th 2014
I trained early today (Slalom again) so that I could get to watch the men's downhill race.

I was hoping for Bode Miller or Axel Lund Svindal to win but, instead, to the great excitement of the many Austrian fans in the stadium, it was unexpectedly (for him as well) won by Matthias Mayer.

In the afternoon I had to go to have my photo taken - the one they will use on the big screens etc during my races.
Saturday February 8th 2014
After training with my coach, Alain, this morning, Adrian (our Physio) and I went over to the Endurance Village.

There are 3 Olympic Villages here.  There is the big one down in Adler for the "Coaster Cluster" which is where the ice skaters, ice hockey players etc stay.  It is the one with  its own McDonalds and is so big that the athletes there have to get about by bicycle!

The next largest is for the "Mountain Cluster" and that is where the Alpine skiers, freestyle skiers and |sliders stay.  So this is where I am living.

The smallest Olympic Village, but definitely the most exclusive one, is where the endurance athletes are staying.  These athletes are the cross country and biathlon skiers and they are staying in what is going to be a 5 star hotel after the Games.  It has a gorgeous indoor-to-outdoor swimming pool complex but our team mate, Jan, says nobody has the energy to use it after one of their daily 15km training sessions!

The swimming pool at the Endurance Village

Friday February 7th 2014

OMG!!!  Walking out with the rest of the team into a stadium packed with 40,000 people (including the Russian President and the Secretary General of the United Nations) knowing that the pictures would be seen on televisions all around the world was nerve-racking and exciting at the same time - surreal!  I know that I shall never forget this experience.

Walking into the Olympic Stadium

My view, following the flag into the Olympic Stadium!

My favourite parts of the "show" were 1) when the Russian National anthem was sung whilst 214 people dressed in the red, white and blue of their flag made the flag "wave" by moving in lines and 2) the lighting of the cauldron.

The "waving" Russian flag

Sochi's Olympic Cauldron

My Mum and Dad got emails and texts from family in the USA, Ireland and the UK, friends all over the World and old coaches etc all of whom had seen me walk out into the Olympic Stadium!
Thursday February 6th 2014
Spent the morning training Slalom.

We have also had more photo calls including having our photos taken inside the Olympic rings!

Wednesday February 5th 2014
I was given my Mum and Dad's tickets for my events today - I just have to see if I can find out where/if they can buy tickets for the Opening Ceremony on Friday but I don't think that will be easy.

Tickets for the Slalom (which will take place under floodlights)

Some Nations have started to let their presence be known by decorating the outside of their accommodation with their flags etc.  I like what Slovenia have done with their building.

The  Slovenian's building 

Our flags are on their way out to us but, to be honest, I think they will probably get lost amongst all the Austrian ones since that's who we are sharing our building with!
Wednesday February 5th 2014
The article below appeared today in the Belfast Telegraph (copy and paste into your web browser to read):-
Tuesday February 4th 2014
The Olympic Village is amazing.  It is on 3 sites - I am in the Mountain site with the rest of the Alpine competitors. 

It's probably just as well that the McDonalds restaurant is not located here (it is in the Village in Sochi itself) because we are entitled to eat there free of charge for the duration of the Games - I hate to think of the consequences of that!

Speaking of freebies, we have been given a Samsung Note 3 phone - personalised with individual Nations' flags.  We have also had rucksacks, toiletries and lots of other bits and pieces.
Monday February 3rd 2014
Today we went to the Flag Raising Ceremony where some of the team (including me) met up with Mr Hickey and his wife.

3 days to go until the Olympics officially begin!!!

Sunday February 2nd 2014
I spent last night with other members of the team at the Movenpick Hotel at Zurich airport.

Part of Team Ireland on our way to Sochi from Zurich

We flew to Sochi on the same flight with the Italian and French teams (amongst others) and the President of FIS.

Our flight to Sochi!

The flight was OK but it took forever to get our bags when we arrived.

However, that is all forgiven because the Olympic Village is just amazing!  I have my own twin room (being the only girl on our team).  There is Wifi everywhere and our fridge is stocked with a never-ending supply of Coke, Tango and Powerade.

All I can say is WOW!

I feel so lucky to be part of this and so excited to be here at the Winter Olympics!!!!
Saturday February 1st 2014
I was supposed to fly to Dublin at mid-day today to meet up with other team members and fly together to Zurich where we would fly onward tomorrow to Sochi.  However, my Mum had a call from the Olympic Council of Ireland yesterday evening to say that the flight to Dublin had been cancelled!  Apparently due to impending bad weather,

So they hastily re-arranged my flights and I, instead,, travelled to Zurich via Amsterdam, arriving at 10.30pm and met the others at our hotel in Zurich - our flight to Sochi is at 11.55am tomorrow.

Leaving home to go to Sochi

Leaving Birmingham Airport

Friday January 31st 2014
On Tuesday I went to the Snowdome to be interviewed for ITV Central.  Today, the interview was broadcast on the 6pm news.  My Dad also appeared in the interview!

Me on the TV

Thursday January 30th 2014
The team announcement was in a number of newspapers in Ireland today and it was on the TV and radio yesterday as well.

The Irish Independent

The Irish Examiner

The Irish Post

The Irish Times

The Olympic Council of Ireland

Wednesday January 29th 2014
Today I had to get up at the crack of dawn (nothing unusual in that) to fly to Dublin for the press reception to introduce the Winter Olympic Team.  I went with my Mum and Dad and met my grandfather there.

I was really surprised by the number of reporters and cameras!  Conor, Seamus and I were the only team members in attendance because the other two were competing in Europe. Mr Hickey and the Russian Ambassador both gave speeches.  The interviews and photos began at 11am and it was after 2pm when we finally got away.

Being filmed/photographed with Conor & Seamus

Conor, Mr Hickey (President of the Olympic Council of Ireland), me and Seamus

Listening to the Russian Ambassador with members of the press.

In the evening, the SAI organised a lovely reception at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. This was a more relaxed event with athletes' families and fellow Irish racers.  It was lovely to catch up with Hubert and Cormack.  

This has been a really long day and I have to get up early again tomorrow to catch the 6.40am flight back to Birmingham so that I can go to school for a couple of days before I head out to Sochi.