Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games Daily Personal Blog
by: Ryan McKenna
Day 0: Sunday, March 2
A lot of people asked me, “Oh Ryan, you must be so excited!” Truth is, absolutely I’m excited, but I also knew deep down that I couldn’t let me excitement get too big, because I knew, deep down that something was going to go wrong…and it did.
I got home from church at around 11 a.m. with the checking in to my flights the next thing on my to-do list. Upon logging on to United Airlines, I noticed that my first flight from Toronto to Washington, DC Dulles was cancelled. Even check with my roommate Dave, and unofficial roommate Mel…I was rattled! I called United Airlines and after an hour of being put on hold, I finally got through only to find out that indeed, due to the impending weather in the Washington area, my 10 a.m. flight was cancelled. Thankfully, the man was kind enough to put me on a US Airways flight for 6 a.m. instead. After planning out how I was going to work things (original plan was to sleep at the airport and take the 8 p.m. airport shuttle to Pearson Airport) I started to Skype family members and friends and then eventually pack.
After showering and being spooked by my friend’s Mel and Wronzy who entered my apartment while I was in the shower, (I wasn’t joking that Mel is an unofficial roommate) I went online to double check that things were still a go for the 6 a.m. flight on Monday morning. They weren’t. I should of known that if one Washington flight was cancelled then obviously the other one would be as well.
This time I got on the phone with US Airways and it was only a half hour wait only to have confirmed that my flight was cancelled. The soonest flight they could get me to Washington in from Toronto, was Monday evening, which wouldn’t have worked with my Russian connecting flights.
Initiate panic mode.
I know I shouldn’t have been panicked but I was. I started to wonder whether I would even be able to go to Sochi and report on the Paralympics. It was rough. I called a lady named Maria with the IPC Guest Services portion of things as she was the contact if I had any problems with flights. The phone rang five times before she picked up and boy did I feel like a donkey. Just a reminder folks, there’s a nine hour time difference between Russia and Toronto. I woke up this lady at 3 a.m. and I felt awful. Maria told me to call her back in five hours so thank God there was a thing invented called Netflix. It became a good friend of mine on Sunday night.
After watching the ending of some movie where the surfer girl with one arm loses in the finals, followed by The Other Guys and Taken 2, I finally started to hear back from the IPC clan at around 11 p.m. I didn’t know how soon the IPC might have been rescheduling my flight so I set alarms for every 30 minutes, which turned into every 20 minutes which then turned into the timer on my iPhone not even really mattering because I just checked it every five minutes.
Day zero, you were a kick in the pants.
Day 1: Monday, March 3
It’s tough to gauge when exactly I woke up because I was essentially up all night but my day started out pretty good. I went on Facebook and Skyped with my good friend Maria Brown, just kidding, it’s Bourgeois and that settled me down some. Things started to really pick up around 7:30 a.m. when I got an email from my boss Stuart saying that the IPC Guest Servies might have figured out a new route for me to take later on today.
I started to get giddy and right before 8 a.m. I received a draft proposal of where I could go. It would be Toronto – New York for a quick flight followed by New York – Moscow and then Moscow – Sochi. This was essentially the same itinerary that I had the first time except for the fact that instead of Washington, it was New York. I quickly confirmed things on my end of things, and waited for the IPC to confirm the booking. In the meantime, I got myself together, made sure I had everything and by 9 a.m. my new booking was confirmed. I cannot thank the IPC enough for their quick and efficient service throughout the whole process. It’s always nice to know that someone’s got your back.
At 9:30 a.m. I made the 5 minute walk from my apartment to the Delta-Chelsea on Gerard St. W. to catch the Airport Express shuttle to Pearson International. The bus was running behind schedule due to a car being on fire on the Gardiner Expressway so its original pick up time of 10:10 a.m. got pushed back to 10:30 a.m. We still made it to the airport for noon and for the first time ever, I did US customs. I was pretty nervous going into it but it seems as though as long as you don’t use your cell phones in the customs area (guilty) and tell the truth, you’re good to go.
I continued on to security and then found my gate. Just past my gate, there was a P.E.I. tourism sign and it made me smile. For those of you who know me well, you know how much I love my province. Seeing the sign of the beautiful beaches and a lighthouse made me miss home and also made me realize how far I was from the gentle island at the time.
I had lunch at some super expensive restaurant where you ordered your $13 sandwich on an iPad and your $3 fake iced tea through the same format (I would also like to point out that in my opinion, anything other than Nestea Iced Tea, is fake iced tea, thank you). After hanging out there, I bought a neck pillow, a paper, a Mars bar, Kleenex and water. Not a bad combo, eh? I was ready to rock and roll.
I was pretty tired from my lack of sleep and stress so I slept the whole hour and a half flight to New York. I got to see Manhattan from up high, and that was pretty cool. I would love to visit there someday (Patty…for my birthday *cough* *cough*).
Getting through JFK airport in NYC was actually a breeze. A lot easier than I anticipated. I got to terminal one and checked in right away with Aeroflot, who I would be traveling with for the next 10+ hours. After getting through security, I had never felt such a capitalism slap in my face then in did at JFK airport. Here’s how it went. Get through security…BAM there’s Victoria Secret to your right. BAM there’s Michael Kors right in front of you. BAM there’s Coach on your left. Hey there ‘Merica…PA POW!
Turns out I didn’t have a ton of time to eat but I did manage to get a pulled pork super from some counter. I also wanted to get a Samuel Adams beer because he’s a beauty, both as a beer, a Bostonian and as an Assassin’s Creed character buttttttt it hit me that I’m not even legal drinking age in ‘Merica…Yikes.
I went through another round of security before I could even board my Russian flight. They were checking for liquids as all liquids have been banned on Russian flights for the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. To me, it felt like security was super crazy. I think my initial reaction was because of the ongoing situation in Ukraine, but who knows.
I gave mom a quick call to tell her I made it to New York OK and we were off. Mind you, an hour later than I predicted. On the plane so far, we’ve received a Sochi pillow, a mix of water of wine, followed by a meat and potatoes meal smothered in gravy with garden salad and a piece of salmon on top and a brownie for dessert. Not gonna lie, I was digging it.
That takes us to about now. It’s currently 7:46 a.m. in Russia, but I’m currently on 10:46 p.m. in Toronto time.
Let’s see who wins.
Day 2: Tuesday, March 4
This one sort of had a weird start time as I was on the plane but none the less, I woke up somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, which was definitely a first. The airplane fed us very good…I was surprised at just how good the food was. We arrived in Moscow at 1:30 p.m. local time. It was nice to get off that plane and walk around. I will admit that my ears sure hurt from that decent though. Navigating the airports are really easy. There are people located everywhere to help you out. In Moscow airport, I had to go straight through to customs first, followed by a really weird but painless security. We then went down an elevator where two girls around my age were waiting to take us to our gate for our Sochi connection. One of them was pretty good looking…too bad she didn’t speak english very good.
We made it just in time for the Sochi connection and not 25 minutes later, I was back on another plane for two hours. On that plane ride, I learned how to say thank you in Russia…SPACIBA! SPACIBA!!!!!!
Finally when we arrived in Sochi, I had to pee and poop like a race horse and once that was done and we got off the plane, there was once again a lot of people directing me to where I needed to be.
I got my official accreditation at a table and then waited for my luggage, which took a good 20 minutes. While I was waiting, I ran into the cameraman and executive producer of PBS’s documentary on the USA sledge hockey team called Ice Warriors. The executive producer was very interested in connecting with me because she wanted to see my work. I gave her my business card and hey…maybe a future connection?
Finally after my luggage came in one piece, I was directed to a volunteer to a car that would take me to the hotel. I should also note that it is 23 degrees Celsius here in Sochi…a lot warmer than Canada. The car was a brand new Mercedes-Benz station wagon and it was beautiful. I tried to make conversation with the driver but he shook his hand. NOOOO HEZA NO SPEAK ENGLISHHHH.
Ok..so we get to my hotel and the driver drops me off outside this building. Turns out it is a security check. The guy asks me to open a couple of my bags and we’re all good. I go and try to find my hotel building now but it proves to be a bit challenging. I tried asking a couple guys on the street but they too don’t speak english. I find that the volunteers are very helpful but their english is a little lacking at time.
I get up to my room and can’t believe the size of the thing. A king size bed, three lamps, a TV mini-bar, nice bathroom, closet with a bath robe. The IPC was good to me.
I called mom and had about a five minute conversation on the phone with her. Nice to hear her voice again. Love than woman. I then followed up by emailing my boss Stuart and setting up a time to meet with him for supper.
After I showered, I met up with him around 7:30 p.m. and we went to the hotel restaurant. On the way, we stopped at the IPC offices where I got my IPC uniforms that include three shirts, a parka and snow pants (didn’t think I was getting those), a new phone, a backpack and a couple more things. Pretty nice I tell ya!
For supper I had a big ol fried chicken with vegetables which the IPC paid for. Very nice of them. Once I got back to my room, I started fooling around with the lights and charging up all my electronics. First it was the TV that went and then once I tried to plug in my laptop, the whole room went dark…As I said in my tweet: I blew it.
On tab for tomorrow, we’ve got a writer’s meeting at 10 a.m. I am meeting with Stuart for breakfast at 8 a.m.
It is now 11:08 p.m. Time to get ready for bed and hopefully get some sleep.
Day 3: March 5, 2014
Day 3 started off very very early for me. 1:30 a.m. to be exact. I now know the definition of jet lagged and it sucks. Really not a good thing to do to your body. It thought it was still 4 p.m. in Toronto and here I am, fooling it…9 hours ahead.
I got to Skype my friend Mel who was hanging out at the MAC. That was pretty cool but also very weird at the same time. I ended up taking a sleeping pill to try and help me sleep but it made me sleep a little bit too much. I set my alarm for 7:00 p.m. instead of A.M. so I was late for breakfast. That’s never fun.
Breakfast was at the hotel and was complimentary. I had a pancake (couldn’t find any syrup) eggs, sausage, bacon, some grilled vegetables, a little bread and a black coffee (Not my first choice #wheresthesugar)
From there I went with Stuart, newly arrive features writer and uploader Nate from Liverpool, England and another lady to the Main Press Centre. This was the first time that I was really in the thick of things at Olympic Park and it was beautiful. I can’t believe that I’m here.
We had a writer’s meeting at 10 a.m. where we went over what exactly we would be doing on a daily basis. For me that involves writing a daily recap, live tweeting games and then writing a preview for the next day’s games. That will make Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday very busy days as that is when there are four sledge hockey games on each day.
I started working on my preview after that but was having internet troubles so didn’t get as much done as I would have liked.
After noon, Stuart and I went with Natalia from digital media and a couple of camera people from Paralympic.TV to the athlete’s village where I got to interview Josh Pauls and Steve Cash from the USA sledge hockey team. They were both great interviews and both guys are around my age and very easy to talk to.
We went back to the Main Press Centre after that and I grabbed some lunch and toured the building a bit. Went to Russia McDonald’s for the first time and got a Big Mac with fries. It was delightful.
I did a bit more work on my preview after lunch and then at 3:30 p.m. I went to tour Olympic village a bit with Stuart. We mostly just went to Shayba Arena where I will mostly be and I met Jessica, who is the sledge hockey manager. She’s being helped out by a few older men, all from America, who are technical staff at the Games. All nice men, but they love to razz a good Canadian boy when they see one.
Shayba is absolutely beautiful, and I cannot wait to actually get going and watching some hockey everyday.
After that I went home and sort of caught up with things which was good and needed. Hung out with Nate and we went to supper at the hotel restaurant. I had a Russian ravioli with beef inside them and sour cream on top. Very very good. Also had Russian beer and it too was very good!
Took another sleeping pill about a half hour ago and I’m now ready for bed. Work at 9:30 tomorrow. Night!
Day 4: Thursday, March 6
Ah! A routine, I know what that is! That’s what today finally felt like after five days of today craziness. I was able to wake up around 7 a.m. which was really funny because I was checking Twitter and the Montreal Canadiens vs. Anaheim Ducks game was in the first intermission. 12 hours difference will do that I suppose!
I headed down to breakfast around 7:45 a.m. where I just had a quick bite to eat before heading over to the IPC offices. I’ve been having trouble with the Samsung Android phone that the IPC gave me. The battery kept on dying even when it was plugged in. I later found out that the charger was a bust, and later went to go get a new one.
After the visit to the IPC offices, I went over to the T-3 zone, which is the kind of transportation that I get (a driver drives me to where I need to go), and we drive to the Main Press Centre.
I got there around 9 a.m. and started work right away. This morning I worked on an article about the Top 10 medalled countries of all-time at the Paralympic Winter Games. The article can be found here: http://www.paralympic.org/news/top-10-winter-paralympic-nations-all-time
At around 10:45 I walked about the Shayba Arena which is about a 15-20 minute walk from the Press Centre and caught the end of Team Canada’s team picture. I thought that was pretty cool to see. The new Canadian jerseys are pretty nice.
I stayed and watched Canada’s practice which focused on power plays mostly. I also introduced myself to Hockey Canada’s main sledge hockey media contact, Keegan Goodrich. I’ve been dealing with Keegan for over a year now so it was nice to put a face to the name. Keegan is a great guy and knows all about Summerside, P.E.I. and was actually at the Royal Bank Cup in May 2013 when it was hosted by the City of Summerside.
I tried to stay around and wait for Team Canada’s video coach, Scott Gouthro, who was a former billet of my roommate Emma Crawley’s when he played in junior hockey. Scott was busy though, so after a while I had to head back to the press centre.
When I got back to the press centre, I finished up my article and headed down to Mickey D’s with a new friend of mine, Lewis or as I like to call him, Woody. Had a McChicken and a strawberry-smoothie. Had to mix in some fruit, right?
When I got back upstairs, I had to edit my preview for Day 1 sledge hockey action. That article will be posted tomorrow.
I then spent the rest of my day working on a recap of Vancouver 2010 medallists because we’ve been getting a lot of requests from people looking for it (Article link: http://www.paralympic.org/news/vancouver-2010-refresher). So, I copied out all the different medal winners from Vancouver and let me tell you, I did not realize how many medal events and disciplines there are in the mountain sports. Looking forward to going there on Monday!
I left work around 5 p.m. and headed back to the hotel to cool down a bit. It’s nice to be able to get the real world daily newspaper kind of atmosphere. Technically it is a daily newspaper, we just don’t go to print, but we produce content like we would.
At 7 p.m. I did an interview with the Ryersonian, the campus newspaper here at Ryerson and then at 7:30, I did a piece for my radio class by calling the studios back at Ryerson. Because I will miss two weeks of newscasts while I’m here in Sochi, I wanted to contribute and I thought it would be cool to add a Sochi aspect to the show! I hope it goes well for them tomorrow.
After all that, and after arranging another interview with CBC PEI for Monday, I went to grab a bite to eat. I wanted to order a beer but that was too much of a translation challenge with the Russian waiter. I opted for still water instead.
Tomorrow will be the Opening Ceremonies and that’s going to be amazing. I got my ticket tonight and I’m super excited to launch the Sochi bow tie and to experience such an opportunity.
Day 5: Friday, March 7
WOW. I just came back from the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony and I can’t believe I just witnessed that live. I don’t think I have ever dreamt of something as amazing as that spectacle that just happened at Fisht Stadium. Not going to lie, at certain points of the evening I was on the verge of crying. I cannot believe how fortunate I am to be put in this position and be here in Russia right now.
My day started off by going to the Main Press Centre at about 8:30 a.m. I worked on a couple of stories and left for the day just after noon.
Me and my pal Nate went to go eat at a European Restaurant downstairs and it was brutal. But hey, don’t know until you try!
From there I went back to my hotel where I took a three hour nap. I was super tired today for some reason, not sure why.
At around 4:30 I got ready and headed over to our hotel restaurant where I had a glass of wine and a chicken caesar salad which was very good.
Around 5:30 p.m. I met up with Nate and our para-alpine skiing writer Justin, who is American and waited things out until the shuttle bus arrived at the hotel to take us to Fisht Stadium for the Opening Ceremony.
When we got there, we were escorted into a Paralympic Family Lounge where there was a ton of wine, champagne, food and desserts. It was amazing!
I was absolutely wow’ed by the beauty that is the Fisht Stadium venue. It is one of a kind, massive and beautiful at the same time. Like I said before, I just couldn’t believe I was there.
The spectacle began at 20:14 MSK (makes sense right) and it flowed beautifully from there with absolutely stunning choreography, majestic dancing, great singing, and a great introduction for the 570 athletes from 45 different countries.
Even the Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin was there and he was met with a big cheer.
It was interesting to see the Ukraine come out with only their flag bearer and no one else. Before Russia, they received the biggest ovation and cheer. It’s nice to see that they’re here for sport and not politics!
The lighting of the flame was amazing and I was able to get a picture of it! There was also a million dollars worth of fireworks as well. How cool I tell ya.
As I was leaving the flame, I was stopped by some Russian girl who had my Tinder profile on her phone and was waving it in my face. That was probably the funniest thing I have ever encountered in my life.
Justin and I had trouble finding our respective busses to get back to our hotels. I ended up hoping on Canada’s sledge hockey team bus before I realized that I was on the wrong one. Sorry guys!
Speaking of sledge hockey, competition starts tomorrow! Who’s pumped!?
Here’s my Day 1 preview. http://www.paralympic.org/news/ice-sledge-hockey-competition-begin-sochi-2014
See you at the rink!
Day 6: Saturday, March 8
Game day! I finally settled into a bit of a routine here at Sochi, or at least one that I will be able to have for the next week. I woke up around 8 a.m. and went to the gym here at the hotel for a run. The gym’s hotel is absolutely beautiful and it was nice to get my legs some exercise.
After I was done my 40 minute workout, I headed back to my hotel to shower and get ready for the day. I went for breakfast and because of an event going on the last few days, I had to go to a different building of the hotel for my breakfast. Turns out that part of the hotel is full of Canadians and is the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s headquarters. It was nice to see some familiar Canadian apparel around.
Before I left for the rink, two of my video interviews that I did on the first day I got here were posted online. You can find my interviews with Josh Pauls and Steve Cash of the USA sledge hockey team here:
I then left for the rink taking our T3 transit. It’s a short little drive so I got to the rink in 5-10 minutes.
I get into the rink by going in the media entrance. I then take an elevator up to the second floor where there’s a work area for other journalists as well as an entrance to the Paralympic Family Lounge and the rink. I’m seated with the rest of the media at an IPC designated table. There’s a TV there that broadcasts each game and it’s super helpful for replays if you didn’t fully see who scored a goal.
The day went fairly smoothly from there. After Canada’s 10-1 win over Sweden, I interviewed Swedish forward Stefan Nilsson who is also a Paralympic champion in wheelchair curling. That was pretty cool.
One thing that absolutely blew me away was the attendance and how loud the fans were at Shayba Arena. Every country has a large fan base here in Sochi and every time their team touches the puck, they go absolute bonkers. The Russian game was by far the loudest. When they scored their two goals, it was pretty cool to see.
After the game is when deadline really hits you. You have to write your recap as soon as possible, but at the same time wait for flash quotes from the players to appear online. Yes, I don’t go down and interview the players after the game, Sochi 2014 organizing staff have people designed specifically for that who then upload them onto an online information database for me to use.
Super helpful, but when you want your story done A$AP Rocky, it can be a bit frustrating.
I did get my recap and preview finished and they can be found here:
I’ve struggled a little bit with the British style of writing, but it’s something that I will learn to adapt to.
My boss Stuart, our digital media guy and my buddy Lewis, and I all left Shayba together at the end of the game but there were no T3 cars left. We had to wait around a little bit before one actually came but we made it back to the Hotel in one piece.
Lewis and I grabbed an order of fries before I went up to my room to Skype with mom and Patrick. It was already mom’s birthday in Russia by the time we got on Skype, so I wished her and sang her a Happy Birthday.
Wish I could be there, but onto Day 2 we go 🙂
Day 7: March 9, 2014
Wow, Day 7 of my travels to Sochi, that’s pretty crazy. Time flies when you’re having fun.
Today started off with a nice little sleep in for me after a long day at Shayba the day before. After waking up at 9 a.m., I did some social media stuff before going downstairs for breakfast. I got back up here around 10:45 a.m. and wrote a feature story on Swedish forward Stefan Olsson that I was telling you about yesterday. I will post the link when it gets published, probably tomorrow.
I left for Shayba at around noon to start my work day and to catch the remaining three games for the day.
No big surprises on the day, but I will admit that the crowd at the Russia-Italy game was unbelievable once again.
Here is a recap of the Day 2 events at Shayba Arena that I wrote: http://www.paralympic.org/news/canada-ease-past-norway-ice-sledge-hockey
Once I got back to the hotel I Skyped with the fam jam back home in P.E.I. as it was mom’s birthday in North American time. That was awesome…she really liked the card I got her and I was glad that we could see each other, even if it was just over video chat.
Should have a lot more to talk about tomorrow and more pictures on Facebook as me and my buddy Lewis have a day off and are heading up to Rosa Khutar Ski Resort. Should be a lot of fun!
Day 8: Monday, March 10
What an amazing day. Today was a lot a lot of fun and I’m pretty thankful to be here in Sochi, Russia experiencing this all at the age of 20.
Today, my friend Lewis and I decided to go up to the mountain venues on our day off from sledge hockey competition. We left the hotel just after 9 a.m. and got up there for around 10 a.m.
It was just nice to get out of the costal village as I haven’t been outside of there since I arrived a week ago. The highway that took us from the costal village up to the mountain is brand new, and from what Lewis tells be, cost millions of dollars.
At the mountains, we arrived at Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre where we hung around the Paralympics Family Lounge. I was pretty tired this morning and wasn’t feeling the best all day long (I think from the motion sickness), but enjoyed a cappuccino none the less. The weather at the mountain venues really surprised me. I was ok just wearing a t-shirt around there as the sun was beaming down and it was probably close to 20 C.
Lewis and I just missed history as Great Britain won their first gold medal of Sochi 2014, which also turned out to be their first gold medal of the Olympics and the Paralympics and also the first ever GB gold medal in the snow. That’s pretty cool.
After the races were done at Rosa Khutor, we took a bus over to Laura, which is where the nordic skiing including biathlon and cross-country skiing was held.
Once we got there, we had to take a cable car that took us to the top of the mountain. After we took some pictures of the beautiful scenery, and after after many Russian people on where to go, we finally figured out that we needed another bus to take us to another destination. It was sort of confusing.
Once we finally figured out where to go, we started walking and stumbled upon CBC-Radio Canada who was interviewing Brian McKeever (I later got a picture with him). I got talking to a couple of Canadian staff who were on hand, including the nordic skiing press attache, who I also found out is a Ryerson alumni. Small world I tell you. He was a very nice guy who said he is biased when it comes to reviewing resumes with Ryerson journalism degrees on them…hmmm…
Lewis and I grabbed a bite to eat at the Paralympic Family Lounge which was free and amazing and caught a little bit of cross-country skiing before heading back to our hotel.
I was scheduled to have an interview with CBC PEI Island Morning at 4’ish o’clock and we left just before 3 p.m. which, I thought, left us with enough time. I fell asleep on the drive back to the hotel, but Lewis woke me up because my phone was ringing. I guess there was a mix up with Matt Rainnie from CBC on the time zone difference and the daylight savings time. Oh well, at least I was able to wake up quick and answer all of his questions in a non dazed mode. The interview went great.
Upon getting back to the hotel, I finished off my Day 4 preview for ice sledge hockey and then met Lewis again for 5 p.m. as we decided to go back up to Rosa Khutor for the medal ceremonies. We ended up getting in the car with a video technician that was working for the IPC and also headed to the same spot as us. He’s from GB and his name is Dave, who lived in Vancouver for a year back in 2010. He’s a beauty.
Once we got to where we needed to go, we went right to the medal ceremonies. I was hoping to see Brian McKeever and Canada but I guess they didn’t do cross-country today. I did get to see GB’s flag raised which was cool, and the girl who won third in the event from GB was a rocket. I now follow her on Twitter.
We were pretty hungry after the ceremony and heard of a really good pizza place at Rosa Khutor so we walked there. It was an amazing atmosphere, super chill and nice. I got an assorted meat pizza with a beer and it tasted like heaven. So good.
AND THEN THINGS GOT INTERESTING.
While we were waiting for our bill, a female waitress came up to us and said that the waiter who was serving our table liked my hat, and wanted to buy it off of me.
I was a bit shocked to say the least, I mean, it was my favourite Toronto Blue Jays hat. I said…well, how much does he want it for? She said, 1,500 Russian rubbles (around $40 CAN). I said..I don’t know…maybe for $2000. The waitress didn’t like that price and sort of grimaced before saying…$1,700 Russian Rubbles.
That’s when Dave stepped in and was my wing man. He started comparing it to British pounds, even bringing up a converter on his phone. $1,700 Russian Rubbles = $50 Canadian for my used, 7 1/8 Toronto Blue Jays New Era Cap.
Absolutely the best. I can’t wait to get the pictures of the transaction from Dave. SOOOOO FUNNY!!!
We finished off the day by going to one of the hotel bars at Rosa Khutor where Dave and Lewis grabbed another beer. At 9 p.m. we went outside to watch the fireworks in the village and grabbed a McFlurry on the road.
What a day, it was amazing.
Back to work with four sledge hockey games tomorrow.
Here are the articles:
Stefan Olsson Feature: http://www.paralympic.org/news/sweden-s-stefan-olsson-goes-wheelchair-tennis-sledge-hockey
Day 9: Tuesday, March 12
Oh hi there. Great little day today here in Russia. Time is starting to fly by it seems. Got out of bed this morning around 9 a.m. and went to the gym where I ran a 5K on the treadmill and did some abs. That was great. Immediately went from there to breakfast and then came back up to shower before heading to the Main Press Centre.
The USA vs. Russia game today was sold out so even media needed a ticket for the event. I had to stop by the press centre to meet up with Stuart who had my ticket.
From there I went right to the rink where I stayed for the rest of the day. What an amazing day of hockey. A big upset by the Russians over the defending Paralympic champions, USA and a good defensive effort by Canada set them up for a semifinal matchup with the USA on Thursday.
Just like the Olympics.
Here’s my recap for the day! http://www.paralympic.org/news/russia-shock-usa-earn-spot-semi-finals
Competition doesn’t start tomorrow until 4 p.m. so there will be some time to explore tomorrow I think and hope. Might even do some school work, I believe.
Talk to you soon!
Day 10: Wednesday, March 13
What a brutal start to the day. At 6:30 a.m. I was woken up by some lady who was clacking her high heels up and down the hall for 10 minutes. Never a fun way to start your day.
Because of this, I got up and chatted with my friend Mel back in Toronto for a little while before eventually going down to breakfast. I decided that at least once I would go to wheelchair curling to see what it’s like.
You know what, terrific venue, as they all are, but wheelchair curling is just not my thing. Pretty slow pace and from where I was sitting, it wasn’t a good view of the Canada game. I left after two ends with Canada leading 3-1.
From there, I started walking around in circles trying to find the Olympics Superstore that had a bunch of clothes, but that was an epic fail and then finally I just took a T3 to the Main Press Centre. I had to print off a couple of documents at the IPC offices and so that’s what I did. I also received a giant sledge hockey poster from Getty Images from Stuart. That’s pretty sweet.
Also, while I was at the Press Centre killing time, I went to McDonald’s and was going to get a coffee. Turns out a coffee with milk is 155 rubbles, but a strawberry-banana smoothie is…112 rubles? How does that make any sense? I opted for the smoothie.
After the Press Centre, I walked over to the T3 on the extremely miserable day in Sochi to go back to the hotel. I just chilled a bit and actually got bored enough to turn on Tinder again. I found a match! hahahahaha. Her name is Kate and we started chatting. She’s from St. Petersberg which takes 2 days to get here through train. Very nice and attractive girl from the pictures.
As we got talking, we decided we would meet up! Haha. So, before the first game at four o’clock today, I went to the Press Centre again to meet up with Kate. She doesn’t speak awful english, but she’s certainly not fluent like myself, but she’s pretty good! She doesn’t have access to the Press Centre so I had to meet her outside and then we walked around Olympic village. I couldn’t figure out where she was so I went and got McDonald’s because I thought she showed me up.
One of the first things she asked me was if I’ve eaten Russian food…I said a little…guess that wasn’t a good answer as she said we’re going to get some Russian food.
We start walking through Olympic Park and then she took me to this big white building. I thought I was going to die but it turns out it’s a cafeteria for Russian volunteers with Russian food and I’m allowed to eat there too. I let her do the talking in Russian while I just looked like some stupid Canadian.
We chatted for a little while. She loves to laugh, especially at the fact that I speak like an American. UPDATE HUN. I’M CANADIAN. LET’S GO. BAWANGO!!!
Anyways, I told her that I have to go to work because the Italy vs. Sweden classification game started soon so she told me to walk faster and she walked me to Shayba. What a great gal. She’s also super crazy though hahaha.
Italy vs. Sweden went into overtime with Italy taking it and then the Czech’s beat South Korea that night 2-0. Full recap is here: http://www.paralympic.org/news/italy-czech-republic-advance-fifth-place-game
When I got back from work, I called home and had a great 25 minute conversation with my brother Daniel. Daniel and I don’t always see eye to eye but I respect the guy for his intelligence and knowingness of what’s going on around the world. It was one of the best conversations we’ve ever had.
I then talked to mom for a bit before hanging up and going to bed. Kate asked me to “ring her” and so I did. Through broken Russian and some english, we decided that we would meet up again on Friday. She asked me what I wanted to do and suggested we go outside Sochi…mmmm…nope, not gonna happen hunny. She also suggested that maybe we could go horseback riding. I have at least 10 concussions in my life…mmmm..nope, not gonna happen hunny. She’s funny.
Anyways, exciting day ahead as it’s semi-final day here in Sochi for sledge hockey. Canada vs. USA in a rematch of the Olympics! Russia vs. Norway as well. Should be amazing http://www.paralympic.org/news/canada-usa-semi-final-take-centre-stage
Take care and have a great day!
Day 11: Thursday, March 13
Today was a pretty crazy but pretty great day none the less. Got a good night’s sleep and woke up to go to the gym around 9 a.m. I’ve liked that routine when I’ve done it, which has been three times on this trip.
After a 5K run and some abs, the gym supervisor took me on a tour of the facilities that are there at the hotel. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Pool, hot tub and a beautiful beautiful facility.
Went from there to breakfast which was good and then back up here to get changed and go to work.
I got to Shayba around noon, an hour before the first semi-final between Russia and Norway. Russia came out flying in that game and just absolutely dominated the game to advance to the gold medal game in just their first Paralympics in the sport. Pretty amazing.
After the game, I went down to the mixed zone to get an interview with Russian captain Dmitry Lisov. He was super busy after the game, doing at least 40 minutes worth of TV interviews. I had done a couple stories with Dmitry and he’s only a couple years older than me at 23 and I got to meet him in Toronto. Finally when he got to me, I said, “Hey Dmitry!”. He took a second to register who I was just he jumped out of his wheelchair with a HUGE smile on his face, shook my hand with both his and was just generally super excited to see me. It was an unbelievable feeling and makes me proud of what I do. Dmitry speaks very good english but sometimes prefers to do his interviews in Russian with a translator so that his message comes across right. I was also getting a quote for my radio class because I’m doing a piece for it so the way it worked was: I ask a question in english, the translator translates the question, Dmitry answers in Russian, the translator translates to english. Here is a picture of what it looked like https://twitter.com/RyanBMcKenna/status/444078912352825344
Overall it went really well!
Because the game ended around 3, Lewis, Stuart and I went back to the Main Press Centre to grab a bite to eat. Before we went off to Mickey D’s, Lewis had to go to the International Broadcast Centre to grab a laptop. It was my first time in the IBC and really, there wasn’t much to see. The place didn’t look that great and was pretty dead after the Olympics.
After I pounded back a Big Mac we went back to Shayba for Game 2. Before the Canada vs. USA semifinal matchup, I introduced myself to the Canadian Press reporter that is in Sochi covering the Games, Joshua Clipperton. I’ve seen a few of Josh’s tweets about the Games and he’s favourited a few of mine and plus it’s always good to see another Canadian. He gave me his business card and told me to get in contact with him once we’re back in Canada and he would introduce me to his editor. That could be pretty cool if I could get some freelance work this summer!
The Canada vs. USA game was a tough one to watch if you’re a Canadian fan. Declan Farmer, a 16-year-old kid was outstanding, scoring twice and adding an assist to lead the Americans. Canada outshot the Americans but Steve Cash, coming off breaking his shutout streak was good. Big credit to their defence as well.
Here is a full recap from Day 6: http://www.paralympic.org/news/usa-beat-top-seeded-canada-advance-play-russia-gold
After the game, that Tinder girl Kate just started blowing up my phone wanting to meet up. She’s absolutely crazy. I ain’t texting her anymore hahaha.
On the drive back to our hotel, Bob Nicholson hopped in our car along with a co-worker of his that I forget his name. The four of us (Lewis was with us) made good conversation back. It was pretty cool to chat with him…you just never know who you will run into in Sochi!
At the hotel, we sat down and chilled. Turns out the restaurant has pizza which was actually really good! Had that and a beer and worked on a radio piece for class that’s due Friday and then went to be around 1:30.
Friday marks the end of competition for Sweden, Czech Republic, South Korea and Italy with 5th place on the line. Here is my preview: http://www.paralympic.org/news/italy-battle-czech-republic-fifth-place
Have a great day!
Day 12: Friday, March 14
My second last day in Russia. Starting to feel pretty exhausted and ready to go home I think. Working long days has gotten to me a little bit but I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. It has been an amazing ride.
Started the morning off around 8:30 a.m. and finally rolled out of be around 9. Did some internet things and what not and at 10 a.m. I started to work on a radio piece that I was doing for my radio class back at Ryerson. That was a lot of fun and I hope it turned out alright. I think it did at least. You can listen to the piece here: https://audioboo.fm/boos/1991642-sochi-2014-gold-medal-preview-ice-sledge-hockey
Around 11:15 a.m. Lewis came up to my room to go over my radio piece with me and give me his opinion. I’m gonna miss that guy. What a great guy to meet and become friends with. Just a pure beauty.
After getting changed, I met Lewis downstairs and we went to the rink for game one of two on Friday. It was the classification games, so I will admit, it was a little tough to get up for, but we did. While at the rink, Lou and I also combined our change at the concession stand and got 150 rubbles out of it. Not haaeeelllfff baeeedddd.
South Korea won the first game and I peaced out right right after it was done to walk in the Olympic Park and check things out. I took some cool pictures, I’ll be sure to post them later.
While I was walking, I got a message from my Tinder friend Kate who wanted to meet up. Super sweet girl, sorta clingy, but very nice. I think that things with her and I get lost in translation a lot. Anyways, I hung out with her for a bit before heading back to the T3 load zone and back to the hotel.
Once back at the hotel I worked on a preview for Saturday’s medal games and I also did a Ryersonian Google Hangout interview, the school newspaper at Ryerson.
That was alright but I started to get bored waiting around for the last game of the day.
Finally, 7 p.m. strolls around and Lou and I head to the rink. We grab a bite to eat before hand before taking our seats. All this free food is going to be a luxury I will miss. Certainly has helped with the bank account, that’s for sure.
The game between Italy and the Czech Republic was a close one. The scoring didn’t start until the third period, so it was a pretty good defensive effort. Michal Vapenka played really good for the Czech’s, who ended up winning 3-0. You can read the full recap here: http://www.paralympic.org/news/czech-republic-clinch-fifth-place-ice-sledge-hockey
I went down to the mixed-zone after the game and interviewed Gianluigi Rosa from Italy and Jiri Briza from the Czech Republic. Both very nice men and good interviews. I will try to post their interviews to Audioboo later.
One I finished transcribing the interviews, I went back to the hotel and Lewis and I had a great chat about life and journalism and working for the IPC. Both of us are pretty thankful for this opportunity. It’s a great one. I had some New York cheesecake and a class of wine. Delicious.
When I got back to my room, I noticed I got an email from Ryerson Journalism with the monthly newsletter. I was featured in it and it sort of made me a bit emotional. I’m pretty fortunate to be able to be given all these opportunities, receive an amazing education and to be recognized for that is a little tough to put into words. It means a lot and I can’t believe I’m only 20-years-old and doing it all. Thank you to everyone.
Big day tomorrow with the big gold medal game taking place and then of course my 6 a.m. flight tomorrow. Here is a preview for Saturday: http://www.paralympic.org/news/tensions-high-russia-usa-gold-medal-game
Take care guys, love ya.