The wait is nearly over for the first Winter Olympic Games since 2010 to commence, and there will be no shortage of local athletes competing over the 17 days of competition in Sochi, Russia.
Many Whistler-based Olympians and Paralympians were on hand last Tuesday (Jan. 28) for a special send-off event hosted at the Whistler Athletes’ Centre by Whistler Sport Legacies and the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific. Many local elementary students, as well as B.C. Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Coralee Oakes came out to show their support, while the athletes signed autographs for young fans.
“Coming to events like these and seeing the kids is awesome,” said ski cross racer Dave Duncan. “The excitement the kids are able to give you — even when you think you’ve reached your absolute highest level of stoke, then the kids come in and just blow it out of the water.”
Duncan has a while to wait to make his Olympic debut, as ski cross racing won’t take place until the final days of the Games. Still, there will be many Sea to Sky athletes to keep an eye on and cheer for throughout the event.
The opening ceremonies are set for Friday (Feb. 7), but official competition will actually get underway on Thursday (Feb. 6), with qualification rounds in women’s moguls and men’s and women’s snowboard slopestyle among the events scheduled for Day minus-1 of the Games.
The first local medal hopeful with a chance to step on the podium will be Manuel Osborne-Paradis, who will race the men’s downhill on Sunday (Feb. 9). The Whistler Mountain Ski Club product will be part of a strong Canadian team that is looking to win the country’s first medal in alpine skiing since Edi Podivinsky captured downhill bronze at Lillehammer 20 years ago.
The final World Cup downhill of the season prior to the Olympics was cancelled this past weekend at St. Moritz, Switzerland, but Osborne-Paradis did finish fourth in a training run there before the race was called off. The 29-year-old has two top-10 finishes in the discipline this winter and sits 17th in the season rankings.
It’s worth pointing out that Sochi is 12 hours ahead of us here in Pacific Standard Time, so keep that in mind if you’re hoping to catch the live broadcast for any of the events. It’s an 11 a.m. start locally in Sochi for the men’s downhill on Sunday, which means the race will begin at 11 p.m. on Saturday (Feb. 8) if you’re watching in Whistler.
You’ll also want to stay up late on Monday (Feb. 10) in order to catch Yuki Tsubota compete in women’s slopestyle skiing. Tsubota, who celebrated her 20th birthday on Monday (Feb. 3), will be participating in the discipline’s Olympic debut, with the qualifying round scheduled for 10 p.m. Whistler time. Finals will then take place at 1 a.m.
“It’s really exciting,” Tsubota said last week before leaving for Sochi. “I don't have too many expectations. It’s just a huge thing for me to go.”
Meanwhile, local halfpipe snowboarder Crispin Lipscomb’s competition day is Tuesday (Feb. 11). The preliminary rounds will be underway at 2 a.m. here on the West Coast, while the finals will take place at 9:30 a.m. Women’s halfpipe competition, featuring Sea to Sky riders Mercedes Nicoll, Katie Tsuyuki and Alexandra Duckworth, will happen the following day.
Of course, Canada has a great chance to collect medals from a few other events during the first days of the Olympics. Women’s moguls finals go Saturday (Feb. 8), while the men’s full event will take place Monday. Snowboard slopestyle medals will be handed out Saturday for men and Sunday for women, while men’s luge will wrap up Sunday and women’s races conclude Tuesday. Biathlon sprints and cross-country skiathlons are also scheduled for the opening weekend of the Games.
The full Olympic program is posted at www.sochi2014.com and subject to change.