Well, it has been a few crazy days so here is a recap of what has been happening....
First, the village is great! Because these Games are smaller than the summer edition, everything is nice and close. Within just a short walk, we have access to the transportation hub, the medical polyclinic, laundry services, entertainment area, international zone and the cafeteria. It's really nice having everything so close!
Opening ceremonies were fantastic! I have been to four previous summer Paralympic Games, but walking into the opening ceremonies in your hometown, let alone home country, was unbelievable! The air was electric with all of the energy in the place! I really can't put into words how awesome it was, but I had a huge smile on my face the whole time and was jumping up and down I was so excited! It was an experience I will not forgot the rest of my life and it made all of the hard work and sacrifice over the past few years worth it. Go, Canada, go!
We had the option of walking into opening ceremonies and then heading home because it's a two hour bus ride from Vancouver back to the village in Whistler, but Andrea and I both decided we wanted to stay for the show, even though we were set to race the biathlon pursuit the next morning. We didn't want to miss out on any of the magic of opening ceremonies and our plan has always been to use the biathlon pursuit race as a chance to get the competition jitters out of the way before the races we have been targeting for the past year, that is, the 5km classic on March 18th and the 1.2km sprint on March 21st. I dozed a little bit on the way home and made sure I was pretty much packed for the next morning so I could sleep in as much as possible. Things actually went better than planned and I was in bed just after midnight.
To be honest, I was worried the couple of days before the biathlon pursuit race that I was going to be flat for it, but when I started to warm up the thrill of competing at home certainly gave me a boost and I felt really good and ready to go. The biathlon pursuit race is 3 x 1km with one round of shooting between each lap. Our plan was to do two controlled laps so I could get in good shooting and then go as best we could on the last lap. In my first round of shooting, I only missed one shot, which was awesome! Margarita started 30 seconds ahead of us on the start, but I made up some time in the range and on the ski in the first lap so when we came out of the range, she was only about 100m ahead of us. Andrea encouraged me to go after her as a target. but I tripped myself up and fell...oops! I scrambled to my feet as fast as I could, but by then Margarita was up the first hill and out of sight. It's good that we're close in time because we can use each other to make both of us faster...the chaser and and chasee! Margarita is a great hill climber so I was forced to try and make up ground on the downhill and flats into the range on the second lap and I had no idea where she was when I came into the range other than she was in front of me.
For the second round of shooting, I got directed into lane 12, which at first made me say "Oh no!" because all of the guns sound pretty much the same, except lane 12 which was a little flat. It may have, in retrospect, have been a good thing though because it forced me to be extra careful and I only missed one shot in that round as well. But as we headed out on the third lap, Andrea told me that Margarita was still in the range shooting so we had to move it up the hill if we wanted to stay ahead of her. As I said, Margarita is a fantastic hill climber so I was essentially running scared all the way up! I could hear Robert, Margarita's guide, calling out directions to her the whole way up so that gave me an extra boost of adrenaline! I just kept saying to myself, "Get to the top first, you have to get to the top first!" And we did! We pushed over the top and into the downhill back into the stadium, which was important because if they had caught us, there would have been four of us trying to negotiate a fast and tight turn back into the stadium. As I approached the corner, I kept telling myself, "Stay standing, stay standing!" If I had wiped out, Margarita certainly would have blown by me and I would have lost valuable time. As it turned out, I hammered it along the back of the range and into the finish. As I crossed the line, I couldn't help but raise my arms in celebration! For our first ever Paralympic Games race, Andrea and I had handled the pressure and laid down on of our best races ever. We finished 9th overall and mussed advancing to the final by just 25 seconds - a huge improvement over our results in the same event at the World Cup series in Europe where I finished 12th overall and was more than two minutes out of qualifying. So the pressure is off - we've proven we can compete against the best in the world and hold our own!
So we'll get in some training over the next few days in preparation for the 5km classic on Thursday and I'll try and get in some rest.....there is a nasty cold circulating through our group and so far I have been immune, but I'm trying to get in lots of rest and stay away from those who are sick.
Anyway, I'll try and post next time I get some free time, but I can't promise when that will be....