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TEAM CELSKI BLOG: Getting to Sochi , watching J.R.'s first race at the Olympics
This blog, which can also be read here, is written to keep the proud people of Federal Way informed about one of the city’s sons, short track speedskater J.R. Celski and the experience of his parents, Bob and Sue, during the Olympics.
As I write this we are in flight from Moscow to Sochi, the third and last leg in a trip halfway around the world.
Our flight from New York to Moscow departed about an hour late. We don’t know why, there was never an explanation. It was a very smooth flight for nine hours. When we landed in Moscow, clapping broke out all over the plane. I’ve never seen that happen before, it was quite interesting.
Right as we touched down in Moscow, our flight to Sochi began boarding. We were nervous about missing the connection to Sochi because if we missed that, there was a possibility that we would miss being at his 1,500-meter races on Monday afternoon.
As we were taxiing, one of the flight attendants told us to get up, grab our stuff and move to the front of the plane. While we were taxiing. So we complied, knowing we were in jeopardy of missing that flight. She did this to get us quickly off the packed plane.
The airline and on-the-ground staff were kind and most helpful. No less than eight representatives “ran” 11 of us from our arrival gate to our departure gate through the crowd. At least one-quarter of a mile. We were whisked on the plane and the doors closed as the last of us boarded and we were off. We were amazed at the coordination and timing of this transfer.
The last leg of the trip was about 2 ½ hours. On the final approach to Sochi, we saw the Olympic Park, the Olympic Torch and the athletes village. It was an awesome sight with the North Caucuses mountains in the background. As we touched down, all the Russian passengers began clapping again.
Surprisingly enough, our bags made the flight to Sochi on our plane. This was amazing as we were only on the ground in Moscow for what seemed to be about 20 minutes.
We spent Sunday evening securing our luggage, exchanging currency, traveling to the Adler train station to get our Spectator Passes, and taking a bus to the hotel – with a ton of luggage. It took several hours to do this and we finally arrived at the hotel about 10:30 p.m. Sunday night. So we made it – despite all the uncertainty of travel, storms, missed flights, baggage transfer, finding our way via bus to the hotel on Sunday night in Sochi, etc. It was a huge relief when we entered our room.
After an early breakfast, we caught a bus 20 minutes to the Olympic Park to pick up all the tickets we bought, and get our park passes. Getting into the Olympic Park was not much different than going through security at the airport, except that rather than English speaking TSA agents, we were dealing with Russian speaking volunteers. As expected, most of the communication was done with motions and gestures, but we muddled through.
Once in the park, we toured various sites and then queued up in the line for the Sochi Olympic store.
We waited for about an hour before entering but found some interesting souvenirs to bring home. It is a very photogenic place, and we took a lot of pictures.
Monday was J.R.’s first race – the 1,500 starting at 1:45 p.m.. Just before entering the venue – called the Iceberg Palace — we took pictures in front of the Olympic Torch. What a grand site that was. It is a huge torch.
The Iceberg Palace is one of several Olympic venues in the park. It is a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility.
By the time events started, the place was filled to about 90 to 95 percent. It is no secret now how things finished in the races that day. J.R. breezed relatively easy through the quarterfinals and the semifinals to get into the medal round. He looked good through those races. J.R. finished fourth, just missing getting on the podium. While disappointed in his performance, great athletes have amnesia because they can’t harbor on past successes or failures, but rather, concentrate on the next event.
After the event, our family party of five (Sue, Chris, Andrea – J.R.’s girlfriend, J.R. and I) spent the evening with J.R. at the Procter & Gamble Family Home. This is P&G’s sponsored hospitality house where athletes and families can get away from the busyness of the games to rest, eat and just hang out.
I was able to spend some time with J.R. and he feels confident in his upcoming races.
To get our accommodations, we went through the International Olympic Committee’s ticketing and accommodations contractor. We are staying in a resort on the Black Sea, a very nice place. We went through them to guarantee a place to stay with a reputable provider.
After a morning workout in the resort fitness center, Sue and I took a bus to the Olympic Park to meet one of the US Speedskating staff. Our purpose was to deliver to him some special breakfast cereal, juice and supplements that J.R. asked us to bring from the states. Because he is staff, he can get through the gauntlet of security with such items much easier than us. As spectators, these items would be confiscated from us.
We are spending the afternoon in the P&G Family Home, together again with J.R. to after a light ice practice. As luck may have it, we were given four tickets to the Figure Skating Pairs Short Program tonight and are definitely going.