Team Canada representing at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia
I was in Sochi from Feb.14-24 with several other athletes from all over the world. The countries that were represented by ice climbing athletes were:
Russia, Canada, USA, Japan, Ukraine, Switzerland, Germany, France, UK, and Iran. The Venue in the Olympic park, coastal cluster was sponsored by a major Russian Bank called Sberbank. There were three stations/exhibits:
- A place for learning knots, signing your name in a guest registry and taking your photo in front of rugged mountains using ski or snowboard props.
- A 60ft high tower with refrigeration and frozen ice on 3 of the 4 sides. These panels were insulated with a foam curtain if the sun was directly on the panel. Amazingly, despite +20-30ºC temperatures, the ice wall was open almost every day for the public to try ice climbing. Hundreds of people each day, lined up to give it a swing.
- A demonstration by the athletes of their physical prowess climbing overhanging panels onto dangling “ice cubes” – see photos!
Everyday we would meet with the public and talk about our sport of ice climbing, belay at the ice wall and take a lap or two on the ice cubes.
The spectators loved learning about ice climbing!
Nae Yagi of Japan, demonstrating competition style ice climbing.
the station for learning knots like the figure 8 and your common noose ;)
me, giving the ice cubes a whirl
Alexey Tomilov showed us how the Russians do it
A big highlight of attending the Olympics was connecting with the other athletes. The Russians were open and friendly, we spent more time getting to know each other than we do at the World Cups where the stress and intensity of the competition prevails. I was especially inspired by Zohre and Masoud from Iran. They have improved so much despite coming from a country with not much ice. I hope to visit them one day :)
Zohre crushing the demonstration
An inspiring team from Iran
Looking from the coastal cluster to the mountains!
I also visited the Mountain cluster to watch/blink at the bobsled with my Mom, we also watched the Canadian women win gold in curling.
My mom, Cheryl and I at the curling rink called the “ice cube”
For the Canadians, the Canada Olympic House, provided a refuge of comforts like beer, wine and a healthy lunch or dinner. We also watched the gold medal hockey games, met athletes and shared Canadian Pride with the family and friends of the athletes and Olympic sports. I did my best to spread the word of ice climbing to the other visitors of the house and convince them to come try ice climbing at our venue.
Canada Olympic House, a refuge of good food and friendly canucks!
Watching hockey at the Canada Olympic House
We were filmed by CBC and CTV, as well as NBC and many other countries’ networks.
Here are some links:
After Sochi, my mom and I enjoyed a couple days in Saint Petersburg, here are a couple photos of this beautiful city.
The gates to the Winter Palace and The Hermitage
The Russian Ballet
No shortage of amazing architecture. This is called The Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood.
I then flew to Ufa for my final World Cup competition. I came 12th in the competition and 11th overall in all the world cups. The reason my overall ranking is higher than my individual placing is because not all athletes compete in all the competitions. Generally, the more competitions you compete in, the higher your ranking. My ability to compete in 5/6 of the competitions is because of my fundraising. Nonetheless, I am in the top twenty female athletes competing in this sport in the world. I am grateful to of been able to pursue this passion over the past six months (training, fundraising and competing). I am also especially grateful to of promoted the sport of ice climbing.
Cool format in Ufa where the athletes climb 5 routes for each round, qualifier, semi-final and final
Learning new tricks!
During my time in Sochi, I came to my own realization about what the olympics are about. The olympics in the media appear to exist for economics. In my opinion, the most valuable (and rarely discussed) benefit of the Olympics, not unlike religion, is to inspire, create and guide people’s lives. These sports give individuals and their families and friends purpose and meaning to their lives. Olympic sports create not only excellence in humans in the physical realm, but in a spiritual and social way of life, as well. They provide a structure by which many of these families can contribute to society and connect.
Its unfortunate that we measure the value of the olympics only by dollar figures instead of individual and community well-being.
Spectators were really excited by seeing and experiencing ice climbing.
It is really unclear what the process is for whether a sport will be in the olympics. There are no longer demonstration sports. For ice climbing, both Russia and Korea are big supporters of the sport. The next winter olympics, 2018 will be in PyeongChang Korea.
There was a lot of support at these olympics for “x-games” type sports like the slopestyle and snowboarding- it doesn’t seem so far fetched that ice climbing could be the next addition.
The cool thing about competition ice climbing is we can create the structures in the middle of big cities like Manhattan or Toronto. The spectators loved watching the excitement.
The competition format in Ufa russia allowed 5 climbers to climb at once in the difficulty portion. Please see this video showing the men’s final. Hopefully it gives you a taste of how exciting it can be.
I am so so so grateful for the opportunity to compete in and promote ice climbing in the past few months. I couldn’t of done it without every single donation big or small. I especially want to recognize the constant support by my mother Cheryl and my boyfriend Tim.
with gratitude and love, jen
Thanks to my equipment sponsors:
MEC, LaSportiva, Petzl
and ACC for the administrative support.
Also, a shout out to Gordon McArthur who introduced me to the quote below and this crazy game of World cup ice climbing.
“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”