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.

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Scott Patterson (USA)
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Super Dario for the win!
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Simen Hegstad Krueger (NOR) waiting to see if he keeps Silver.
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Andrew Musgrave (GBR) on the backside of the Alpensia XC course.
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Surprised to see that my kids are here.
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Erik Bjornsen (USA)
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Some of Super Dario’s Swiss fans
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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.

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Skeleton
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I’m suspecting they’re from Wisconsin, but that’s just a hunch.
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Kikkan Randall (USA) with a longtime U.S. Ski Team wax tech – Oleg Ragilo in the background.
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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.
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Jessie Diggins (USA)
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Annika Taylor (GBR & UNH Wildcat)
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Tim Burke (USA)
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Jakov Fak (SLO) on his way to a silver medal.
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Leif Nordgrenn (USA)

 

“Let’s do everything on Saturday.”

The way things are going, the entire Olympics will take place next Saturday.  It’ll save on heat packs and hand warmers.

My original plan was to catch one or both slalom runs, hustle back for a few group shots, shoot the Nordic Combined and wrap things up with Women’s Biathlon.

First, they canceled the women’s slalom.  High winds.  The group shots were both quick and awesome.  Then they canceled the women’s biathlon.  High winds.  Only a few hundred meters away,  nordic combined ski jumping and the 10k Gunderson (pursuit) went off without a hitch.  Welcome to Pyeongchang.

The best part of the day?  It’s apparently Korea’s New Year tomorrow and my hosts had a full spread of Korean food waiting for me when I got home.

And that my friends, is the best kind of victory.

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The ski jumps here are gorgeous and right in the middle of the Pyeongchang region.
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Bryan Fletcher (USA)
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Eric Frenzel (GER) on his way to gold.
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Tools of the trade.
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These guys know what they’re doing.
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Some group shots were sillier than others.

 

 

 

I will never speak poorly of sprints again

Late night, great night.

I might have scoffed a few years ago when Sprints were introduced onto the FIS circuit (“Meh. What is happening to this sport?”), but it’s turned into one of my favorite events.

From a photographer’s perspective, the qualifying round gives you the very rare chance to get clean shots of all the athletes.  And the heats are a blast to shoot — especially when you’re given the “golden ticket” and told you can stand next to the tv cameras at the finish line if you behave yourself.

And for spectators, it’s fantastic.  Sure there’s a bit of interest in the “Final 30” drama, (eh, Erik Bjornsen?) and the new lane selection process is entertaining, but the real action is skier vs. skier racing.  The top two move on, but the field (and viewers) stay engaged via the Lucky Loser slots.  A little suspense, a little drama — just all around good, clean fun.

Last night’s races didn’t disappoint.  The Americans qualified Jessie, Sophie, Sadie, Erik and Simi into the rounds.  Jessie made it to the finals (In a classic sprint, go figure…) through a photo finish lunge.  Klaebo put on a show and another Swedish woman – Stina Nilsson) came through for Gold.

Call me a convert.

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Erik Bjornsen (USA) in a heat with the eventual Gold Medal winner Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR)
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It was snowing fairly hard at times and I suspect that the swirling wind might explain some of the unusual qualifying results.
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Just a quick peek…
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Jessie Diggins (USA)

 

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Messing around with some selective blur.

 

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Sophie Caldwell (USA)
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Jessie Diggins (USA) lunging to make the final round.
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Maybe my favorite photo from the games so far and it doesn’t come close to doing justice to the moment.  Stina Nilsson (SWE) just after winning gold.
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Post Gold victory tour for Klaebo.
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I’ll bet a $1 that this is a Rossignol rep.  Alexander Bolshunov (Not from Russia) and Federico Pellegrino (ITA).

 

Vive La France!

Given the troubles mentioned in my earlier post, I’m going to skip the Women’s Biathlon Pursuit other than to say that Laura Dahlmeier (GER) has nerves of steel.  She absolutely crushed that race and I’m sure Fasterskier will have a great write-up.

On the Men’s side, Martin Fourcade (FRA) came back with a vengeance.  Fourcade is the odds on favorite for all the biathlon races and there was grumbling in the Press Room about his loss to a German in the Sprint.  All that talk came to an end last night.

And how about Tim Burke?  He drove through half of Europe last night, climbing 30 places to finish 17th.  Amazing performance.

Sprint Day here today!!

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Lowell Bailey on his way out of the stadium.
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American fans.
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Tim Burke had an incredible race, moving up 30 places.

j

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#14 on the far left is a 20 year old Swede who now owns a silver medal.
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There’s a bunch of these scattered around the Planet Hoth Biathlon Center.
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Vive la France!  Martin Fourcade (FRA) for the win!

Equipment Failures aka “The Agony of Defeat”

I’m starting to feel a bit like this guy :

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Irineu Esteve Altimiras (AND) with a broken pole in the Men’s Skiathlon

The Games are only a few days old and I’ve already had two major equipment failures.  Interestingly enough, they were items that I bought specifically for this trip.

The three people that read this blog might remember a post about buying an archive hard drive.  My workflow is fairly simple — download cards to the desktop, make a copy on site and then back-up at home.  Three copies at all times.  Well, my Glyph archive drive went DOA yesterday.  The drive would whirr, lights would flash, but I couldn’t get it to mount on the desktop.  (If you’re keeping score at home, this makes two Glyph drive failures out of two.)

I tweeted Glyph and got a quick “We’ll help any way we can” reply, but I’ve been too busy to follow-up.  (And besides, do I really want to carry two of these boat anchors home?)  Bottom line, thank goodness I brought my trusty LaCie hard drives.  Without them, I’d be toast.

But more significantly, I’ve had camera problems over the last 48 hours.  I bought a used Nikon D5 earlier this year.  Sent it to Nikon Professional Services for a cleaning & check-up prior to this trip just to be safe.

The camera was fantastic during the early part of the trip.  Sharp, laser focus, just about perfect for a less than perfect photographer.   Here’s an example :

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Erik Bjornsen (USA) in the Men’s 15×15 Skiathlon

But during last night’s biathlon, my images looked a little “odd.”  Kinda of smeary and out of focus.  The good news?  Nikon has an equipment depot here at the Olympics.  It’s got nearly every Nikon product you’d want to borrow and is fully staffed with technicians.  So I visited after the biathlon and asked for a clean & check.

That’s when things got weird.

I stopped by to pick up the camera the next morning.  The desk person said that the techs had checked and everything was fine.  But when I looked on the camera, there was an “odd blob” on the back LCD.  I first thought it might an internal Nikon repair message that wasn’t erased.  Showed it to the desk person and she asked me to come back in a bit.

An hour later — the blob was gone.  And the tech assured me that they had checked the focus calibration.  Awesome!  I headed out to the Planet Hoth Biathlon Stadium.

Here’s the result :

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Uhhhh…this isn’t supposed to happen.  Laura Dahlmeier (GER) is blurry, but that sign off in the distance is razor sharp.  D5 with 400mm f2.8

The entire Women’s Biathlon Pursuit is out of focus.  The camera seems to be “back focusing” by about five feet.  The problem is worse today than yesterday.  And while I checked the viewfinder a couple of times, my fingers aren’t always working here in the cold and I didn’t catch it.  Besides, Nikon said that they had just calibrated the camera.

Absolutely.  Frickin’.  Heartbreaking.

Just to be sure it was the camera and not me, I grabbed my spare and mounted it to the same lens for the Men’s biathlon.  Here’s Martin Fourcade of France winning the Men’s Biathlon Pursuit :

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Backup camera and same lens as above.   The focus is spot on.

Bottom line — I’ve got a camera problem and Nikon’s “repair” seemed to make it worse.  Hopefully, they’ll be able to figure it out tonight.

 

 

Day 2 – Hugging Norwegians & Cold Rifles

Today it was the men’s turn — 15x15k skiathlon in the afternoon, followed by a quick run to the biathlon for the 10k biathlon sprint.

The first was ski racing at its best. I think there was a new leader for each of the seven times they skied by my photo position.  The eventual winner crashed near the 1k spot and skied through the entire pack for the victory.  A British skier almost turned in the biggest upset in ski racing history.  A Norwegian medal sweep that didn’t include Klaebo or Petter.  It was an afternoon of all-around fantastic ski racing.  And if you’re looking an incredible American performance — check out APU/UVM’s Scott Patterson.  Eighteenth in his first Olympic race.

On my end, biathlon was a bit of a disappointment.  I’m trying not to turn this into a daily weather report (that’s my brother’s job — “Doppler Doug.”), but having shot in a couple of cold places — Rumford, Quebec, Presque Isle, Fort Kent, the Narrow Gauge, Sjusjoen, etc. — last night was the first where my hands simply wouldn’t work.  Toss in equipment challenges (I think the two are connected) and I didn’t have much luck.  The good news is that the Americans qualified three for tonight’s pursuit, so I’ll get another chance.

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Alex Harvey (CAN)
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I think this race had a leader change on every single lap.  Here the lead group is making its way through the stadium on its last classic lap.
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Andrew “Muzzy” Musgrave (GBR) – Just sixteen seconds short of one of the biggest upsets in skiing history.
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Noah Hoffman (USA)
And how about this guy? #18 #pyeongchang2018 ©flyingpointroad.com
Scott Patterson (USA)
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If you crash near the 1k mark and ski through nearly the entire field for a gold medal — this is what you do…
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Happy Norwegians.
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Hugging Norwegians.  The person on the right side of the hug is Madshus’s ski technician here in Pyeongchang.  The person in the yellow jacket is Jeff Ellis of the FIS who is about to wade in & bring an end to this nonsense…
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Brendan Green (CAN)
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Lowell Bailey (USA)
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Erlend Bjoentegaard (NOR)
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The press tribune at the finish area.  I’ve had some questions about who can stand where — I’ll answer them later.

 

Day 1 – Women’s Skiathlon and Biathlon

And we’re off!

Yesterday’s 7.5×7.5 Skiathlon got my portion of the Pyeongchang Olympics off to an incredible start.  The leaders skied in a pack until Charlotte Kalla broke things up on the final climb.  (Again.)   Jessie Diggins skied a gutsy, head down, hammer down heckuva race and finished just off the podium.

It was then time to upload a few photos and then run — yes, run — to get to the Biathlon 7.5k sprint photo briefing  (My apologies to Andy, Sophie and Noah for the all-too-quick hello.)

Have I mentioned that it’s cold here?  And the coldest place of all is the biathlon range.  The wind swirls constantly and played a significant role in the shooting during last night’s 7.5k Sprint.  I have to give a nod to my friend Christian Manzoni, the owner of NordicFocus.  When I asked him to predict the night’s winner, he rattled off a few of the favorites.  Christian then paused and said “It will probably be Laura Dahlmeier of Germany because she simply doesn’t give a crap about the wind or the weather.”

And tonight’s winner?

Laura Dahlmeier.

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Women’s Mass Start
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It might be windy.  It might be cold.  But it’s a great facility.
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First lap.
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Charlotte Kalla for the win!
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Post race wreckage.
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L to R, Marit Bjoergen (NOR), Charlotte Kalla (SWE), Krista Parmakoski (FIN)
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Podium presenters.
Oh, Canada! - ©flyingpointroad.conm
Oh, Canada! (Emma Lunder)
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Rosanna Crawford (CAN)
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One of the Dreissacker kids is here too.
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Laura Dahlmeier (GER) coming off the range and headed for the win.

Opening Ceremonies

By this point, you’ve all settled your “Will the Tongan go bare chested? ” wagers, so I’ll go ahead and make this post.

For the record, it was as cold as Katie Couric almost certainly told you.  It’s a sneaky kind of cold here in Pyeongchang.  You don’t notice it for a bit and all of a sudden, you’re googling hypothermia symptoms.  Bottom line — “shirts off” to the Tongan.  That was impressive.  Foolish, perhaps, but impressive.

That goes ditto for the whole Opening.  I didn’t have the best seats (Absolutely no view of the flame), but a great ceremony.  And I wouldn’t be doing service to the organizing committee if I didn’t mention how smoothly the transportation system operated.  I had heard horror stories from past Olympics, but I walked out of the stadium took a few photos, jumped on a bus and was home.

Racing starts today with the Women’s 7.5×7.5 Skiathlon and Women’s 7.5k sprint.  The first at 4:15pm and the second at 8:15pm.  Should be awesome.

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I’ll confess — I was hoping that the tiger would eat at least one of the children.  THAT would be a ratings driver…
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Please tell me that Rick Wakeman had a hand in the Opening.  #lasers
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The sign was genius. The mask adds a little twist. #pyeongchang2018 – ©flyingpointroad.com

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This was just after I googled “hypothermia symptoms”
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The closest I got to seeing the flame.
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Next time I\’ll know — if you’re facing the IOC, you’re facing the back of the stage. But great Opening Ceremonies.