Even though Khanty-Mansiysk in western Siberia east of the Ural Mountain range in Russia seems far away and foreign, with lots of fur, an indecipherable language, constant military presence and today a cold wind, it is so very authentic and more familiar than I thought. I suggest playing Tchaikovsky's "Waltz of the Flowers" and in particular this one YouTube clip from Fantasia to set the scene and drink a cup of instant coffee with condensed milk, because apparently that's their thing around here.
I had my first individual World Cup start here in 2008 and this is my first time back. There is plenty of snow and I like the race course, just as I remember. The stadium has been redesigned since I was here and I am curious to experience it at full capacity during the Sprint on Saturday. The crowds are very close and the high stands create a dome-like feel around this clover leaf shaped stadium. The race roster is long - 103 women and 125 men!
World Champs Poster
Welcome to Khanty: daily beautiful sunsets, the race course and metal detectors greet you at the venue's entrance.
Tchailovsky's waltz accompanied swirling snowflakes, intricate folk costumes, sleighs of reindeer and this dance on skis which told the story of the native reindeer herders of the Ugra region hunting on skis.
Looking down into the shooting range during Thursday's Mixed Relay from the staircase that connects the hotel and the venue.
Same view during the day time.
On the eve of the first competition all I can say is that I've had a good week of training and preparation for the Sprint race and feel as ready as I'll ever be.
Watch us LIVE Saturday morning:
Women's Sprint 8am EST