Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ooops, forgot the map

Check out this map, it might work, but the one you are making at school might look more fun than mine. I thought I would help point out all the places I will be going to for you.

Germany, Slovakia and finally Sweden

Hello! Tjenar!

Okay, this is going to be a long story with lots of pictures because I am behind in updating you about my winter.

In Langdorf, Germany my Aunt, Uncle and two cousins from Zurich, Switzerland came up to watch me race. It was awesome to have some of my family around to cheer us on and to wave the American flag. In this first photo I am showing my cousin Aleks how the sites work after my race. They reminded me of all of you because Aleks is about the same age as some of you and just as curious about my rifle. My Aunt Carmen took this neat photo of me racin during the Sprint race the second day. It was fun to hear their American voices out on the trail cheering. There was quite a few fans out there for that race. This is typical of Germany – they are good sports fans and their biathletes do well. They especially like to line up on the steep uphills, so close that you might run into them.

From Germany we traveled through Austria into the heart of Slovakia to race in Osrblie. It was very similar to New England: rainy, a bit dreary and not so sunny. But that was okay. Despite the adverse conditions, I was able to ski and shoot well in Osrblie. There was a big hill on the course that you really had to grit your teeth and fight hard to get over. And at the end of one of the races I had to sprint to pass the skier ahead of me before the finish – kind of like when we played sharks and minnows and you really had to ski hard to get away from the shark and make safely the other side. And do you remember how it felt to make it to the other side – ah what a relief! Well, that’s kind of what passing the finishing line is like too. Once I was safely passed I dropped to my knees because I was just so tired after skiing through heavy wet snow and working really hard. But I too was quite happy I made it, and placed 19th. One of my best finishes in an Europa Cup. This photo is of some of my teammates – Sara, Meghan, Tracy and Lanny.

After Slovakia, I was named to my first World Championship Team. And I am so excited to share this with all of you! This is a dream come true. When I told you that skiing can take you all over the world – well here we go! Check out the map below of the places that you will follow me to. After Sweden, it will be places that I have never been to before. Korea! Russia! I have no idea what these places are like but I promise to share lots of pictures and am definitely bringing you some European chocolate!

But, back to traveling. After Slovakia, I spent a week in the Italian Alps. Some of the biggest and most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. Bluebird blue skies and lots of sun here! In this next picture you can see the flags of the biathlon venue. This was a relaxing mountain valley to be in. And, it gave me another week to work on German. Do you know any German? I’m pretty good at “Danke” which means “thank you.” Do any of you speak French in Sinclair? I should learn some of that too. When I come back you can teach me some. In the Antholz valley a ski trail system follows a river from a lake at the top of the valley, meandering down through small villages and out of the mountains. This is a photo from the small village I was staying in. I liked the little skier sign. This was taken late in the afternoon and the river valley is quite majestic. I took a great ski on these trails before I left and passed some interesting stuff. Here is a small farm. See the black sheep at the top of the hill. I skied for a little while with an Italian woman. I was impressed - she skied well and stayed with me for almost an hour. I don’t know any Italian either, so when we parted all I could say was “Ciao” (pronounced “Chow”) to say good-bye. And all she could say in English was “bye-bye.”

We got in as much sun as we could while in the Alps before preparing to go to Sweden. But not yet – on our drive to the airport we stopped to watch a Nordic Combined World Cup even in Seefeld, Austria (a ski jumping competition and then a cross country ski race). I got to see one of my friends from Lake Placid who I grew up skiing with. Here is a photo of the finish just after the winner and the lead group sprinted for the finish line. You can see the jumping hill in the background. I have been fortunate to have made some great friends through skiing. Most of them I met more than 10 years ago! And we are still competing in skiing and doing what we love to do. And that is pretty special.

Okay, so this week I finally made it up to Sweden. I am now in the town of Solleftea. (Maybe the size of Caribou or a bit bigger?) The hotel we are staying at is on top of the alpine hill. It is a pretty cool set up because at the top of the hill is the biathlon and cross-country stadium and a lot of ski trails. Here are some photos from a ski that I took yesterday during the morning. It looks kind of dark I know, but I am very far north and the midday winter sun does not get very high in the sky. I really like that the Maine Winter Sports Center modeled the Nordic Heritage and 10th Mtn Ski Center venues after Scandinavian ski venues. Here you can see a small lean to and picnic set up out on the trails. It is fun to have a destination to ski to. I didn’t picnic today, but I made sure I skied by this spot to take a picture for you.

We are not the only ones training here right now. The hotel is actually filled with skiers! The National Swedish and German teams are staying here too. Check out the flags that they put up for us at the biathlon range.

There is also a disabled skier alpine race here this weekend. I took this photo from the dining room of the hotel. It is of a blind slalom skier and her guide. Pretty cool huh! There is an American team here too. It is fun to run into Americans in far off place of the world like this. It is a bit like home.

I will put in a few more days of training here before we travel just a few hours away to Ostersund where I will check out the new venue, make sure to get a lot of sleep and rest before my first race on February 9th. It will be the sprint race, which is 7.5km long with two shooting bouts, one laying down and one standing up. And my dad is coming too! Its going to be a fun weekend and you’ll hear more about it soon.

I hope this finds you all well in Sinclair!