Scott Russell - Tuesday Oct. 29, 2013 17:45

Eyes on Sochi: 100 days to make it count

Canadian athletes continue rigorous training ahead of Sochi

Erin Mielzynski of Guelph, Ont., is part of a Canadian alpine ski team looking to break a long Olympic medal drought. (Luca Bruno/Associated Press)

The Olympics are a rare occurrence. 

I guess that’s why people anticipate them the way they do.

The winter Games end and we look forward to the summer Olympics less than two years later. Then, all of a sudden Sochi is a year out and we take the measure of the host city. 

  • Are the venues prepared? 
  • Will there be snow? 
  • What obstacles lie in the way? 
  • What’s the story this time?

In the modern spectrum, the so-called “stakeholders” start to get really interested once the Olympic season rolls around. Thus, as a major benchmark like 100 days to go becomes apparent, the broadcasters and advertisers put things into motion.  

The object is quite clearly to sell, sell, sell and create a hype machine worthy of the greatest show on earth, which the Olympics undoubtedly are.

From here on in, the countdown to Sochi 2014 will be relentless and in your face. 100 days to go leads to one month to go, and that leads to ten days to go… well, you get the picture.

There is no reversing the tide now and we are all rushing full steam ahead towards Russia.

It's their time

That said the athletes are the ones we all should listen to in order to gain a real appreciation for what this inevitably means. 

They’re the ones with the most on the line. And in many cases those athletes have spent their entire adult lives getting ready not only for 17 glorious days in February, but for a few fleeting moments on the largest of all stages.

As we all mark 100 remaining, the athletes are the ones who seem to pay the least attention.

“To us it’s just another day,” shrugged bobsleigh pilot Kaillie Humphries. She won gold in Vancouver along with brakeman Heather Moyse. This World Cup season features the return of Moyse, who has struggled with injury and spent most of the last two years out of the bobsleigh picture.

Now she’s emerged to set a ton of new speed records in training. Looks like Humphries, who has won back-to-back world championships in Moyse’s absence, will have to learn to work with her old partner again.

“It’s just another day to get better and to get ready for the actual day,” emphasized Humphries.

For alpine racer Larisa Yurkiw the challenge is different. 

She’s skiing as an independent having failed to qualify for the national team. But as an aspiring prospect, full of potential, she missed out on the Vancouver Games because of a devastating knee injury that kept her out of racing for the better part of two years.

“100 days means there’s so much work to be done,” admitted Yurkiw. “You don’t just wish and then arrive at the Olympics. You work at it.”

Mielzynski ready for challenge

That’s a sentiment echoed by one of Canada’s brightest hopes to end the 20-year drought that Alpine Canada faces in Sochi. Slalom skier Erin Mielzynski is fully aware that Edi Podivinsky’s bronze medal in the downhill at the 1994 Lillehammer Games didn't happen by chance; it came about because Podivinsky earned it.

“I’ve been training for this since I was six-years-old,” said Mielzynski, now age 23. “These 100 days are just a small fraction of the thousands of days I've spent preparing for this.”

By marking 100 days until the Games begin, we who savour the Olympics are really anticipating the end of the agonizing wait which culminates with the opening ceremony in Sochi. It’s a little bit like counting down to the end of school and the beginning of a fabulous vacation. 

The athletes, on the other hand, aren't quite sure if they’re going to be there at all. They still have miles to go in order to prove themselves.

“I’m good enough to be an Olympian,” said ski racer Madison Irwin. Known as “Mad Dog” to her teammates. Irwin is aware she has plenty of time to be relentless in the pursuit of her goal and won’t be caught looking too far ahead of herself.

“I have to focus on the process,” she acknowledged. “We’re getting down to the wire and to the eleventh hour and we’re trying to tighten the bolts to make it happen. We have 100 days to tic-tac-toe and get it done.”

100 days to go. 

It’s hard not to count the time because the Olympics are that big a deal. That’s all well and good for those of us on the sidelines because it’s all about waiting for the fireworks to begin. 

For the athletes it’s a different story. 

They’re the ones who hope to take the field of play in Russia. They still have 100 days to make it count.

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