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Sochi Day 5: Ladies Giant Slalom

After an incredible day of women’s semifinal hockey and Canada qualifying for the Gold Medal round (yay!), despite several invitations to celebrate Canada’s win at Swiss House, I headed straight back to the hotel to get some sleep before the next day’s trek to the mountains.

I woke up early feeling even worse than the day before, but I was determined not to let the flu make me miss any events. So I dragged myself out of bed, popped some DayQuil and left the hotel to head to Krasnaya Polyana.

The ladies giant slalom event was scheduled to start at 11am, but when I arrived I found out that they had moved it up to 9am due to the rainy weather. So by the time I got to Rosa Khutor (at 11am), I was just in time to catch the last few runs.

#Sochi2014 Women's Giant Slalom Event

The stands were almost completely empty and, sadly, there wasn’t much support for the athletes. I think I was one of only about five Canadian fans.

It would be another two hours before the next round of runs began, and although I had an umbrella I was starting to get pretty wet. I was feeling worse and worse (and worse) by the minute, and was starting to get very cold. I realized that I was getting hit with a fever. : (  So I made the difficult decision to bail on the second half of the event and head back to the coast.

Making the best of the flu at Rosa Khutor

Making the best of the flu at Rosa Khutor

I tried to make the best of it (cuz it’s not like I’m here – in Russia, at the Olympics – everyday), so instead of taking the bus down the mountain, I hopped on the gondola. I was hoping to get some photos of the views but thanks to the rain, all the windows were fogged up and all the seats were wet. (This day didn’t seem to be getting any better, but in my feverish daze I was rolling with it…)

Once I reached the bottom of the gondola, I got myself to the train station and hopped on the next train back to the city. By the time I got back to my hotel it was 2pm. I got out of my wet clothes, into my pyjamas, took some Advil and fell into bed to sleep off the fever.

When I woke up, it was 10am the next morning! I had slept for 20 hour straight! Holy horse!!

Have you ever been sick while traveling? How did it affect your plans?

Sochi Day 4: Women’s Hockey Semi Finals

I woke up on Day 4 with bruised knees and a hovering flu, and I tried my best to ignore both as I prepared for a day of hockey. I was about to leave the hotel when there was a knock on the door and there stood Evgeny from the front desk with my luggage! I was so happy to see him standing there there with my bag that I jumped up and down, screaming, “YAY!!!” and gave him a giant hug! (I don’t think he expected that! Haha!)

The best part about having my luggage back (besides the fresh clean socks and underwear) was the meds that I always pack in my first aid kit! So after changing into fresh clothes (so good!) I popped a couple of DayQuill and headed out for a day of women’s hockey!

I arrived in Sochi with 2 tickets to the afternoon women’s semi-final game and was really hoping it would be the Canada vs Switzerland game, but it turned out to be the USA vs Sweden game.

USA vs Sweden Women's Hockey

 

I had managed to sell my extra ticket to the same American guy I had bought my short track speed skating ticket from (yay!!), so now I had some extra cash to buy a ticket to the Canada vs Switzerland game! So after the USA game, I headed straight over to Canada Olympic House to see if anyone was selling tickets, and sure enough there were! I got one for almost half of face value!

Looking as terrible as I feel (Sick with the Sochi flu)

Looking as terrible as I feel with the Sochi flu.

By this time it was about 7:30pm, I was hungry and the DayQuill had pretty much completely worn off. I felt terrible! I realized that this flu was only going to get worse before it got any better, and started to wonder if it had been such a great idea to stay for the second game…? But who was I kidding??? OF COURSE it was a great idea!! Canada was playing and I HAD to go support them!

I had about 2 hours to kill before the game, so connected with my friend Shauna and we headed to the cafeteria tent for some food and to get warm. I must have looked as terrible as I felt, because Shauna ended up buying me a bowl of soup and a hot cup of mulled wine to warm me up from the inside out. (Thank you Shauna!!) It helped and I perked up as game time approached.

When we got to the Shayba Arena , we were stopped by CBC who followed us in, thanks to Shauna’s awesome homemade Canada signs! Seconds after this happened, both Shauna’s and my phones went crazy with messages from friends back in Canada who had just seen us on TV! Awesome!!

Once inside, we found Mascot #2, the bear! I immediately went to have my photo taken and when he saw my Canadian flag pins, he gestured that he would love to have one, so of course I gave it to him!

Mascot #2: the Bear

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The game was incredible with a 3-1 win for Canada, moving the ladies on to the gold medal round! Unfortunately my seat was right behind the net, so I was not able to get too many great shots of the ladies playing, but it was an amazing experience and great to see so much support for women’s hockey! Being surrounded by other Canadians brought the energy up and made it that much more exciting.

Click the image below for CBC’s summary of the game.

CBC CAN vs SWI game summary

 

Women's Hockey - CAN vs SWI

 

So there you have it, another incredible day at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics! With each passing day, I just don’t know how the next day could possibly top it, but somehow it just does!

Did you watch the ladies play in the semi final? What did you think of the game?

9 Things I’ve Learned From Solo Travel

My first solo travel adventure was a 3-month backpacking trip around Europe when I was 21. I set my budget goal and worked hard to meet it, and within 6 months I was on a plane. It was the craziest (and scariest) thing I had ever done and it felt invigorating!

Since then, thanks to that experience, I’ve traveled solo all over the world and I’ve learned so much about myself and life through my experiences, and I wanted to share some that with you.

1. Take the Leap!

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Lao-tsu

The first step is always the hardest. Waiting for the perfect timing, or the perfect circumstances, or the perfect travel companion will have you waiting a VERY long time! In the end the initial leap is up to you. Choose your moment and jump! Your choice and the actions that follow will bring all the right things into your life. Once you make the commitment, the rest will fall into place.

Costa Rican Sunset 2013

2. Always trust your gut. Always.

Your intuition is your best friend in life, especially when you’re on the road in unfamiliar territory. It will tell you when something isn’t quite right. When you’re traveling and you don’t speak the language, and you don’t know anybody, your intuition is your best friend. It will keep you out of uncomfortable situations, away from shady characters and hopefully tip you off when someone is trying to rip you off. Trust it! 

When I took that first solo trip to Europe I took a detour to Morocco. When I dismbarked from the ferry I was approached by an 17-year-old kid who offered to tour me around the Tangiers. Despite my insistence that I didn’t need (or want) a guide, he followed me around for two hours while I waited for my bus out of town. I had this uncomfortable feeling and as I went to board the bus he pulled a knife, saying that I owed him money for the “tour.” Whaaaaaat?!! I wasn’t going to pay someone for creepily following me around for 2 hours! Thank goodness the bus driver was nearby! He instructed me to board the bus and he handled my “tour guide.” I’ve trusted that uncomfortable feeling ever since.

Follow your gut instincts

3. You Can Only Truly Count on Yourself.

Everyone is on their own path, and you cannot expect others to understand or follow yours. There are always reasons (excuses?) that stop people from taking that initial leap. If I had waited for others I would have missed out on so many experiences. I’ve learned that I can’t rely on others to fulfill my own dreams. All I can do is believe in myself to create the life that I envision and live it.

4. Fear Is Part of the Deal.

Traveling alone is scary! But my theory is that if you’re not scared you’re doing it wrong. If you’re not scared then you’re not playing a big enough game. It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and go somewhere you’ve never been. It takes a brave person to be able to venture into the unknown, especially on your own. These are the opportunities where you will learn the most about yourself and grow. Don’t let your fears stop you from having an incredible life! Get out of your own way and FACE those fears. You will surprise yourself when you realize there was actually nothing to be afraid of, and you will feel a sense of pride for what you’ve accomplished.

Diving in Thailand

5. I’m Not Running Away!

I always let myself believe that travel was my way of running away from real life. I’ve come to realize that I was never running away from anything, but instead I’ve been running TOWARD a dream! I’m creating an incredible life with every step, every flight and every new place I explore, and new person I meet. I’m seeing the world and experiencing new things and photographing it all! I’m living a life that so many only dream of and I’m so grateful for the choices I’ve made to make it all possible.

6. Roll With It.

Travel always comes with frustrations and mishaps.  No trip or adventure is ever perfect. The unexpected happens and things will not always go as planned. There’s no point in getting upset when it happens though. Getting upset isn’t going to make it go away, it will only frustrate you and affect your experience and your memories of it.

I’ve had my share of travel mishaps including lost luggage in Russia, food poisoning in Indonesia, and floods delaying trains in Thailand. These things used to stress me out, but I’ve learned to roll with it. Getting upset isn’t going to get my luggage to me any faster, get the food poisoning through my system any quicker, or make the floods clear the tracks any sooner. I’ve learned to adjust my plans and make the best of unexpected situations over which I have no control. And, surprisingly, I’ve found that these adjusted plans tend to make for some amazing adventures and the best travel stories! 

7. You Will Get Lonely, but You’re Never Alone.

Traveling solo isn’t always sunshine and lollipops, and can be lonely at times. Sure, I’ve met some wonderful people along the way, but at the end of the day everyone goes their own way. It can get lonely when you have no one to share the experiences with, no one to have those “remember when” conversations with, and no one to share your meals or a cocktail with. But loneliness comes and goes. When this feeling hits, I remind myself that I’ve chosen to be where I am, to live a dream that inspires and excites me. How many people can honestly say that?

We have so many tools at our fingertips (eg. Skype, Facetime and Facebook) that staying connected while on the road is super easy. I travel with a laptop and an iPhone and most hostels and hotels have free wifi, so when loneliness hits I hit up the internet and the next thing I know I’m enjoying a glass of wine and a laugh with a friend.

Elephant Nature Park, Thailand

8. Follow Your Heart.

If you have a sudden inspiration to do something, DO IT! Don’t wait! Set the wheels in motion! Don’t allow yourself to come up with all sorts of reasons (excuses?) not to do it. I’ve had many regrets as a result of those internal conversations talking me out of doing something, usually leading to a lot of “what-ifs” and missed opportunities.

The way I look at it now is that if I’m in an amazing place with a chance to do something that I will likely not have again (like zip-lining through the Costa Rican rainforest, or diving the Blue Hole in Belize, or playing in the river with elephants in Thailand, or hiking a waterfall barefoot in Bali), then I’m going to do it! Who knows if I’ll ever be back in these places for a second chance? If I have the inspiration and opportunity to do something, I do it! It reduces regrets, leaves me with a lot less “what-ifs,” and a lot more wonderful memories and stories.

9. “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can conceive.” ~ Napoleon Hill

My recent trip to Russia proved this to me when I was successful in raising the funds for the trip through a Kickstarter campaign for the Olympic Spirit Project. I raised $7300 in 25 days! It took a lot of work , cold calling and self promotion, but it was all worth it because it got me to Russia for the 2014 Olympics! I have proven to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to. All it takes is the decision and commitment to do it and then put in the effort to make it happen. 

If you have a dream, chase it! You will come up with all sorts of reasons why it won’t work, but you need to focus on the reasons that it WILL work. If you can come up with the idea, and envision yourself making it real, then you can. It’s really that simple. Then you set the wheels in motion and the universe will deliver what you need.

It’s not going to be easy, but I promise you it will be worth it! 

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What lessons have you learned from your travels?

The Sochi Flu Smacked Me With a Sidewalk

I had heard from a few people about the Sochi Flu when I arrived, and when I woke up on Day 3 I was not impressed to feel a bit of a tickle in my throat. I was relieved when it went away in the first few hours of the day, but then on the ride back to the Coastal Cluster after my first day in the mountains I started to feel my head stuff up and the sore throat returned. Noooooo!!!!

I still hadn’t received my luggage, so didn’t have any preventative meds, and when I returned from the mountain it became clear that I was going to get full blown sick. The mountain bus dropped me at the Olympic Park and it would take about a half hour to get back to my hotel from there. With every step I took I could feel the flu taking over my body. (I hadn’t been sick in several years, so it figures that it would happen now, of all times, while I was in Russia! Grrr!)

After a train ride and another bus ride I had a 15 minute walk ahead of me, during which I stopped at a corner store to pick up some bottled water and snacks. It started to rain, and of course I didn’t have my umbrella with me (it was in my luggage), so I proceeded to get soaked.

Bruised KneesWhen I was about 5 minutes away from my hotel, I tripped and fell HARD on both knees on the now mucky sidewalk. The stuff I had just bought flew all over the place, my only pair of pants were now covered in mud and the white maple leaf on the palms of my Canada mittens were now covered in mud.

That was it. I had held it back until that moment. Tripping was the last straw. I collapsed on the ground and felt my eyes fill with tears of frustration. This was not how I pictured my awesome day ending!

I sat there for about half a minute in disbelief that this had just happened when a lovely Russian man ran up and started to pick up my strewn “groceries” and despite my insisting that it wasn’t necessary, he carried it back my hotel for me in the pouring rain. I thanked him saying “spasibo“, and gave him a Canadian Olympic pin, a hug and an appreciative (but disheartened) smile before going inside.

When I got to my room I changed out of my wet muddy clothes into one of my borrowed t-shirts and searched my stuff for a bandaid. I found a few in my carry-on luggage (thank goodness!) and applied one to my bleeding knee before collapsing into bed with hopes that some sleep would encourage the Sochi Flu to pass me by.

Every travel adventure comes with its share of frustrations and mishaps, and I was happy to leave the past couple of hours behind me. I closed my eyes and went to sleep looking forward to waking up to a new day of new possibilities.

 What mishaps have you experienced while traveling? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Austria House and Free Bobsleigh Tickets

After piling down to the mountain village after the ladies snowboard cross event, a group of us (Canadian fans) headed to Austria House for some food and drink before heading to our next events.

Surprisingly, this was the first place any of us found vodka during our time in Russia so far, so of course we had to order a few shots! (It would be wrong not to!) We were surprised to find that they were served with prosciutto and pickles. An odd combination, I thought at first, but actually quite tasty! (Kinda like a ceasar – a meal in a glass!)

Vodka at Austria House

We all had our photos taken with our friend Quatchi, who made the trip from Vancouver. Then the Canadian Olympic Committee President, Marcel Aubut, made an appearance and he approached us to pose for photos. Of course we obliged!

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Free Bobsleigh Tickets

After a few more prosciutto vodka shots and some food, it was time to head out. It was early evening by this time, and it was starting to get quite cold now that the sun had gone down. I was worried that morning that I might not have enough clothes (due to lost luggage) to survive the bobsleigh event that evening, and I decided now that I was right. I was already cold and there was no way I would make it to 11pm, so I made the difficult decision not to attend the bobsleigh event.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my ticket, so I started to ask around if anyone was looking for a ticket to the event, but had no luck. It was getting close to departure time for the bus to head back to the Coastal Cluster, so I headed to the train station exit looking for someone to give my ticket to. As I headed that way I ran into yet another Canadian with the same intension. We found three Russians and offered them our three tickets. When they said they couldn’t pay, we told them they were FREE! They looked at us in complete disbelief. They simply didn’t understand that we didn’t want anything for these tickets! Finally, I told them that they could pay by having their photo taken with me. They finally agreed.

Giving Bobsleigh Tickets to Russians

Another incredible day with awesome people!

After another incredible day, we hopped on the bus back to the Coastal Cluster.

Thank you to Neil, Tara and Alexandre for a super fun afternoon at Austria House! Yay!! : )

Anne Frank Huis and Amsterdam

This week I headed into Amsterdam with my aunt and cousin to check out the Anne Frank Huis and do some walking around the city.

Anne Frank Huis

The Anne Frank Huis was an emotional experience for me. I read the Diary of Anne Frank years ago in high school, but still remember the impact it had on me then. To think of myself at age 13 to be living in this house with eight people while in constant fear of being found is just unimaginable. And that Anne was still able to enjoy the smaller pleasures in life is so admirable. It was such a different world back then and I am so thankful for all of the people who had the courage and strength to give their lives so that my family had the opportunity to live in a better world. It gives me goosebumps to think of all the history attached to that house and this city, and that my grandparents lived through it and my dad was born right in the middle of it. Wow.

(The Anne Frank House doesn’t allow photography, so I have only a few photos.)

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Anne Frank Huis

“We cannot change what happened anymore. The only thing we can do is learn from the past and to realize what discrimination and persecution of innocent people means. I believe that it’s everyone’s responsibility to fight prejudice.” ~ Otto Frank, 1970 (Anne Frank’s father)

 

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Anne Frank, 1929 - 1945

Anne Frank, 1929 – 1945

 

Amsterdam Photowalk

After visiting the Anne Frank Huis, we took advantage of the gorgeous day and just walked around the city. Down one side of a canal and back along the other. Up and down the shopping streets, ducking in and out of little shops.

These are some of my shots from the day, you’ll find more on Flickr.

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A Message from the Shore of the Black Sea in Russia

I haven’t posted much since I’ve been in Russia, thanks to a nasty flu, so I thought I would record a bit of a wrap-up video before I leave Russia early tomorrow morning. So here’s a little message from the shores of the Black Sea in Russia:

Sochi Day 3: Mascots, Snowboarding & Canadian Fans

Train Ride!

Day 3 had me super excited for my first day in the Mountain Cluster for snowboarding and bobsleigh events! Although the train had been advertised to take only 40 minutes to get to the mountains, I had been told to give myself at least two hours. The reasoning was that yes, the train CAN make it in 40 minutes, but there is only one track, so if there is a train coming from the other direction, your train will have to wait in certain areas to allow it to pass before continuing on. Kind of a strange way to organize and advertise your transportation services, but hey, it was what it was. I was just happy someone told me about it so that I was able to head out on time!

My snowboarding event started at 11am, so I was out the door by 8:30am to get to the Adler train station. I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t be warm enough in the mountains, due to my lost luggage and limited clothing availability, but it was another gorgeously sunny day, so I packed everything I had in my backpack along with my camera and hoped for the best.

The train was so packed that I ended up sitting on the floor between cars with a couple of other Canadian girls. The three of us chatted and laughed and exchanged stories of our Olympic experience so far. We got more than a few strange looks from some of the Russians around us, as we were the only ones chatting (very animatedly, I should add) and I started to wonder if maybe we were having a bit too much fun for a morning train ride…?

Snowboarding at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park

When I reached the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, I caught my first mascot as well as my first hilarious bathroom stall sign.

Sochi 2014 Olympics Mascot

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And after several requests from Russians to have my photo taken with them, I finally made it to my seat for the Ladies Snowboard Cross event. I was perfectly seated among a group of Canadian fans, including the two friends who I had been to the 2012 London Olympics with! Awesome!  And my new friend Shauna turned out to be the perfect poster child for the Olympic Spirit Project! Yay!!

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Canadian Olympic Spirit Can't Beat Canadian Olympic Spirit

There were also a couple of (misplaced?) Americans seated with us and we thought we would have a little fun with them (they had no idea what was going on behind them…) Haha!

American Fans

Misplaced Americans at the 2014 Olympics Ladies Snowboard Cross event

We watched Canada’s Dominique Maltais fly down the course to win silver (yay!), alongside Eva Samkova from the Czech Republic who won gold and Chloe Trespeuch from France who won bronze. It was an amazing day!

Ladies Snowboard Cross - Sochi 2014 Olympics Day3e

 

When the event was over, a bunch of us decided to head to Austria House for some food and drink before some headed back to the Coastal Cluster and others headed to the Bobsleigh event later that evening. So we all piled into the back of the bus and off we went!

Stay tuned for the next update, where I will tell you all about my experience at the Austria House…

 

Canadians taking over the back of a Russian bus!

 

Sochi Day 2: Sunshine, Short Track and Swiss House

Sunshine!

I woke up on Day 2 to a beautiful day. It was sunny and about 18 degrees celsius. I decided to take a walk along the boardwalk along the river Mzymta before heading toward the Olympic Park and these are the views I was faced with. Adler was absolutely beautiful! It was so warm that I found myself wishing I had packed a pair of shorts and flip flops! The palm trees along the river made the idea that I was at the winter Olympics completely surreal!

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Short Track

I didn’t have any events scheduled for that day so I headed to the Olympic Park with the intention of buying a park pass to explore some of the cultural venues. I connected with an American friend who I had met through one of the Sochi Facebook groups, and as I went to stand in the 90 minute ticket lineup (ugh), he went looking for a pair of inexpensive event tickets from people selling extras outside the park. I figured that if I was going to pay for a park pass anyway, I was fine with paying a few extra dollars if it meant I would take in an Olympic event that day.

The ticket office outside Sochi Olympic Park

 

I wasn’t in line more than 15 minutes and my new friend messaged me saying that he had been successful! He had found a pair of short track speed skating tickets for only $30 each from another American who had extra tickets! Yay! And just like that, we were off to our first event of the 2014 Olympic Games! HappyDance!

Day2b-3   Short Track Speed Skating - Sochi 2014 Olympics

If you have never watched speed skating live, it is an absolutely amazing sight! Short track is especially exciting because they move so quickly around such a small track. They lean in at such an angle around the corners that you think that they may just fall over! Unfortunately, one of our Canadian medal hopefuls did just that… I watched Charles Hamelin lose his balance and as he fell he also knocked the American competitor out of the race and they both hit the padded arena wall HARD!

Short Track Speed Skating - Sochi 2014 Olympics


In the end, two Russians won gold and silver, while the Netherlands brought home the bronze medal for the event Men’s 1000m event. They usually don’t actually present the medals at the events, but they do bring the athletes up onto a podium to recognize their achievement and to perform a flower ceremony. The medals were presented later that evening in the Medals Plaza.

 

Short Track Speed Skating - Sochi 2014 Olympics
When the event was over, I wandered around the park in search of Olympic Spirit and some Russians provided some excellent examples:

Russian Olympic SpiritRussian Olympic Spirit

 

Swiss House

I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the park photographing Olympic venues and landmarks and ended up at the House of Switzerland.

The Swiss House was great fun! Since Canadians were not permitted to go inside the Canada Olympic House unless they were friends or family of the athletes, the House of Switzerland became our second home. This is where we (Canadians) would end up daily to celebrate the events of the day with food, drinks and great company. It was no strange occurrence for the Canadian national anthem to break out (it would happen nightly, sometimes more than once), and the house would be packed until sometime between 2am and 4am, depending when they decided to shut it all down.

What I loved the most about the day was that it was a completely unplanned day without expectations and it turned into a day filled with incredible surprises from the warm weather to the unexpected short track ticket and all the wonderful people I met along the way. Any anxiety that I may have had about traveling to Russia and the Olympics solo had completely melted away, and when I got back to the hotel at 2am I was completely exhausted and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

 

Canada Olympic House, Canadian Spirit, and President Putin

Olympic Park Entrance

After returning from Sochi on day 1, I went straight to the Olympic Park to connect with a friend and we headed straight to the Canada Olympic House for their Valentines Day open house event.

The idea behind the Canada Olympic House is that it is a sanctuary away from the media for athletes and their friends and family to connect during the Games and is not open to the general public or other Canadians. The open house event gave all Canadians the opportunity to visit the house for a few hours to mingle with the athletes and enjoy a beer from the open bar with other Canadians.

I met so many amazing people, including one lovely lady in particular who had brought me clothes and Canada gear to use until my luggage arrived! It was even appropriately wrapped in a Canada flag. I was so excited to see the Canadian Olympic Spirit shining through right from the moment I arrived. It was truly incredible! Thank you Bailey Edwards for your generosity and your awesomeness!

My Olympic Spirit Package     Lovely Canadian Ladies

The highlight of the visit to Canada House though, was a surprise visit from President Putin! He had been next door at the USA House and made an unscheduled appearance at Canada House! He was given a pair of official Canada mittens and then he made a speech wishing our athletes luck. Well… most of them anyway… with the exception of our hockey team! (He laughed it off, but I don’t think he was joking… Not even a little bit.)

President Vladimir Putin  President Vladimir Putin

I stuck around Canada House as long as I could to chat with the athletes about their Olympic experience. I spoke with Gold Medalist Dara Howell (slopestyle skiing), and athletes Jenna Blasman (snowboarding) and Taylor Henrich (ski jumping). It was so inspiring to hear of their experiences and their excitement for the opportunity to compete and represent Canada at the 2014 Olympics!

Olympic Athletes:  Dara Howell, Jenna Blasman and Taylor Henrich

So my first day was a raging success (despite the luggage issues that morning). Experiencing true Canadian Spirit inside the Canada Olympic House and being there for President Putin’s visit were an incredible way to kick off my Sochi 2014 Olympic experience. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better day if I tried!