Oh, Korea!

Twenty-eight hours of travel later, I’m now back in Maine.

It was an amazing twenty-three days.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at my first Olympics.  Great races?  Sure.  But a gold medal for Kikkan and Jessie?2018-02-24 16.23.47  Dependable and efficient bus transportation?  Reasonably decent wifi?  Those were all fabulous surprises.

A few more things I’ll remember from Pyeongchang :

  • Korean Ramyun – Pretty sure that I had ramyun for at least 40 of the 69 meals in South Korea.  Maybe more.  But the biggest surprise was that Koreans really like all things spicy.  I’d always ask if a certain ramyun choice was “hot.”  Without exception, the answer would be “oh, noNot spicy.”  And as I was taking the first couple bites and starting to spontaneously combust, I’d hear “well, maybe just a little.”
  • The weather.  Have I mentioned that it was cold?  Most of the days were a seasonable mid-twenties and we even had a period of sunshine.  But as soon as the sun went down, the wind would pick-up and the temperature would plummet.  And that goes double for the Ice Planet Hoth Biathlon Stadium.  It took all the photographers by surprise.  Or, to quote one of the photographers who lives in Ruka — in the very northern part of Finland, “Pyeongchang is the coldest place I’ve ever been…
  • Olympic_20180207_552The North Face Olympics – One of my lasting memories of these Olympics will the North Face presence.  I’ve heard that TNF made over 50,000 volunteer uniforms and they were everywhere.  The partnership was exceptionally well done and I thought the uniforms served to “connect” the Pyeongchang visual identity across the various venues.
  • It was tough.  I had been forewarned that shooting the Olympics would beImage-1 physically demanding and Pyeongchang didn’t disappoint.  My typical schedule was to arrive at the Main Press Center between 9:00 and 10:00.  I’d take care of a few administrative type things and then head out to the various venues.  My goal was to be back in the house by midnight and that happened about 50% of the time.  According to Apple Health, I was walking an average of 9 miles a day and climbing 45 floors.  My biggest day was on February 6th when I walked 11.2 miles and climbed 71 floors.  What Apple doesn’t take into consideration was that I was always carrying between 30 – 40 lb of photo gear.  So “yes,” I should have done more squats before the trip.
  • The other photographers.  I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but I heard that 700 EP (photographer) credentials were issued for the games.  Bottom line, Pyeongchang had 699 (plus me) of the best photographers in the world, all in one spot.  Not only are these folks incredibly talented, but — almost to a person — they couldn’t have been nicer.  I mentioned David Burnett here, but Doug Mills of the New York Times, Jeff Swinger of USA Today, Lars Baron of Getty, Joel Marklund, the NordicFocus group, etc. — I couldn’t imagine spending the month with a better bunch.

I’ll do a couple more posts over the next few days.  I’m still getting questions about “who can stand where?” from a photographer’s perspective and now that I’m (almost) unpacked, I’d also like to do a gear wrap-up.

But thanks for following along.  It’s been a heckuva ride.

Oh, Canada!

Biathlon starts late (again) tonight, so I popped up to the Phoenix Snow Park to watch Women’s Skier Cross.  Two observations :

  1. Props to that kid from Farmington who won Border Cross in back-to-back Olympics.  These cross events are filled with crashes, both your own and those inflicted on you by your competitors.
  2. A crowd of happy Canadians brings out the long-suppressed “Chicoine” side of my family tree.  The crowd seemed half Canadian and taking both Gold and Silver this morning brought out their best.  If nothing else —  watch the awards ceremony.  The silver and gold medalists are hysterical.

I would like a meat pie now, please.





American Nordies

Pretty cool.

Medal plaza
If you read silliness about lack of attendance at these games, ignore it.  With the exception of the Ice Planet Hoth Biathlon Center’s night races, everything has been well attended.
I was in the media center, but I’m assuming that the medals were forged in this tower.
American nordies.


Waiting for the bus.


My walk home.


Let’s do this again real soon…

I remember exactly where I was when Bill Koch won his medal.

The team was at practice on the trails behind the Livermore Falls shoe factory (where my grandmother worked) and we were doing intervals around the bog.  Coach Beedy and Coach Miller gave us the news.

For many of my teammates, Bill was a friend.  A few raced against him.  One raced with him on the World Cup.  We all knew his brother, Fritz.  And the success of a friend — especially for someone as nice as Bill — is something that’s hard to explain.

But it was the “community” aspect of Bill’s silver that was even more powerful.  Let’s face it, cross-country skiing in the USA is a fringe sport.  It’s not basketball, football or baseball.  It takes place outdoors in the dead of winter.  We have to explain it to our friends.  And Bill’s success elevated all of us.  Yes, we were still nordies, but we were “second place in the world” nordies, thank-you very much.

All of those same thoughts apply to last night.

I will always remember exactly where I was standing when Kikkan and Jessie won their gold medal.  Not only was I in the finish area to witness it first hand, but I was surrounded by friends who share this same passion and contributed, either directly or indirectly, to the evening’s success.  Grover, Matt Whitcomb, Cork, Robert Lazzaroni, Tom Kelley, Zuzanna, Tiger, Luke, Erik Flora, Eli, Simi, Sophie, Ida, Andy — it’s a long list.  There were a definitely a few missing, but I didn’t have to look too far to see a teary face to share the moment.

While I’ve known both athletes for a number of years, I consider Kikkan and her husband Jeff to be close friends.  They’re incredible people and there’s truly no one more deserving.  It speaks to the character of the person when no less than four Norwegians whispered before the race, “I hope Kikkan wins a medal tonight.”  The optimist in me firmly believes that Kikkan’s contributions to the sport over the last 20 years would have been recognized regardless, but having a gold medal in your pocket doesn’t hurt.  And I’ll add that there was more than one “I’m so happy for Jeff” in the media building at the end of the evening.

But more than anything else, I hope that there was a 15-year somewhere who heard the news at ski practice and felt the connection to the bigger skiing community.  Kikkan and Jessie didn’t just win a gold medal last night, they demonstrated — once and for all —  the potential of USA cross-country skiing on the global stage.

Let’s do this again real soon.

P.S. — A number of folks have messaged me — both publicly and privately about the success of the Kikkan and U.S. Ski Team sponsorships by L.L.Bean.  Thank-you.  For something that started out as “Steve’s Folly,” it seemed to have turned out all right.  And a huge shout out to Katie Gould Swenson and Eric Schenker (Craft) who didn’t hang up the phone four years ago…

Chris Grover — US Coach — with Jessie
On the podium.
It’s missing a few people, but I love this shot.
Matt Whitcomb – US Coach.  Long suffering Red Sox fan.
Erik Flora – APU & Kikkan’s longtime Coach
Finish line hijinks
A small part of Kikkan’s family.
Jessie at the finish.
JP — One of the USA’s wax techs
Jason Cork — Jessie’s long time coach
INCREDIBLY happy for this guy tonight.  Tom Kelley — the U.S. Ski Team’s longtime head of PR —  and Jessie Diggins.
Kikkan and Jessie
Kikkan’s husband Jeff and Frederico from NordicFocus

At a loss for (french) words.

Yesterday turned into a “quantity over quality” day.  I had a grand total of twenty minutes to shoot a bit of Nordic Combined ski jumping.  From there, it was a brisk walk to the Ice Planet Hoth Biathlon Center for the Mixed Relay.  I wrapped up the evening by shooting the Nordic Combined 10k Gunderson (A fancy word for pursuit.)

We’ve seen more than a handful of impressive performances during these Olympics.  That list would be incomplete without Martin Fourcade.  With the exception of the 20km individual race where he had an uncharacteristic two misses in his last approach, Fourcade has dominated the biathlon and nearly single-handedly won the mixed relay for France.  I had a chance to be in the range for his two shooting stops and the speed in which Fourcade works is hard to describe.  He comes in fast, shoots fast and leaves fast.  Given my limited “mémère francais,” we’ll settle for “magnifique,” but it just doesn’t do justice to what he’s accomplished in Pyeongchang.

Team Sprint Relays today!


It figures…

I’ve spent the better part of two weeks running between the Alpensia XC Stadium, Alpensia Jump and the Ice Planet Hoth Biathlon Center.  I’ve shot most of the races and a bit of the ski jumping.

Visited the Curling Center for 45 minutes — maybe an hour — yesterday.  Here’s what my son sent :


My expression pretty much sums up my curling feelings.


A much needed day off today.

  • Went to the Nikon depot and had my cameras cleaned & checked.
  • Called home.  Got the Sugarloaf snow report.
  • Went to the USA vs. Canada curling match.  Stayed for just over an hour because, well, it’s curling.  (Apparently, the USA ended up winning.)  I haven’t shot that much male pattern baldness since the NCAA Ski Championships.
  • Dinner.
  • Picked up a few supplies.
  • Woolite.



Grab a bowl of kimchi and a Kass, you’re going to want to watch these races…

It’s easy to make fun of the Olympics.  They clearly haven’t figured out how to deal with institutional, state-sponsored doping.  The Games are pricing themselves out of every market through excess and greed.  (Read this article.)  Their approach to media is archaic — on a good day.

But dang, we’re seeing fantastic ski racing.  So grab yourself a bowl of kimchi and a Kass, kick the dog off the couch and watch today’s Men’s 4×10 relay and the Men’s Mass Start Biathlon.  You’ll see the rise of a possible once-in-a-lifetime talent.  You’ll see a 15k biathlon mass start race come down to a fraction of an inch — with one athlete pounding the ground, only to then find out that he actually won.

Trust me — you won’t be disappointed.

Martin Fourcade (FRA)


3.3k later, one of these skiers will be a gold medalist.


One of the goals for this trip was to get better at remote cameras.  I still have a ways to go.




Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself.

Today was, by design, an easy one.

The best piece of advice I received from other photographers prior to the Olympics was to “pace myself.”  9:00am to 1:00am is a young person’s game, especially over twenty-one days.

So I shot just one event — the Men’s 15k Free Interval Start.  And it was the “Super Dario Show” from beginning to end.  It’s impossible to comprehend how someone can defend a title across THREE Olympics, but Switzerland’s Dario Cologna did just that today and by an impressive margin.  The other kick-butt race was by the USA’s Scott Patterson (UVM & APU).  He’s had a great Olympics so far.

Tomorrow it’s the Women’s 4x5k, hopefully, the Women’s 12.5k biathlon mass start and — with a bit more luck — time on the Large Hill.

Scott Patterson (USA)
Super Dario for the win!
Simen Hegstad Krueger (NOR) waiting to see if he keeps Silver.
Andrew Musgrave (GBR) on the backside of the Alpensia XC course.
Surprised to see that my kids are here.
Erik Bjornsen (USA)
Some of Super Dario’s Swiss fans
I’m 99.99% sure that this is Dario’s partner because he got something in his eye right after this greeting.


Welcome to the 2nd Phase

Another chock-a-bloc filled day of racing.

Made a quick trip to the sliding center to catch a bit of the skeleton event.  When I was walking the track during a training session last week, a Canadian course worker was kind enough to explain how everything works, two vs. four bobsleds, luge, etc.  As we got to skeleton — headfirst down the track vs. luge’s feet first — he paused and added:  “And you should know that those bastards are crazy.”

From there, it was back to the XC stadium for the Women’s 10k free.   Yesterday was perhaps the most beautiful day of the games so far and we saw an equally fantastic performance by Team USA.  As a long time member of the ski racing community, I think it speaks to Kikkan’s “elevation of expectations” when our first reaction to Jessie’s 5th place finish is a whisper of disappointment.  It wasn’t too long ago when just getting people into points (Top 30) was considered a miracle.  Jessie skied a gutsy race with Sadie and Kikkan not too far behind.

The evening was wrapped up at the Ice Planet Hoth Biathlon Center.  (The Women’s 10k free XC race and the Women’s 15k Individual biathlon races were essentially taking place at the same time — you had to pick one.)  Another photographer told me that you can tell where we are in the Olympic period by the photography :

  • 1st phase — All the photographers are running from event to event and shooting clean, traditional shots.
  • 2nd phase – Photographers start getting bored.  Lots of pans, multiple exposures and “Oh, that’s what that button does!” type shots.
  • 3rd phase – Photographers get tired.  The only things photographed are those easily visible from the finish tower.

Welcome to the 2nd phase.

I’m suspecting they’re from Wisconsin, but that’s just a hunch.
Kikkan Randall (USA) with a longtime U.S. Ski Team wax tech – Oleg Ragilo in the background.
The instant gold medal winner Ragnhild Haga (NOR) sat in the leader’s chair, she reached for her cell phone.  I’m not sure if she was calling her parents or following up on a cable bill, but Charlotte Kalla’s (SWE) befuddled reaction was the best part.
Jessie Diggins (USA)
Annika Taylor (GBR & UNH Wildcat)
Tim Burke (USA)
Jakov Fak (SLO) on his way to a silver medal.
Leif Nordgrenn (USA)